Keeping the JCC strong in East Bay

We read Mel Mogulof’s letter to the editor in j.’s July 20 issue with great interest and felt compelled to continue the conversation (“No outrage over JCC closure?”).

We agree with Mr. Mogulof’s concerns and his desires for a strong JCC presence in the East Bay. Indeed, we work hard every day to

provide high-quality, compelling programming for the community.

We have spent the last four years rebuilding, and have accomplished a great deal! Our after-school, preschool and summer camps are thriving — as are our High Holy Days and Festival celebrations — and we are rebuilding our cultural and arts programming.

We are also about to send our first JCC East Bay Maccabi team to the Maccabi Games in Houston (this was formerly a program of the Contra Costa JCC).  As you can read about in the July 19 issue of j., our community has responded enthusiastically to this new program (“East Bay JCC makes sports history: its first Maccabi team”).

We also dream of a new, full-service JCC in the East Bay and invite all that share our dream to get in touch with us at www.jcceastbay.org.

Sally Flinchbaugh   |   Executive Director

Joshua Langenthal   |   President (on behalf of the board)

JCC of the East Bay


Vibrancy at Kol Shofar

The recent article about Congregation Kol Shofar’s new senior rabbi, Susan Leider, pointed out many of the characteristics of the community that make it stand out as a unique Conservative synagogue, balancing tradition with innovation (“A Jew-by-choice, new Kol Shofar rabbi relishes outreach,” July 13).

It should be noted that during the past 11⁄2 years, the Tiburon congregation has also completed a strategic planning process, hired a new executive director (also female) and a new director of congregational education. These strong moves not only changed the face of ritual, education and communication to increase quality and outreach but have grown the congregation to 475 households (40 more new families than reported by j.).

The congregation’s new mission statement makes a powerful statement of strength and growth: Kol Shofar is a dynamic congregation rooted in the enduring values of Jewish traditions, while embracing innovations that enrich contemporary Jewish life. We cultivate personal spiritual growth and connection to a caring community. Together we create meaningful, accessible experiences of learning, prayer, service and celebration to help people of all ages and diverse backgrounds live more purposeful lives and improve the world.

We invite you to meet our new senior rabbi and experience the vibrancy of Kol Shofar.

Nancy Drapin   |   Tiburon

Executive Director, Congregation Kol Shofar


Lip service

I attended Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s town hall meeting for the Peninsula Jewish community on July 22.  While the discussion was respectful, I left frustrated and disappointed by what I heard her say.

First was Speier’s contention that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is merely giving lip service to the notion of wanting to make peace with the Palestinians, conveniently ignoring successive Israeli governments, including Netanyahu’s,  that have stated publicly and privately a desire to negotiate a two-state solution.  Also, she ignored repeated Palestinian refusal to negotiate with Israel without preconditions.

Also, there was a jaw-dropping contention that the reason the young Palestinian generation is unwilling to make peace is that the U.N. has been unable to get materials into Gaza to build schools. This is laughable and conveniently ignores the state-sponsored, anti-Israel vitriol that emanates from the Palestinian educational system.

I left wondering what planet she really inhabits.

Everyone knows that both sides will have to agree to talk and that the onus cannot be placed solely on Israel to make peace. There has to be a willingness on the part of the Palestinians to meet Israel halfway and negotiate in good faith to resolve our differences.

Everything else is lip service.

Steve Lipman   |   Foster City


More Napa Valley Jewish history

Dan Schifrin recounted some interesting history in his July 20 “Then and Now” feature (“Kosher wine turned golden in Napa Valley”).

Your readers might be interested in “the rest of the story.” Lin Weber’s book “Under the Vine and the Fig Tree:  The Jews of the Napa Valley” was the first project for the Jewish Historical Society of Napa Valley. We have also commissioned   a permanent exhibit at the Napa Valley Museum, “Jews of the Valley,” curated by Susan Morris.

The community can read more about Jewish vintners from Fritz Rosenbaum to Samuel, Abe and Henry Lachman, to Isaias Hellman and Benjamin Dreyfus, to the Jewish connection to Inglenook winery and present-day Jewish vintners, as well as many fascinating others from 1848 to the present. All are featured in the soon-to-be-released “Napa Valley’s Jewish Heritage” by Henry Michalski and Donna Mendelsohn, by Arcadia Publishing in its Images of America series.

A reception and book launch will be held 11 a.m. Aug. 19 (Napa Valley Museum), 6:30 p.m. Sept. 6 (St. Helena Library) and 2 p.m. Sept. 9 (Quent Cordair Art Gallery, Napa). The public is invited to attend these free events.

Donna Mendelsohn   |   Napa

Co-chair, Jewish Historical Society of Napa Valley


No need to panic over Israeli draft law

I read with interest the pieces in the July 20 j. regarding the ultra-Orthodox draft issue in Israel, the article “Sparks ready to fly: Professor worries about forcing haredim into Israeli army” and the editorial “Israel must find a compromise on military service.”

I agree with most of their content; however, I reject the alarmist view of “the sky is falling.”

Most importantly, neither piece mentioned a key position of the current government as delineated by Prime Minister Netanyahu as — I am paraphrasing — “I cannot envision under my government that Jews will be sent to prison for practicing their faith.”

Netanyahu’s statement and his refusal to accept the Pleisner committee plan as presented, plus Ehud Barak’s suggestion to draw an interim regulation to address the expiring Tal Law until the coalition partners are ready to agree on a suitable resolution, is indicative of the sustaining power of Israel’s democracy and resolute society.

Thus, I do not see the ultra-Orthodox charging into the streets, and have high hopes that a suitable solution will be found and Israel’s society will be spared any infighting, saving its strength to fight off its real enemies.

Sam Liron   |   Foster City