Adelson’s tax situation

Ron Kampeas’ article about Sheldon Adelson is incredibly deficient in not mentioning that Adelson might be liable for tens of millions of dollars of U.S. taxes from his Macao casino earnings if President Obama is re-elected, whereas the Republicans have vowed not to seek those taxes (“For Sheldon Adelson, politics and Jewish giving are all of a piece,” Aug. 10). Adelson’s animosity to the president cannot be fully understood without that information.

What a tragedy that a gambling mogul has a hundred times more influence on our future than intelligent caring men such as Paul Krugman and Robert Reich. Our national discourse has degenerated to where one dollar, however earned, equals more than one vote. While honoring some but certainly not all of Adelson’s philanthropy, I paraphrase and apply to the present Abraham Joshua Heschel’s famous letter to the New York Times, when some Jews wanted to vote for Richard Nixon after he re-supplied Israel during the Yom Kippur War. Denying health care to millions of people who will be one illness away from homelessness, and giving additional tax breaks to the very wealthy at the cost of suffering for the poor and the rapidly declining middle class are not Jewish values and are not worthy of Jewish support.

David S. Fankushen    |   San Anselmo


A legend in their own brine

Back in 1986, I attended the San Francisco Food Show looking for potential clients (“Pucker up: American’s love affair with pickle going strong,” Aug. 10). I was a publicist. I found two companies that I thought looked like they would be fun to promote. One was from Vermont, and owned by a couple of guys looking for distributors for their ice cream company, and the other was a kosher pickle company out of Stockton called Bubbies. I chose Bubbies.  And it was fun — until they went bankrupt.

However, years later they were purchased and reorganized. Today, they are sold in Whole Foods and many delis throughout America. They became a legend in their own brine! For over a decade they have sponsored my softball teams. They are truly a kosher pickle, are still addicting and even have a fan club. By the way, that ice cream company was Ben & Jerry’s!

Jerry Pritikin    |   Chicago


Camp’s stance was misrepresented

I appreciate and echo Jennifer Gorovitz’s message that camps and other institutions must strive to be more inclusive of people with disabilities (“Special-needs kids should be welcomed into the Jewish tent,” op-ed Aug. 10). I am particularly proud of our Ramah Tikvah programs, serving over 250 young people with exceptionalities in our eight overnight camps.

However, I take exception to the reference to an incident at Camp Ramah in Canada, which contains inaccuracies. Out of privacy concerns, we cannot comment publicly about any camper, but I fear that this characterization contributes to the online negativity that has been so hurtful especially to those who work so hard to ensure that Ramah in Canada, and all Ramah camps, continue to be leaders in inclusion.

I look forward to working with Ms. Gorovitz and the San Francisco Bay Area community to create a Ramah camp in this region, which will surely include a program for children with special needs. We would just request that public pronouncements be sensitive to the inaccuracies that often are accepted as fact over the Internet, and the speed with which these inaccuracies can harm the very institutions and the very goals we all want to support.

Rabbi Mitchell Cohen   |   White Plains, N.Y.

Director, National Ramah Commission, Inc.


Congregation focuses on inclusion

Thank you for your Aug. 10 coverage about including people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish life. Both the feature about Celebrations (“Finding their place: Special-needs kids and their families embrace Judaism, each other,” cover story Aug. 10) and Jennifer Gorovitz’s opinion piece were moving and informative.  Together, they showed a range of different needs and programs, and they inspired all of us to contribute to the goal of full access for everyone.

Congregation Sherith Israel formed a task force on inclusion two years ago. Over this period, we have strengthened our capacity for providing access, improved awareness of our resources, and offered educational programs for children and adults about people with disabilities. We regularly invite all members of our community to let us know what they need in order to participate fully and comfortably.

We would be pleased to talk with individuals or families about how we can best welcome them into our community.

Helen S. Luey   |   San Francisco

Chair, Task Force on Inclusion, Congregation Sherith Israel


Ramah is not the problem

Thanks to Jennifer Gorovitz for her powerful argument for increasing efforts to include Jewish children with disabilities in all of our communities. As the father of a 16-year-old with autism, I have often experienced the difference between Jewish institutions striving to be inclusive and those that simply don’t make it a priority.

