Guns are a human, not a Jewish, issue

I was very disturbed by the op-ed about Jewish texts and gun control by Robert D. Altabet (“Jewish texts support right to bear arms as ethical obligation,” Jan. 11).

First of all, today Jews do not live according to Biblical law. That stopped over 2,000 years ago. Those who base their daily lives on Jewish tradition follow halachah — rabbinic law and interpretation, which is an ongoing process adapted to the times in which we live.

But what really upset me is that the author of the op-ed deliberately, or perhaps out of ignorance, misread and actually misquoted Torah. To give you two examples:

Exodus 13:10 says, “Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in its season from year to year.” This has nothing to do with armed Israelites, as Altabet wrote.

Exodus 22:2 clearly explains the difference between intruders at night or in the day. Mr. Altabet failed to mention that.

Gun control is not a religious problem; it is a hot political issue. I discussed this article with family and friends who are as concerned about gun control as I am; like me, they don’t see it as a “Jewish” issue.

Hannah Felder   |   Walnut Creek


Stricter gun laws are needed

Thanks so much for your report on the Newtown massacre (“After Newtown,” cover story, Jan. 11).

Just as Mindy Finkelstein said that her own horrific experience of being shot opened her eyes, I too had an experience with a gun death of someone close to me that opened my eyes on gun issues.

On Dec. 28, 2004, a very important part of my family, my longtime and very dear nanny, Zaida Malca de Jimenez, was shot to death in her own kitchen in the Bayview District of San Francisco. She was 51 and a mother of four wonderful sons. She came here from Peru to seek better opportunities and an education for her children.

Hers was the 89th and last homicide of 2004, a particularly deadly year for San Francisco. She was like a second mother to my 4-year-old daughter.

Sadly, gun deaths are regular events in San Francisco, Oakland and Richmond.

I sincerely pray that mass shootings as well as individual murders in our country can be ended by stricter gun laws like those that exist in other countries such as the U.K. and Australia.

Tamar Gershon   |   Berkeley


Only Jews can be maggids

I’d like to make a correction in Emma Silver’s well-written cover story about the revival of the role of the maggid (“Tale of the Maggid,” Jan. 18).

The article says that among the people I have ordained were “non-Jews studying shamanism.” All kinds of people have participated in my Jewish Spirit Maggid Training Program — Orthodox rabbis, female rabbis, people who have returned to Judaism after involvement in other religions, and even a couple of non-Jews. I may not have made it clear in the interview that a non-Jew can’t be a maggid, just as a non-Jew can’t be a rabbi.

A couple of wonderful non-Jews have studied in the program because they loved the learning, etc., but they couldn’t be ordained as a maggid.

If a (Jewish) reader is interested in the maggid training program, they can contact me at yitzhak@jewishspirit.com or (718) 858-4058.

Yitzhak Buxbaum   |   Brooklyn, N.Y.


Birth notices should be joyous

I look forward to j. each week. I especially like to read the Lifecycles.

Not two weeks ago when I read the Jan. 11 birth announcement of Raizel Zahava. Is that what Raizel will want to see in her baby book when she looks back? I certainly understand that the family wants her to know her heritage, but, her birth is a joyous occasion and there was no joy in this announcement.

It is true that we want our children, grandchildren, etc. to always remember what happened, but it does not have its place in a birth announcement. I am a Jew, my mother and father are both Jewish, my father was Orthodox. However, if we are ever going to go forward, to change this horrible history, to work for peace, this is not the way.

We should never forget what happened, but, when announcing the birth of a new life, is there not a better way to honor the dead? Raizel is the future. Honor her birth. Please.

Annie Brooker   |   Mill Valley


Factual but not appropriate

Please do not accept and print any paid birth announcements like the one that I read in the Jan. 11 edition announcing the birth of Raizel Ruth Zahava. It sounded more like a death announcement than an announcement of birth, which should be a joyous occasion.

The family used four lengthy, detailed paragraphs to tell about how and when their family members died in the Holocaust, which, although factual, seems inappropriate.

Instead of mentioning the names of Raizel’s three older living siblings and welcoming the new baby into the family, the announcement highlighted horror and sadness.

J. should use better judgment in printing birth lifecycle events.

Marjorie Kobe   |   Burlingame


Israel makes world better

Even though Israel is surrounded by Muslim fanatics who have made it very clear that they wish to destroy her, and the Middle East is a tinder box ready to go off, every day in Israel is a marvel of innovation:

• electronics that help people walk who cannot walk by themselves

• a pill that is able to videotape the digestive tract

• ultrasound that dissolves fibroids or other targets without invasive surgery

• a new blood test that offers early detection of many types of cancer

• drip irrigation that accounts for significant water conservation all over the world, and hydrological methods that enable crops to grow in the most arid areas

• the development of wireless communication

• how to handle airborne security threats

• high numbers of Nobel Prize winners

Israeli innovation is changing the world for the better.

Selma Soss   |   Walnut Creek


Hagel is a bad choice

The fight over Chuck Hagel’s nomination for secretary of defense highlights some of the issues that face Jews and Israel.

Hagel is not the first person to refer to “the Jewish lobby.” However, as a United States senator, he showed disrespect for Jews and for our First Amendment rights to  lobby our government.

His comment that he is not a senator from Israel is a backhanded way of accusing Jewish supporters of Israel as having a dual loyalty.

Hagel is a bad choice, not just because of his positions on Israel and Iran, but because he is, as Barney Frank stated, “aggressively bigoted.”  The government of Israel needs to stay out of this political battle, but those of us who support Israel and are concerned about her security and that of this country should write to our  senators and urge them to vote “no” on his confirmation.

Gilbert Stein   |   Aptos