Taking care of our own
I read the Oct. 16 article in J. about Gregory Janz’s funeral (“What happens when a Jew dies in poverty?“) and decided to donate a memorial plaque in our synagogue for him so he can be remembered by our congregation and his soul honored each year on his yahrzeit. We are now also discussing the creation of a special memorial fund in Modesto for Jews who are experiencing homelessness so their cemetery expenses might be covered in the future.
We feel that all Jews, regardless of their finances, deserve to be buried and remembered as Jews and hope that other congregations will be inspired to do the same. Certainly what the Sinai Memorial staff did inspired us, and sometimes it’s true that one good deed leads to another.
President, Congregation Beth Shalom
I no longer will remain quiet
When I was 8 years old, I experienced anti-Semitism for the first time and told myself to keep quiet because I did not want to get targeted and hurt. When I was in high school I found multiple desks with swastikas carved into them, and when I was told that administration would not replace the desks, I kept quiet because I did not want to get targeted and hurt. When I was a student in San Francisco State, dreadful actions of anti-Semitism against my friends and I were being ignored by the school system and society, and I kept quiet because I did not want to get targeted and hurt.
Now, 11 of my people have been killed just for being Jewish. I no longer will remain quiet.
To say I’ve met people who didn’t know that anti-Semitism is still rampaging across the county and internationally baffles me. To say that people are only paying attention to this issue after 11 people are murdered by an act of pure hate and ignorance disgusts me. It has been hard to go about knowing that people don’t care about this, as shooting sprees are now a norm in American society. I’m sitting here crying, knowing that.
I don’t want a discussion about gun control, I don’t want political arguments over this, and I don’t want a discussion about the man who shattered 11 whole worlds and all the people involved in their worlds. All I want is for people to be more aware that anti-Semitism, among many other racial issues, is still happening around this country I call home. Awareness is the first step to eradicating it.
“Never Again” is what the Jewish people say every year on Yom HaZikaron, a day of remembrance of the Holocaust. Today, I have the strength to say it again.
One thing about the Jewish community that makes me so proud to identify as Jewish is that we always overcome any obstacle. Throughout the history of our people, we have overcome the hatred against us. We will overcome this tragedy as well. My heart goes out to the victims and families of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting. We will stand by you today and forevermore.
El Segundo, CA
Every Jew’s death diminishes me
On Sunday, sitting grieving and deeply troubled about the Pittsburgh tragedy, I received this from a dear friend in London, Linda Goldman. Her poem spoke truly eloquently to the feelings of so many of us. So I am sharing it. (Apologies to John Donne.)
No man is an island entire of itself,
Each is a part of the diaspora, a part of the heim.
If a shul be blown away, if near or far,
The schtiebel is the less,
As well as if an ancient temple were,
As well as if a shtetl of your own
Or if another’s were.
Every Jew’s death diminishes me
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, never send to know for whom the clothes are rent,
They rend for thee.
Proud to be part of this tribe
The second time I walked into a synagogue was Oct. 21, 2000. That Shabbat morning, I met the people who were to become my community. The people with whom I gratefully daven every Yom Kippur. They’ve taught me in hundreds of ways how to be a Jew. I started taking conversion classes the following week.
Less than 11 months later, I watched on TV as the other World Trade Center towers collapsed. In the days and weeks that followed, some people blamed the Jews for that tragedy. Others didn’t blame the Jews per se but agreed that the terrorists chose their targets based on the number of Jews they could kill. I learned more about what it means to be a Jew.
With even more fervor, I continued on with my Jewish studies, my Jewish practices and my contribution to this tribe. I became a Jew on March 6, 2001. I couldn’t have been prouder.
This Oct. 27, evil shot 11 holes through the tapestry of my tribe. Those innocent people will never be replaced, and I mourn for them and their community. But evil was wrong to think that the loss of our brothers and sisters would dent the Jewish people and our devotion to our causes. On the contrary.
What that shooter did was strengthen the Jews and hasten the day that hate will no longer be tolerated. I am so angry. But that anger has fueled my passion, my love, and my devotion to my community.
The day after the shooting, I walked my kids into Hebrew school with more pride than ever. I sat down to decide how I will vote in order to change the trajectory of my country. And though nothing I can do will bring back those 11 people, I intend to patch the holes of the Jewish tapestry to the best of my ability. Hatred is not going to win. And I’m more honored, grateful and proud than ever to be part of this tribe.
Direct line from Trump to hate
Leaders of the Jewish community in Pittsburgh expressed differing opinions regarding whether President Trump’s presence and condolences were welcome. I write to express my strong support for those who reject his crocodile tears. Seeking to galvanize political support by, yet again, stirring up racial/ethnic bigotry and fear, he focused his hateful rhetoric (and has plans to mobilize troops) to prevent a desperate group of refugees from seeking asylum (which they are legally entitled to do once they reach our border).
