Everyone on the same side

It is very unfortunate that the financial disagreements between Congregation Ner Tamid and Aleph Bet School continue (“Aleph Bet School to close?” Nov. 21). We are grateful for the work of both the congregation and the school, and are quite confident that both are active and sincere supporters of our Bay Area Russian Jewish community.

Irina Klay   |   San Francisco

Program coordinator, Russian Jewish Community

Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund


Killing in God’s name

The comment by Yehuda Glick, survivor of the Temple Mount attack, is worth repeating (“Attacked Temple Mount activist leaves Jerusalem hospital,” Nov. 28):

“Anybody who shoots and kills someone in the name of his religion is the first person disgracing his religion. Those who are giving respect to Islam are those Muslim doctors and nurses who work at this hospital [Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center]. These are the people who are bringing respect to God and their religion, not those who murder in the name of religion.”

Roni Silverberg   |   San Francisco


Heed ‘eternal truths’

The proposed Jewish nation-state law highlights Israel’s need to finally define its identity (“U.S. Jewish groups oppose Israel’s ‘Jewish state’ law,” Dec. 5). Is it democratic first and Jewish second, or vice-versa? Democracy has many merits, but it also has flaws. It has no permanent values, because any value can be overturned by a vote. Its success depends on the wisdom and goodwill of the people, and when those fail, democracy itself fails.

Judaism on the other hand is based on the premise that the world is governed by a Creator who revealed Himself to our ancestors and made a covenant with them, based on eternal truths that can’t be changed by man. So long as we abide by the terms of the covenant, we’ll succeed as a people and as a nation.

The conflict between Judaism and other ideologies is nothing new. In this Hanukkah season we recall the battle between the Hellenists (the modernists) and the Maccabees (the traditionalists), in which it was the traditionalists who rolled back Israel’s enemies and saved Judaism from extinction. Today we again must choose between the seductive appeal of modernity, with its ever-accelerating changes leading us we don’t know where, versus the eternal truths that have served the Jewish nation since its birth.

Martin Wasserman   |   Sunnyvale


Don’t believe the media spin

Your recent editorial on Ferguson (“After Ferguson, we need to make a difference,” Nov. 28) was superficial and misleading. You admitted that you didn’t know what evidence the grand jury heard. Yet you were ready to assume that the officer was at fault and needed to be held accountable. You didn’t mention what Michael Brown was doing when he was shot. And while you said that taking to the streets solves little, you didn’t say anything about holding the protesters accountable for the disruption and chaos they caused. Instead, you said we were all responsible.

Your editorial also said that more must be done. But the evidence was that Brown was robbing a store and was attacking the officer in a way that made the officer fear for his life. If more needs to be done, a good start would be to not rob stores and not attack officers.

If Brown was shot because he gave the officer no choice, that’s the end of the story. He shouldn’t be portrayed as a sympathetic victim. He’s the one who’s responsible — not us.

Your editorial was all too willing to accept the media spin. The wiser course would have been to be more critical of the dominant narrative.

Allan Yannow   |   El Cerrito


Hunger for Judaism behind bars

I’m a Jewish man in state prison for robbery, and I was very pleased and excited to see your story on the Jews of San Quentin and Chaplain Carole Hyman (“Praying behind bars,” Nov. 7). There is such a lack of meaningful Jewish programming in the state prison system, and Chaplain Hyman’s work will surely resonate throughout the system. In fact, I have not had a Jewish chaplain or rabbi in prison for nearly four years, and only sporadically before that.

That is not to say that I haven’t had meaningful contact with rabbis and chaplains, though. Two rabbis who stand out in my prison experience are on par with the dedication that Chaplain Hyman shows. Rabbi Yossi Carron of the Los Angeles County Jail is responsible for starting me on a journey that has led to 2,901 days of sobriety today. Rabbi Daniel Mehlman has been a source of chesed and a true example of ahavat Yisrael. I get to see Rabbi Mehlman about once a year.

I would encourage anyone with the desire to engage in tikkun olam and acts of authentic kindness to seek to fill the open Jewish chaplain job at the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and State Prison at Corcoran. We need you, and I hope you will learn from us as much as we learn from you. SATF needs a person like Chaplain Hyman.

Dylan Littlefield   |   Corcoran


If memory serves …

In 2013, Ilana Kaufman of the Jewish Community Federation contacted me and requested to come to San Quentin (“Black, Jewish and putting a new face on federation,” Dec. 5). The day of our meeting I walked to the East Gate to greet Ilana, whom I expected to be waiting for me outside the gate. (Visitors to California prisons are required to have security clearance, and be escorted through the gate and on grounds by a prison employee.)

I noticed a young woman inside the gate, signing in. SQ can have 100 or more visitors and volunteers on a given day, and I had never met Ilana. As I passed her, she looked up and smiled: I wear a kippah and am recognizable as the Jewish chaplain. The guard, who had allowed her through to wait for me, said, “Here she is, Chaplain!”

We introduced ourselves and I escorted her to my office, where we spoke for about an hour. Ilana offered to facilitate a JCF/Marin Grant Initiative donation to our congregation, which eventually enabled me to purchase additional tallits, siddurs and Tanachs. A few weeks later, Ilana and other folks from the JCF/MGI joined our congregation for evening services, challah and juice. This is my recollection of these events.

Carole Hyman   |   Jewish chaplain

San Quentin State Prison


Hate here to stay

I’m sure the executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (as well as all other members of this organization), will continue to hate the Jewish graduate student who spoke at the discussion — and all other Jews — regardless of the side she/they are on (“As long as you choose to be on that side, I’m going to continue to hate you,” Nov. 28).

“Bringing down Israel will really benefit everyone,” in her words and her society. Anti-Semites are gaining ground everywhere.

Anastasia Glikshtern   |   San Francisco