An attendee at an Oakland City Council meeting holds up a "Ceasefire Now" sign during discussion of a resolution in support of a permanent cease-fire in Gaza at Oakland City Hall on, Nov. 27, 2023.  (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)
An attendee at an Oakland City Council meeting holds up a "Ceasefire Now" sign during discussion of a resolution in support of a permanent cease-fire in Gaza at Oakland City Hall on, Nov. 27, 2023. (Photo/Aaron Levy-Wolins)

Cease-fire supports Hamas; What really happened in Oakland; Defense of Rep. Huffman; etc.

In defense of Rep. Huffman

Since Hamas launched its vicious attack against Israel, Jewish communities in the U.S. and around the world have suffered a frightening surge of malicious threats and harassment. This alarming trend has found its way to college campuses. Some Jewish students are feeling more vulnerable than ever.

At this very difficult time, our Jewish community is fortunate to be represented in Congress by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), a leader with a long track record of standing up to antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.

Recently, Huffman has faced some scrutiny and concerns over his decision not to support a GOP-authored House resolution condemning the support of Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations on college campuses.

In a thoughtful open letter to his friends in the Jewish community, Huffman made clear that his “no” vote was based on concerns about the resolution mischaracterizing and omitting the details of several specific incidents on college campuses. At the same time, he stated that in hindsight he should have voted differently and apologized for any confusion the vote may have caused.

Huffman announced his support for a bipartisan resolution, introduced by Reps. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) and Deborah Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), which encourages college administrators and faculty to speak out against antisemitism.

I strongly appreciate the congressman’s reaffirmation of his fierce commitment to battling antisemitism. For those in the Jewish community like me who have long  known and worked with him, there has never been a moment of doubt that he stands with us.

Carol Friedman
Point Reyes Station

Do not malign those who seek peace

At the Nov. 27 Oakland City Council meeting, over 170 people spoke about a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of all hostages and condemning the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia. The council listened to public comment for six hours, as many people expressed deep concern for the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. As often happens at these meetings, some comments were outlandish.

A few days later, J. dedicated an article to an incendiary and misleading video, produced by the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area, that has been boosted by right-wing media outlets around the world. JCRC’s video shows cherry-picked snippets of comments that were supportive of Hamas, or were misleadingly edited to seem so, making it seem as if hatred of Jews was the general sentiment of all those supporting a cease-fire. Speakers have been doxxed, city officials have received death threats and been subject to homophobic, transphobic and antisemitic attacks, and people who wish to voice their values are intimidated. Our already grieving Jewish community is questioning whether we can trust even each other.

No doubt there are antisemites who support a cease-fire. We cannot let that interfere with our integrity. We were painfully outraged by Hamas’ wanton slaughter of Oct. 7. Israel’s retaliation is also unacceptable to us. The massive killing of Palestinian civilians is horrific, morally wrong and strategically harmful to the security of our Israeli cousins by inflaming more animosity, thus potentially strengthening Hamas or its successors.

We are deeply disturbed by JCRC’s choice to sow conflict and fear, and malign so many of us who seek peace. We ask our beloved Jewish periodical to please take care not to provide a platform for misinformation and reinforce a culture of intimidation.

Julia Caplan, Oakland
Rabbi David Cooper, Berkeley

Cal’s commitment to Jewish students

Since long before the Oct. 7 attacks and the rising antisemitism that followed, Jewish faculty and students in the University of California system have called on the universities to act proactively and put more resources toward protecting their rights and welfare.

On Nov. 10, University of California President Michael Drake, along with the 10 UC campus chancellors, released a statement condemning anti-Jewish bigotry and affirming the development and implementation of programs across the UC system to address rising antisemitism and a pervasive sense among Jewish students that university leaders are not listening to their concerns.

The statement commits to addressing anti-Jewish discrimination and abuse across the UC system, along with a parallel commitment to protecting the rights and welfare of Arabs and Muslims.

It is imperative going forward that UC Berkeley work closely with the Jewish community to revise its policies, practices and programs to effectively address anti-Jewish harassment, abuse and discrimination there.

