Rabbis and the death penalty

I appreciated j.’s coverage of the death penalty, both the Proposition 34 pro and con and the report on Jewish teachings about the death penalty by Rachel Biale (op-eds, Oct. 12).

When I was executive director of the Board of Rabbis of Northern California, we passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty in California. The resolution was introduced by Rabbi Bernard Robinson of San Rafael.

Rabbi H. David Teitelbaum   |   Redwood City

Rabbi emeritus, Congregation Beth Jacob


South Bay shoutout

I was disappointed that Sue Fishkoff’s column on Talmud study left out any reference to the South Bay (“Fifty shades of Talmud,” column, Oct. 5). At Congregation Beth David, we have had an active Talmud class each Friday morning with Rabbi Daniel Pressman since 1989, for 23 years, possibly the longest ongoing class in the Bay Area.

Whether it be the exhibition at the S.F. Contemporary Jewish Museum on the history of Jews in the Bay Area, Fred Rosenbaum’s book “The Cosmopolitans,” or numerous

articles in j., it seems like Jewish life south of the Palo Alto boundary is invisible! We have a long and rich history (Temple Emanu-El in San Jose recently celebrated 150 years as a congregation), as well as a current vibrant and flourishing Jewish community. In addition, many young Jewish families choose to live and work in the South Bay, so we shoulder a large responsibility for Jewish youth education, our hope for the future.

We deserve more support, from the Bay Area as a whole, from granting agencies in the Bay Area, and from j.! In the future, I hope we will not be excluded when you write articles encompassing the entire Bay Area community.

Joanne Cornbleet   |   Saratoga


Clarifying the record on annual college guide

As managing editor of Reform Judaism magazine, which produces the RJ Insider’s Guide to College Life, I am compelled to respond to Elizabeth Stone’s article “Annual list of ‘The Top 60 Schools Jews Choose’ has lots of statistics, but is it a guide?” (Oct. 5).

This article does not accurately portray “The Top 60 Schools Jews Choose” listing or the larger RJ Insider’s Guide to College Life in which the centerfold chart appears.

First, the author errs significantly in referring to “The Top 60 Schools Jews Choose” as being the college guide, as if this were the only information provided in the guide to help high school and college students make good, informed Jewish decisions regarding college. Had the author read the full guide, she would have learned such information as: how students can increase their chances of getting into their dream school; how to use “strength stories” about one’s Jewish involvements to impress interviewers; how to tell whether a campus is welcoming to Jewish students; how to find the right college match; dos and don’ts in the digital age; how to engage uninvolved Jewish students in Jewish conversations on campus; how to be yourself as a Reform Jew and make the most of your interactions with other Jews when encountering more traditional Jewish students; the graduate Jewish studies option; and so much more.

Second, “The Top 60 Schools Jews Choose” listing is just that — a listing of the top schools Jewish students attend based on Hillel’s gathering of statistics. For the author to call it a listing about something else — such as the quality of schools — is not only a misunderstanding but a misrepresentation of the facts.

Third, “The Top 60 Schools Jews Choose” listing is not a URJ list — it is a list supplied by Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. As it states on the pages containing the chart: “All estimated population figures as well as information concerning fraternities/ sororities, Jewish courses, and Jewish studies are courtesy of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. Any questions, please contact Hillel directly (202-449-6500, hillel.org). For questions about Reform worship, groups, events, and temples, contact Reform Judaism magazine.”

Fourth, it states, per above, that these are estimated figures. And while Hillel’s estimated figures may be imperfect, Jewish students are entitled to know as much information as they can when making college decisions, and Hillel helps to make that possible.

It is my hope that in the future j. will check the facts more thoroughly to be sure of its information before making erroneous claims in print.

Joy Weinberg   |   New York

Managing editor, Reform Judaism magazine


Get your mah jongg on

Edmon Rodman’s article “Now playing at L.A. museum: the mah jongg Jewish connection” (Aug. 17) ended with “It will be interesting to see if a younger generation can sit still long enough to play.” I would like to offer a response.

Growing up in a family of mah jongg players, I got hooked as a teenager playing with my mother’s group. Sixteen years later, at the age of 32, I initiated a mah jongg–themed havurah, “Mahj-vurah,” dedicated to young adults, that continues to meet monthly attracting a diverse group of players. You can read about our first meeting in the San Francisco Chronicle’s “Mah-jongg catching on with the young set.”

Just like our bubbes and mothers, we enjoy the ritual of meeting friends around the table in-person and offline. Not only are we playing regularly, but also this new generation of players includes men “mahj mensches” and women, singles and couples, and gays and lesbians. Mah jongg is the perfect community-builder to celebrate a Bay Area hallmark: diversity. Our attitude at Mahj Club is the more the merrier, so let’s get our Mahj On!

Sara Levy Linden   |   San Francisco

Founder, Mahj Club