That said, I find it ironic that her op-ed mistakenly cites Camp Ramah as the problem, when in all of my family’s experience, the Ramah camps are the Jewish community’s greatest examples of making inclusion work. Our son does not attend a “special needs” camp. At Camp Ramah in California (in Ojai), he is integrated each summer into a community where he is appreciated and embraced, where his challenges are accommodated and his strengths are valued. It’s the one place where his peers meet kids like him and consider them integral to the community.

When we include people with disabilities, we shouldn’t see it as doing someone else a favor, but rather enriching ourselves and our communities — adding texture and depth and connection. I haven’t seen that done anywhere better than at Ramah.

Tom Fields-Meyer   |   Los Angeles

Author of “Following Ezra: What One Father Learned About Gumby, Otters, Autism, and Love from His Extraordinary Son”


Use ‘people-first’ descriptions

Thank you to Liz Harris and Jennifer Gorovitz  for bringing voice to the issue of exclusion — even within the Jewish community — that our children with special needs unfortunately face.  I am so appreciative to be part of a Jewish community (Congregation Rodef Sholom and Camp Newman) that welcomes my 11-year-old son with open arms. They see my son for who he is — a hysterical, fun-loving, intelligent boy who happens to have Down syndrome.

Despite the phenomenal message of the articles, I must confess I was troubled by the authors’ choice to identify our children’s special needs as a characteristic of their identity.  It is commonplace among advocates of people with disabilities to use “people-first” language, in which a speaker is expected to put the person first and the condition second in order to emphasize “they are people first.” As my 15-year-old son says, “We wouldn’t refer to a woman with AIDS as ‘the AIDS woman.’” So too should we avoid referring to our children with special needs as “special-needs kids.”

Karen Herz   |   Corte Madera


Déjà vu and trepidation

Reading Rachel Cohen’s op-ed (“Young American Jews need an informed introduction to Israel,” Aug. 10) gave me a feeling of déjà vu with a sense of trepidation regarding the future of U.S. Jewry.

The déjà vu feeling comes from our long troubled history. Whereas many of our Jewish brethren, in particular the well-off and educated, believed that assimilating and becoming citizens of the hosting country to the exclusion of their religion and ethnic core values will protect them from the wrath of the hosting community. Unfortunately 80 years ago, Germany’s Nazis proved otherwise, and

60 years ago the Arabs attacked Israel and expelled the Jews who had lived in their midst for hundreds of years.    

My trepidation evolves from observing the product of our Judaic education system, and the estrangement of many progressive Jews from Israel, the like of

J Street community. They believe that it is more important to teach our young adults to be citizens of the world, with a misguided post-Zionist view, emphasizing a “hyper-moralistic notion” to the detriment of our brothers in Israel.  Alas, this malady afflicts also some Israeli progressives, who accord Israel’s mortal enemies more human rights than the Israelis living in harm’s way, and defending the country.

Sam Liron   |   Foster City


Young travelers need to learn more

Birthright could not educate you on the complexities of the Israel-Arab conflict in such little time. But before you buy the “pro-pressure Israel” message of J Street, I humbly urge you to learn all you can about Israeli peace offers rejected by the Arabs and about Jewish religious, historical, and legal ties to the land of Israel.

If you are regularly hearing Arabs in Israel referred to as “indigenous” and Jews as “settlers,” pick up a copy of “The Rape of Palestine” by William Ziff, written in 1938 (currently reissued). Many “Palestinians” were recent immigrants.

Did you know that there are currently 56 Muslim majority countries that vote regularly against Israel in the U.N.? Or that one-third of Israel’s population today is made up of 600,000 Jews expelled from Arab lands after 1948 and their descendants?  

Subscribe to Palestinian Media Watch to see what Palestinians are teaching their own population about Israel today (www.palwatch.org).

Israel is all we Jews have. Once gone, we may lose independence for another 2,000 years.

By the way, checkpoints in Israel were put in place for the same reason as checkpoints in American airports — Islamic terrorism.

Sheree Roth   |   Palo Alto