Jews in the UC system often find the responses of the university to be weak, often limited to belated emailed statements with no resources of substance or consequence. Often such statements simply feel tokenizing.

UC Berkeley leadership often directs students experiencing discrimination to organizations like Hillel and Chabad, but this is inadequate. The ethical and appropriate response to such student reports is for the university to assume leadership itself, not to rely on others to fulfill its civil rights, human rights and UC inclusion obligations.

Calling for the torture, rape, kidnapping and murder of Jewish people now takes place regularly on campus. Such incitement creates a toxic atmosphere of intimidation and threat against Jewish people, sometimes accompanied by harassment.

UC Berkeley maintains a university unit devoted to diversity, equity and inclusion. It calls itself the “division that leads with love.” But painfully and unacceptably, so many of our Jewish students do not feel respected, included and treated as equals — let alone loved.

It is time for Berkeley to fulfill its promise and commitment to Jewish students: to lead with love, care and compassion.

Noam Schimmel
Lecturer, UC Berkeley

Menorahs in the windows of non-Jews

In response to almost two months of assertions of American Jewish fears, let’s all as non-Jews and Jews flip the narrative by living with hope and courage. Idealism, solidarity and the spirit of giving can brighten up these dark months.

Let’s embrace this modern parable of hope and courage from 1993 in Billings, Montana:

A brick was thrown through the bedroom window of a Jewish boy, who had set out his menorah for Hanukkah. It was a message from local white racists who had been threatening violence against Jews, Native Americans and Blacks that year.

In response, the community said “not in our town.” When non-Jewish families displayed menorahs from their own windows, their additional lights pierced the darkness of hate and antisemitism.

This year has been flooded with antisemitism in dog whistles, social media screeds, slogans, inexplicable silences and weak apologies from a list of prominent people who should all know better.

This is the 2,187th celebration of Hanukkah, the fight for religious freedom under the Seleucid Greeks.

This year, I ask this of our non-Jewish neighbors: Light a menorah in your front window and let your Jewish neighbors and their children know it is safe to be Jewish in America.

If, by chance, you dislike policies of Israel’s current government or particular actions while it prosecutes this war, you are especially encouraged to light a menorah so all can see that you know the difference between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Know before whom you stand.

Rabbi Henry Shreibman

The greatest false equivalency

Mariyama Scott makes a heartfelt appeal for a better future for the people of Israel and Gaza (“Jews who protest against Israel are not your enemies,” Nov. 17). However, she devotes much of her piece to a set of false equivalencies while engaging in the greatest false equivalency, i.e. that a cease-fire would be an end to violence.

Concern for the people of Gaza is commendable but must account for the paramount role Hamas played in starting the current conflict. Its extensive underground fortifications were built by diverting international aid that had been intended for infrastructure. Such an action reflects a governing authority lacking any shred of concern for those it governs.

Israel must destroy Hamas as this existential threat cannot be allowed to remain on her border.  There is simply no viable alternative except to wait for the next, potentially worse, round of fighting.

We can only hope that both Israelis and Palestinians can enjoy a better future that Mariyama Scott and so many of us would like to see.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

Cease-fire supports Hamas

The facts do not support Mariyama Scott’s opinions. Every poll that has been conducted among Palestinians show that Hamas has support of the majority of Palestinians. This is the reality on the ground. Scott has a right to her opinions but she should base them on facts and not fiction. The sad truth is that Israel is facing enemies who rejoice in the killing of Jews, and they are not just the Hamas fighters who carried out the massacre but also the so-called innocent Palestinians who support this modern-day pogrom.

Lost in the conversation is also the fact that 10,000 rockets have been fired into Israel by Hamas since Oct. 7. A cease-fire supports Hamas militarily. Hamas leaders have used cease-fires in the past to re-arm and strengthen their positions. They take aid meant for civilians for themselves.

A call for a cease-fire may not be antisemitic, but it is undeniable that a cease-fire would help Hamas to the detriment of Israel.

Gilbert Stein

J. Readers

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