Bold dues initiative

I was very interested to read your issue featuring the question of synagogue dues and new models for providing fiscal stability for congregations while understanding the needs and concerns of members (“Dues and don’ts: Shuls try different membership models,” Aug. 24). What holds true for congregations is also true for the denominational movements. All of the liberal denominations are evaluating their congregational membership structures.

In particular, this month the Reconstructionist movement unveiled a new and experimental dues program in which congregations choose the nature of the affiliate relationship and receive services according to their choice. For congregations that have formerly been independent or unaffiliated, the movement now offers an entry-level affiliation that is extremely value conscious, with dues as low as .01 percent (that is a dollar on every $10,000) of congregational operating budget. Congregations that are interested in a higher level of engagement and services have the option of choosing their own dues commitment.

The Reconstructionist movement believes that when congregations make their own determinations, the resulting feeling of partnership and investment will serve both the affiliates and the movement. More information on this bold new initiative can be found at www.jewishrecon.org/member-benefits.

Rabbi Jane Rachel Litman   |   Berkeley


Removing dues barrier


After reading your article “Dues and Don’ts”,  I am curious to know even more about many innovative ways congregations in the Bay Area are addressing dues. Please write more.

Temple Israel in Alameda switched a few years back to a “fair share” structure. It also rolled out an option for new members to join for only $18 plus 18 volunteer hours. (The next year they are asked for two-thirds of their fair share and then their fair share in the third year.) This helps ease people into their annual commitment and to affiliate sooner than later or never. This program really gives people the opportunity to jump right in and not remain unaffiliated because of a financial barrier.

Kimberlee MacVicar   |   Alameda


Bigotry a turnoff

I suggest that Gerardo Joffe is controversial less because of his views than because of the strident tone in which he delivers them (“Flame still burns for man who breathes fire for Israel,” Aug. 24). Personally, I admire his courage and even agree with some of his arguments. But I can’t support him. I cringe with embarrassment when I hear the hatefulness that permeates his writing. He’s not just pro-Israel — he’s anti-Arab. It’s that bigoted stance that turns people off. Why not let the facts and logic speak for themselves? Joffe’s racist tinge makes it easy for reasonable people to dismiss him as a demagogue, and his legitimate points go unheard.

Malka Weitman   |   Berkeley


Pure propaganda


The test of a fair debater is honesty. Rebecca Pierce’s recent op-ed (“U.C. report on Jewish campus climate: Results marginalize, misrepresent students critical of Israel,” Aug. 24) fails the test.

The first sentence of her op-ed fabricates history, referring to the West Bank as “occup[ied] … Palestinian territories.” Although the West Bank has at times been Judean territory, Roman, Byzantine, Turkish, British and Jordanian territory, it has never been “Palestinian” territory. Ms. Pierce may want it to be, and it may one day be, but asserting that it was once Palestinian land and is now “occupied” is pure propaganda.

This is not an idle quibble. Jordan, the West Bank’s former ruler, lost that park-size district when Jordan joined Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in an unsuccessful war to invade Israel and exterminate all its Jews. As PLO chief Ahmed Shukeiri boasted then, no Jews would survive the war.

Propagandists need not be honest or accurate, and I don’t fault Ms. Pierce for her efforts to propagandize for the Arab cause. She is good at it. But the reader should recognize her work as propaganda, not honest debate.

Seth Watkins   |   Menlo Park


Not a fan


I read Rabbi Simcha Green’s letter praising the kosher food at the Jewish Heritage Night at the Giants-Nationals game (“A ballpark breakthrough,” Aug. 24).

I must tell you that I bought the “pastrami sandwich” offered. It cost $8 and it was half of a sandwich with thick slices of meat with no taste. It was completely dry, and the knish included was only marginally better.

If the community wants to offer kosher options at the park, they will have to do better than what happened at the game. It was a shanda on many levels, bad food, high cost, no attractiveness to the package and long lines.

Jon S. Levinson   |   San Carlos


Mom for president


In a thought-provoking op-ed, David Suissa recommends that his 79-year-old mother become president of the United States (“My mother for president — she could balance the budget,” Aug. 24).

The mother, however, should realize what obstacles might confront her. In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, the United States will have a total spending of $5.1 trillion, a deficit of $1.3 trillion and a national debt — the total of all deficits combined — of $16 trillion. (In 1981, the national debt was $1 trillion.)

Eighty-three percent of all federal spending currently goes for Social Security and unemployment (34 percent); Medicare and health (24 percent); the military (18 percent); and interest on the national debt (7 percent).

If the mother cut all government spending by 25 percent and asked for no tax increases, the budget would be balanced.

Let’s try the mother’s plan — a plan that could balance the budget as well as give America its first Jewish, and first woman, president.

Richard Colman   |   Orinda


It’s not too late


Your editorial “Give sanctions against Iran more time to work” (Aug. 24) made valid points but completely missed our policy’s serious problems vis-a-vis the Iranian strategic nuclear program. However likely (in my view, not very) that economic sanctions will lead the Tehran theocracy to discontinue its nuclear efforts, President Obama compromises the effectiveness of sanctions by granting 20 waivers to Iran’s leading trading partners.

Furthermore, you entirely missed the significance of the distinction between preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons (the Obama policy) and preventing Iran from having nuclear capacity (the Netanyahu policy). The ability to create a nuclear warhead quickly is, effectively, nuclear possession.

Administration assurances that we can detect actual warhead construction are not valid given the spotty history of intelligence assessments. Perhaps it’s not too late to reverse the president’s disastrous decision to abandon the Iranian Green Movement in summer 2009 and support the legitimate resistance movements of the Persian people in overthrowing the regime. A good start would be the removal of the terrorist designation from the Mujahideen al Kalq (MEK), which first revealed the nuclear program. Here we should follow the lead of our European allies.

Perhaps it’s not too late.

Steve Astrachan   |   Pleasant Hill