Reconstructionists took lead on equality in rabbinate

Thank you for the cover story about women in the rabbinate (“You’ve come a long way, rabbi,” Aug. 26). It was good to hear how much things have changed, and also to be reminded that gender bias and sexism is still real; we’re still working against it.

In our collective journey toward equality, the Reconstructionist movement has played a pivotal role, and I was disheartened that this segment of the journey was missing from the article’s story/history/herstory. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical College explicitly welcomed women from its inception in 1968. My understanding is that the Reform movement was not yet ready to make this commitment at the time, but RRC’s decision paved the way for the Reform movement, and later other movements, to move toward building communities where women hold the role of rabbi.

With very few large Reconstructionist communities in the Bay Area, we can sometimes forget how much of an impact this movement had on so many of our Jewish lives. From the Reconstructionist movement’s leaders came bat mitzvahs, adding the matriarchs to the liturgy, brit ha bat rituals, and so much more.  

Rahel Y. Smith

President, Or Zarua Reconstructionist Havurah of the East Bay


Causes of overpopulation in Israel are easy to name

Thank you for the Aug. 19 op-ed by Alon Tal, “Israel’s growing population is not sustainable.”

The movie “The Settlers,” shown at the recent San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, dramatically shows that population explosion. One pair of grandparents in Hebron is proud to have 100 grandchildren. That’s not sustainable for long.

Much of the world suffers from too many people. Paul and Anne Ehrlich wrote the book “The Population Bomb” decades ago. Not much heed has been taken.

Poverty, climate change, habitat destruction, ocean pollution and acidification, threats to species diversity, drought and war all stem from overpopulation.

Thank you for publishing his important words.

Donna K. Aronson   |   Los Altos


Key rabbi left out of story

Thank you for your recent article about 40 years of women in the rabbinate. However, one salient fact was left out: Rabbi Mikki Bourne, who was ordained at HUC in 1979, was the first woman to serve in a San Francisco pulpit, affiliated with Temple Emanu-El from 1979 to 1981. My friend Mikki has served in a number of capacities in subsequent years, including as a prison chaplain, nonprofit director and designer, among others, but still holds that “first in San Francisco” distinction.

Peggy I. Gluck   |   Foster City


Editorial logic falls apart in current ‘threat environment’

Your Aug. 26 editorial, “Extreme vetting of immigrants won’t prevent anti-Semitism,” leaves this faithful reader puzzled. Your assertion that we can welcome refugees while fighting anti-Semitism (and I would hope other forms of anti-American and anti-Western bias) where it occurs is logical, but it does not address the current seemingly deteriorating threat environment.

In the same issue, you reported on the disciplinary action at U.C. Irvine after the threats last May when Jewish students had to be escorted by campus police to protect them from 50 protesters who had “gathered outside the film’s venue in a university classroom and made threatening chants.” In July you reported on the 45 percent increase in campus anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of 2016. In June an excellent op-ed discussed the increased anti-Semitism that the current wave of refugees has brought to Germany, of all places.

You assure us of the strictness of our vetting process in your editorial, citing a 2015 Economist article to that effect. Yet you have never reported on the apparent ghastly failure of the vetting process that preceded last December’s San Bernardino mass murder. Rather, you dealt with the massacre almost exclusively through the lens of your gun-control agenda.

Vetting for attitudes is certainly a subjective activity but is appropriate in today’s increasingly threatening environment. To quote Rafael Medoff of the Wyman Institute (also cited in “Jews react to Trump idea of ‘extreme vetting’ to deny anti-Semites U.S. entry,” Aug. 26): “Although it would be difficult today to screen out anti-Semites from among potential immigrants, there is merit in the principle that bigotry is un-American and therefore should be grounds for exclusion.”

On this issue I empathize with those who feel today’s insecurity and agree with Mr. Trump’s stated position.

Steve Astrachan   |   Pleasant Hill


Wake up, people!

I am amazed that some Jews actually believe Donald Trump’s statements of concern about keeping anti-Semites out of America with his “extreme vetting” propaganda. Can’t they see that this is entirely about tricking Jewish voters? Look at the man he just hired to head his campaign!

Stephen Bannon from Breitbart News, a radical neo-Nazi rag, who wouldn’t allow his children to go to a private school that had “too many Jews,” as well as the alt-right anti-Semitic neo-Nazis, are having the laugh of their lives as they see Jews fall for the rhetoric.

All Trump has to do is play like he’s the great savior of American Jews and Israel, and right-wing Jews fall for the lie. Wake up, people!

Susan Hirschfield   |   Santa Rosa


Checking out social media could prevent next attack

Why would Jewish community professionals believe “the parameters of personal belief are impossible to measure”? (“Extreme vetting of immigrants won’t prevent anti-Semitism,” Aug. 26)

ABC News reported that Jeh Johnson, head of the Department of Homeland Security, feared a civil liberties backlash and “bad public relations” for the Obama administration, so he refused to end the secret U.S. policy that prohibited immigration officials from reviewing the social media messages of foreigners applying for U.S. visas, according to former DHS undersecretary John Cohen.

The social media posts of San Bernardino terrorist Tashfeen Malik were not reviewed by immigration officials. With a review of what the FBI said were her extensive social media messages about jihad and martyrdom, perhaps Malik would not have been allowed to enter our country, where she murdered 14 and wounded 22 Americans.

“Had they checked out Tashfeen Malik,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., “maybe those people in San Bernardino would be alive.”

Jewish respect for life obligates us to demand that the DHS change its policy.

Julia Lutch   |   Davis


Shout-out from Koret niece

I want to publicly thank Susan Koret for all of her personal and legal efforts to address the Koret Foundation for ignoring the wishes of my Uncle Joe. I had many occasions as I grew up to be with my family. It was made very clearly to us that my uncle wanted 100 percent of their estate to be used to assist Jewish causes in the Bay Area and Israel.

I have watched the foundation take a different direction over the years. The distribution was spent for causes he had no desire to support.

I want to recognize Susan Koret for having the courage and integrity to take on a very public and uncomfortable fight to right a wrong. My Uncle Joe would be very proud of his wife.

Sue Schechtman Behr   |   Moraga

Great-niece of Stephanie and Joseph Koret


Black Lives movement is wrong about Israel

Is Israel an apartheid state committing genocide against the Palestinians, as some Black Lives Matter supporters have charged? Is the situation of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza analogous to the situation of African Americans? (“Jewish groups come out against Black Lives Matter platform on Israel,” Aug. 5)

“Genocide” means people killed for who they are, regardless of their behavior. To apply the word “genocide” to the United States or Israel/Palestine is to dilute the meaning of the word beyond recognition. Then, like the boy who cried wolf, when the real thing happens, people will have been so desensitized that they will not recognize or react to the improper use of the term.

To insist that the situations are analogous, and therefore that those who agree with the goals of BLM must or should agree to objectives such as cutting off military aid to Israel, is to do a disservice to the causes of both racial justice in the United States and peace in Israel/Palestine.

Merlin Dorfman   |   San Jose