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Letters for the week of March 3, 2017

Spike in anti-Semitic acts predates Trump era

Thank you for your Feb. 24 editorial “Outbreak of anti-Semitic acts must be shut down now,” which properly highlights the recent wave of anti-Semitic acts that we have been experiencing and calls for action to counter the apparent danger.

However, you should have avoided the temptation to reflexively frame the issue in an anti-Trump narrative, i.e. “The election of President Donald Trump has further energized an anti-Semitic, extremist fringe, emboldened to act on its hateful ideology in an atmosphere where racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds have become normalized.”

The omission of any reference to the trend of increasing anti-Semitism in the United States and abroad over the last several years is astonishing. According to the Wall Street Journal, the ADL has reported a 21 percent increase in anti-Semitic acts from 2013 to 2014, and the FBI has reported a 9 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes from 2014 to 2015. The editorial makes no mention of this disturbing trend.

It also seems not to have considered the excellent reporting in your own newspaper. Just last June there was “Anti-Semitism among refugees a quandary for Germany” on the editorial page. It discussed the increased anti-Semitism and the consequent threats to the German Jewish community that the influx of Middle Eastern refugees has brought to that country.

And in the same month, the article “Study: 45 percent spike in anti-Semitic campus incidents” discussed the seriously deteriorating hostile environment with which Jewish college students are coping.

A more balanced perspective is sorely needed. Any discussion of the current wave of anti-Semitic incidents must reference these recent occurrences. Furthermore, a more accurate overall approach would enhance your editorial writing and also help to bring a measure of comity back to our community and to our country.

Steve Astrachan,
Pleasant Hill

Gorovitz and Israel

When I read Jennifer Gorovitz’s op-ed about her recent experience in Israel (“Being detained at Israel airport fortifies my resolve,” Feb. 17), my mixed reaction included disgust, anger, sadness, pride and hope.

Ms. Gorovitz, an American Jewish leader who has an extensive history of supporting Israel in word and deed, was treated with humiliating disrespect by Israeli authorities. This experience seems to have only strengthened her resolve to continue her support by giving constructive criticism.

A large majority of American Jews are concerned about the Trump administration’s assault on democracy and social justice at home. The scary rise in anti-Semitism in the U.S. is shocking but not at all surprising given that many of the words and actions of our president unleash the worst instincts in people. My reactions to this include disgust, anger and sadness.

On the other hand, I feel proud and hopeful that so many of my fellow citizens, including a disproportionate number of Jews, are standing up and resisting.

Fifty years of occupation in the West Bank, with no end in sight, has taken a moral toll on Israeli society. Indeed it is complicated and the Palestinians have often made it difficult, but the Israeli government giving the green light to further settlement expansion, especially beyond the perimeters of current settlements, is at best short-sighted.

Many Israelis have been critical of the settlements as well as the injustices in Israeli society many stemming from the occupation. I feel proud and hopeful, however, that many Israeli Jews are fighting back and many American Jews are lending their support through organizations like the New Israel Fund.

Mark Davidow,
Glen Ellen

Synagogue or not, there’s often a need to speak up

In his recent op-ed (“Keep synagogues a safe space, free of political advocacy“), Rabbi Raleigh Resnick posed the question: “Can we, as rabbis, wholeheartedly tell our congregants that God is in favor of a particular candidate?”

He failed to answer it. The answer is an unequivocal no, because, if a church or religious institution endorses a candidate, it loses its tax-exempt status.

However, I take umbrage with his restrictive view of what subjects a synagogue’s rabbi should address in services. When my social justice-oriented Rabbi Allen Bennett retired, I sought out a congregation and rabbi with the ethic of making the world a better place through social action.

Congregation Netivot Shalom [Paths of Peace] in Berkeley met those requirements. Before joining, I attended a program hosted by Netivot and co-sponsored by the Way Christian Center (among others). “It’s Our Problem to Solve: End Gun Violence in Our Community” was attended by elected officials, law enforcement officers and attorneys.

Was this a political act the rabbi should not have asked congregants to attend? Is Rabbi Menachem Creditor’s encouragement of congregants to stand up against presidential acts determined by U.S. Courts to be in violation of the Constitution a forbidden-in-services political act?

Rabbi Resnick, hear this: “When they come for the Muslims, I will speak up. Hell, yes, I’ll speak up.” When the politicians come for the Muslims, will you, then, speak up in services and ask your congregants to speak up or not?

CJ Kingsley,

We can’t hold our tongues

Would Rabbi Raleigh Resnick (“Keep synagogues a safe space, free of political advocacy,” Feb. 17) be so glib in Nazi Germany or fascist Italy?

That is precisely what we are now facing, and it is everyone’s responsibility to speak out — everywhere — against the horror being thrust upon us by this administration. Or should we just warble “can’t we all get along” as they march us to the ovens?

Reggie Griner,
San Francisco

Ancient slabs tell truth

Thank you for John Rothmann’s Feb. 10 op-ed “Continued denial of Jewish ties to Jerusalem is obscene.”

Jewish history in Eretz Israel is well documented in ancient sources and archaeological finds. The Merneptah Stele (an inscripted granite slab from the early 1200s BCE) mentions a people called Israel in Canaan. The Mesha Stele records Moab’s 840 BCE revolt against Israel, and the Tel Dan Stele (between 870 and 750 BCE) commemorates an Aramean victory over the Judahite King Ahaziah from the “House of David” and the Israelite King Jehoram.

Contemporary Assyrian sculptures depict the Israelite King Jehu in 841 BCE and Assyria’s siege of the Judahite town Lachish in 701 BCE. An 8th century BCE Hebrew inscription from Jerusalem’s Siloam tunnel records its construction, purportedly by Hezekiah, the Judahite king during Assyria’s sieges of Lachish and Jerusalem.

The Temple Mount’s ancient Jewish ties are likewise indisputable. In the 1990s, the Waqf Islamic trust removed 300 truckloads of excavated Temple Mount earth to a Kidron Valley dump. Since 2004, the Temple Mount Sifting Project has recovered thousands of Israelite antiquities from the discarded earth, including ancient Jewish coins and seals from biblical families dating back to David and Solomon’s time.

Moreover, population genetics studies tie present-day Jews to a common ancestry from the ancient Levant.

Most Palestinian Arabs are descended from people who migrated into the region, particularly in response to economic opportunities created by Jewish immigrants, as Sheree Roth observed in a 2016 Middle East Quarterly article.

Stephen A. Silver,
San Francisco