Wonderful offering from PJ Library

Kol hakavod to the PJ Library for featuring the book “Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles” for children 6-7 years old — in which a boy with autism celebrates Chanukah with his family in his own, unique way. I was so pleased to see this book in my mailbox, and to share it with my kids.

As the executive director of the Friendship Circle in Palo Alto — a Jewish nonprofit that matches children having special needs with teen buddies for a variety of ongoing and holiday programs — I am excited about what this book, and the choice of the PJ Library to share it with local families, means in how far we’ve come in accepting children with special needs into the Jewish community.

It’s so inspiring to see schools and community organizations embracing children with special needs, and coming together to provide inclusion into Jewish life. The author said it best: “Judaism teaches acceptance of every person as a reflection of God’s image, and the importance of both compassion and inclusion in the community.”

Rabbi Ezzy Schusterman   |   Palo Alto


World smaller without Colvin in it

After giving three talks, two in military museums, in Mississippi on my book “Inside the Gates,” whose title came from a poem by Ken Colvin, I was sad to return to my apartment to find a message from a Holocaust survivor and fellow Peoria High School grad that Ken had died (“Ken Colvin, liberator, activist, Israel advocate, dies at 87,” obituary, Nov. 9).

It is ironic, in the week celebrating our veterans; Ken was a young Jewish medical corpsman liberator who in six or seven concentration camps was assigned to bury his own religious followers in mass graves.

It is a very sad time for me. Ken was a true friend and made sure his story, along with that of all the other liberators of KZ Ebensee, were told. As he told me, “Dick, get the book published before I die.” This I did and still was able to enjoy Ken and his wonderful wife Thelma’s company in San Francisco several times after publication.

Ken was my best, forceful mentor on the book, a true humanitarian, kind person and full of life even the last time I saw him last February. The world is smaller and less peaceful with the loss of this kind heart.

Dr. Richard G. Macdonald   |   Washington, Ill.


Fight back against biased Mideast coverage

Israelis are on the front lines of an ongoing war. As American Jews, we can be soldiers in the media’s war against Israel. We can be effective advocates for Israel by being vigilant about biased reporting and fighting back. If a story on NPR or CNN or in USA Today is skewed, call them on it. Become active in CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

When American Muslims perceive a report or an article as anti-Arab or anti-Muslim, there is a huge outcry. Their leaders are proactive in getting their perspective across in the media, contacting political representatives, creating courses on Mideast studies at junior colleges and universities, giving educational workshops in churches, etc.

If Jewish leaders are not effective in advocating for Israel, replace them.

If Jewish organizations are failing to live up to their mission statement to defend Israel, stop donating money — and tell them why.

Jews are articulate and smart, and fund many Jewish organizations. However, when it comes to the media war, the Muslims are beating us badly.

Audrey Colman   |   Oakland


Good place for rabbis to train

It was exciting to read about individuals who are revisioning their lives and entering rabbinical school for a second career — especially as one who has followed this path (“Answering the call,” Nov. 16).

The students highlighted in the article were ordained at well-known institutions and seminaries. Perhaps less well known, though gaining much-deserved recognition, is the Academy for Jewish Religion, California in Los Angeles.

AJRCA is a transdenominational, pluralistic institution that trains and ordains rabbis, cantors and chaplains to become fluent in sacred text and tradition, Jewish history, philosophy and Hebrew language, as well as attuned to a sense of spirituality and creative religious ritual.

The academy offers interreligious studies in consortium with the Claremont School of Theology and is unique for its commitment to teaching Mussar and spiritual development. As a transdenominational institution, AJRCA cultivates an environment that honors Jewish pluralism and integrates the wisdom from all movements, which in turn creates a deep understanding of diverse beliefs and opinions.

The academy prepares leaders who teach Torah and tradition, Jewish observance and ritual in their many connotations and colorful forms. Thought you should know.

Batshir Torchio   |   San Francisco