A child’s memories of Streit’s matzah
The Streit’s matzah factory on New York’s Lower East Side was part of my childhood, and I am sorry to learn of its closing (“End of an era, as Streit’s shutters Lower East Side factory,” March 27). Many Sunday mornings I was dispatched to Streit’s to buy fresh matzah, hot from the oven. No matzah since has ever tasted that good.
One memory in particular stands out: Behind the checkout counter was a tall, elegant and gracious woman, with immaculate grooming. She had dyed blond hair swept up and teased into a 1960s beehive, nails painted red — and a death camp number tattooed onto her arm. As a child, this made a deep impression on me. My eyes would dart back and forth from the number to the hair and back, and I understood that her appearance was a celebration of life and an answer to the horrors she had been through. Even then it struck me as a particularly Jewish response — in the face of death, affirm life — and I carried the message home along with the matzah.
Malka Weitman | Berkeley
Jewish state saves Jewish lives. Period.
The March 27 letter “A call for the tribe to just get along” asks readers to respect Daniel Boyarin’s anti-Israel position, based on his Talmud knowledge. To support that thesis, the letter writer then misquotes a talmudic dictum as he writes: “it is taught that hatred among fellow Jews is the reason that Jerusalem fell 2,000 years ago.” The essential adjective “baseless” hatred was omitted.
Widespread discussions about the merit — or lack thereof — of establishing a Jewish state were prominent in the first two decades of the 20th century. Many Hassidic groups were initially vehemently against the idea, but soon supported the concept as a way to save Jewish lives, given worldwide anti-Semitism — starting with the Dreyfus affair (in France, 1894-1906), continuing with the Holocaust and rearing its ugly head again today.
The saving of a single Jewish life is considered the most meritorious goal a Jew can achieve — even requiring that all laws of Shabbat be suspended to achieve that goal.
Given that the Hamas charter calls not just for the murder of every Jew in Israel, but across the globe, it is difficult to understand a Jew who advocates national suicide — which would, of course, include his/her own death.
Fred Korr | Oakland
A man who helped make modern Israel
As Jews, we live in a deeply troubled world. The March 24 death of Ambassador Yehuda Avner deprives us of a voice of wisdom, historical perspective and rare perception. Avner worked for Israeli prime ministers Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin. His book “The Prime Ministers” is a one-of-a-kind, fly-on-the-wall account by an eyewitness who observed and helped make the modern history of Israel.
I had the opportunity to interview Avner and to get to know him as a human being. He shared with me, and with others, his Ten Commandments for Jews. His words are important today, when there are deep divisions among Jews as we face so many difficult issues. They assume even more importance as we prepare to observe the celebration of our freedom, Passover.
1. When an enemy of our people says that he seeks to destroy us, believe him.
2. Stand tall in the knowledge that every tyrant in history who has ever sought our destruction has himself been destroyed.
3. Protect Jewish dignity and honor at all cost. Life is holy, but there are times when one must risk life for the sake of life itself.
4. Never raise a hand against a fellow Jew no matter what the provocation.
5. Give the enemy no quarter in demolishing his malicious propaganda.
6. Whenever a threat against a fellow Jew looms, do all in your power to come to his aid, whatever the sacrifice.
7. Never pause to wonder what others will think or say.
8. Be forever loyal to the historic truth that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people and Jerusalem, its eternal capital.
9. Love peace, but love freedom more.
10. (Which is really number 1): Build Jewish homes not by the accident of birth, but by the conviction of our eternal Torah.
May his memory and his wisdom be a blessing to us all.
John Rothmann | San Francisco
‘Misleading’ op-ed on circumcision
Dr. Edgar Schoen’s op-ed (“Not circumcising, like not immunizing, poses risks,” March 12) in response to my Feb. 5 op-ed is misleading.
Condoms provide far more effective protection against sexually transmitted diseases than circumcision, and don’t involve the surgical removal of healthy tissue. It is irresponsible to imply that circumcised men can be more casual than others about condom use. It’s also reckless to spread pro-circumcision hysteria about urinary tract infections, phimosis and other possibilities which, if they occur, can often be treated noninvasively.
Schoen claims circumcision risks are minor, but fails to mention its drawbacks. Is he unaware of current research establishing the erogenous nature and physiological function of the foreskin? The developmental, protective and sexual purpose of that tissue should be thoroughly understood by anyone recommending its removal — and disclosed to parents making the decision.
Most physicians recognize that surgery is a last resort, something to be considered only when all other less invasive options have been exhausted — and certainly not without a presenting medical condition.
That’s why many families, both in the Jewish community and in the general population, are now opting out of circumcision. These families are perfectly welcome at many congregations. At Temple Sinai in Oakland, the welcome is open.
Lisa Braver Moss | Piedmont
Do the right thing
I am writing in response to Jeffrey Cohan’s opinion on going vegan for Passover (“Lamb’s blood aside, Passover is perfect time for going vegan,” March 27). I wholeheartedly agree with him.
As Jews, it is our duty to treat all living beings with compassion and respect. To take the life of another is not what we as loving and caring Jews should do. At Passover and always, we need to look inward and do the right thing.
Elaine Silver | Berkeley