His hateful comments triggered a sick “patriot” to “go in” and attack those whom he delusionally believed were at least guilty by association with those who had orchestrated this attack against our country — evil Jews. There is a direct line between Trump, who recognizes the good white supremacists who won’t let the Jews replace them, and those whom he incites to violence and murder. It’s not quite from Pirke Avot, but “Men ken nisht unpishen oif mir and mir zogn az s’iz reggen.” (You can’t piss on me and tell me it’s rain.) A maxim to live by.
Trump supporters: You betray us
To the Kushners and the Mnuchins who are part of this administration, shame on you. To the Adelsons and other wealthy Jews who support this madness because Trump supports Israel, shame on you. To those who thought that they could ride along on the Trump wagon and watch as the right went after Latinos, blacks, gays and women and thought that we Jews were safe, shame on you.
To any American who thought that voting for Trump was not a vote for hate and division, shame on you. To any Jew who voted for Trump, look at the history of our people and know that you have betrayed us. Look at the horror wreaked on the Tree of Life (such a beautiful name!) synagogue, and be ashamed.
Embracing the devil has led to this
Dear Jewish Trump supporters, first let me say I’m a proud Jew and a progressive. I’ve watched with horror, but only a modest amount of surprise, as you have embraced the presidency of an unspeakable individual. You have looked aside at evidence of debauchery, ceaseless lying, likely treason and much else because, you have claimed, “he protects Israel.”
Many of you felt President Obama was insufficiently passionate about the Holy Land and its security. But this guy you like. He’s a philandering, lying bastard. But he’s willing to poke the Palestinians in the eye, move the embassy to Jerusalem and generally give Bibi a blank check.
But here’s the rub: He’s also and famously a misogynist. And a racist. His father was an anti-Semite who would not rent to Jews. This guy, our Dear Leader, has often spoken of a desire to punch demonstrators, offered false equivalence between Nazi sympathizers and anti-fascist demonstrators, and generally demonized individuals and institutions who oppose or displease him. In so doing he’s upended literally centuries of decorum and civility in our government, and imperiled shibboleths of free speech and the right to petition.
His actions have enabled and legitimized the violence of twisted individuals, many of whom feel they’re doing his bidding.
Trump legitimizes violence. That violence includes anti-Semitic actions as we have just witnessed in Pittsburgh.
Jewish kin, you cannot have it both ways. You cannot embrace this devil, hoping he will “save” Israel, and at the same time enable an anti-democratic demagogue who normalizes and empowers the killers of Jews. You must decide which side you’re on. The choice ought to be easy.
Kudos for Koret book
I want to personally thank Susan Koret for her commitment to have published the Joe Koret story. Like my Uncle Joe, she is tenacious, determined and a woman of strong ethics. At the book launch, Rabbi David White honored the family by sharing personal memories. Mayor Willie Brown said Joe Koret was one of the first philanthropists in San Francisco. As Senator Dianne Feinstein is quoted, “Joe Koret embodies everything that makes him a true American success story.” If it had not been for Susan Koret, we would not know the true story of the Koret Foundation, its mission and all it has done for the Jewish community.
Heartwarming wedding story
Thanks so much for publishing the inspiring and uplifting story about the marriage of Vy Nguyen and Andrew Koller, written by Alix Wall. Their steadfast love and determination in the face of so much illness and debilitation, and Vy’s hopeful spirit and resolve to study and convert to Judaism, are very heartwarming. I wish them the best, and congratulations on their marriage.
Lack of credibility in op-ed
In their opinion piece, David Kadosh and Susan B. Tuchman make the case that the city of Berkeley erred in allowing UC Berkeley lecturer Hatem Bazian onto the city’s Peace and Justice Commission (“Berkeley city council’s shameful tolerance of anti-Semitism”). Bazian indeed has a dubious record that includes retweeting a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon. Kadosh and Tuchman conclude by saying that Berkeley deserves “leaders who take their legal and moral responsibilities seriously by rejecting and condemning bigotry.”
They’re right — but it’s a pity that they are undercut by their boss, CEO Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America. Klein’s record is littered with expressions of bigotry (see his Twitter feed for recent examples), occasionally followed by halfhearted apologies but more often not. Until ZOA jettisons him and rebuilds from the ground up, they have no credibility. Berkeley, the Jewish community and everyone deserves better.
Federation response to fires
On behalf of lay and professional partners working with the Federations’ North Bay Wildfire Relief and Recovery Task Force, I want to expand on J.’s Oct. 18 editorial titled “One year later, the North Bay fires still hurt” by sharing the breadth and depth of the Federation’s response and deployment of funds.
Our initial approach included organizing volunteers, providing emergency financial assistance and collecting Judaica items for distribution to families who had suffered the loss of their homes and possessions. A task force from both the S.F.-based and East Bay Federations subsequently collaborated on a grantmaking strategy to strengthen local Jewish community organizations and support programs to facilitate trauma recovery.
Together, our two Federations mobilized over $1.4 million to assist in recovery efforts, including $800,000 contributed by 1,300 individual donors to the North Bay Wildfire Emergency Fund, and additional direct support to organizations by donor-advised fund holders and the S.F.-based Federation’s Endowment Fund.
To date, we have granted funds to every synagogue and Chabad in Sonoma and Napa counties, the JCC of Sonoma County, Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Jewish Free Clinic and IsraAid. Additionally, scholarships have been provided for children from the region to attend Jewish overnight camps, day camps, preschool, and Israel programs. Direct grants were also made to URJ Camp Newman for operational support during their transitional period.
With housing being the greatest ongoing need, the Federation is now partnering with Habitat for Humanity to organize Jewish volunteers to rebuild homes, leveraging the Federations’ financial support and human capital for the good of the entire community.
We want our supporters to know that their generosity made a meaningful and considerable impact and that their donations are thoughtfully allocated to a variety of activities and organizations — all driven by a strategic approach to addressing short-term relief and continued long-term recovery.
How J. got its new look
I can imagine the discussion at the planning meeting where this was decided —”You’ve all heard me say many times that the cost of generating content is killing us. Has anyone come up with a solution?”
“I might have something. I’ve been playing with the page layout. I took a typical page, chopped off 20 percent on the bottom, chopped off 20 percent on the right, thinned out the font and then stretched it back out to its original size. It’s true that the letters look like teenagers in the middle of their growth spurt, but the content is reduced by a third!”
“Yes, that does look good. You all know that in the end we will be online only, but in order to not shock the subscribers we need to move incrementally. We’ll call this ‘modernization.’ Maybe our readers will be happy because they won’t have to locate their reading glasses in order to read the paper. Alright, meeting dismissed!”
Redesign makes J. less readable
I was dismayed to see your redesigned issue of J. I realize that aesthetics are partly a matter of taste, but the new format seems to me to be gimmicky and chopped up. It is a downgrade from the elegance of the old format — a cheapening of the look of the magazine.
But worse is the new typeface. It is much harder to read than the old — and I have very good eyes. Even if you disagree with me about design, I hope you will seriously consider adopting a better typeface. In the meantime, I will not enjoy reading J. as much as in the past.
Why did Diller drop Canary?
I was disappointed in Richard Rosenberg’s letter responding to the criticism of the Helen Diller Family Foundation’s support for Canary Mission (Oct. 19). However, his response does not address the substance of the criticism offered by former Diller Fellows and others. His letter catalogs the many good things the Diller Foundation (and the S.F. Federation) has done. But no one questions its history of good deeds, and no one is asking for heads to roll.
It is heartening to learn that both the S.F. Federation and the Diller Family Foundation will no longer support Canary Mission. This is implicit acknowledgment of an error of judgment. Still, it would be useful to be open about why it made this anomalous decision. I ask the S.F. Federation and the Diller Foundation to offer a forthright explanation and an apology for their uncharacteristic bad judgment in funding Canary Mission.
Advice to disgruntled Diller teens
As evident from the Oct. 19 story in J., the Helen Diller Family Foundation finds itself in a damage-control mode trying to explain how it dared to approve a grant to the Canary Mission group, which fights anti-Semitism on campuses (“Former Diller Fellows: ‘It’s not enough to take action, you have to take action’“).
In righteous indignation, three Bay Area former college students, who received Diller grants in the past, demanded in a letter published in the Forward that the “SF Federation and Diller Foundation must set a higher standard for Jewish organizations across the country by not only denouncing anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, and suppression of dissent, but actively playing a role in fighting these forces.”
If these are the main causes/lessons learned from a trip to Israel (and in light of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre), then these three grant recipients should reimburse the Diller Foundation for wasted money, since they haven’t come even close to the Diller Teen Fellows program vision, which states: “A global network of Jewish leaders, with a lifetime commitment to their communities, Israel, the Jewish people, and to making the world a better place.”
Yes, Jews are destined to be a light unto the nations. But this should come from the inner light of knowledge, pride and respect for their own Jewish identity.
Instead of apologizing for the Canary grant, the Diller Foundation should be proud of supporting Jewish students’ Jewishness and Canary’s mission of identifying the initiators of hatred toward Jews and Israel.