To flag or not to flag
There was a lot of squawk about the D. C. Dyke March banning the so-called Jewish gay pride flag (“The controversy over Jewish and Israeli symbols at the DC Dyke March”).
But a quick search revealed that the flag is not a Jewish pride flag but is, in fact, an Israeli pride flag. I mean, really — it’s obviously the Israeli flag on a rainbow background.
So, two things: Is it right to ban an Israeli pride flag from a parade that celebrates diversity? Not in my opinion. But I didn’t organize the march, so it’s not my call. On the other hand, is it, perhaps, insensitive to bring an Israeli pride flag to a very politicized march where there will be participants who view it as a symbol of apartheid and oppression? You betcha.
Another example of hate
I was stunned and saddened to learn of the targeting of San Francisco residents with anti-Semitic hate mail (“Homes near S.F. Holocaust memorial receive anti-Semitic mailings”). The vile literature apparently was sent by the Barnes Review, a publication that promotes anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, to residents on 34th Avenue. The neighborhood appears to have been chosen because of its proximity to the city’s Holocaust memorial.
The Lincoln Park Holocaust Memorial, created by George Segal and dedicated in 1984, is one of the most harrowing and affecting Holocaust memorials in the world. It depicts a single, ghost-like Holocaust survivor standing behind, and staring blankly through, a barbed-wire fence — reminiscent of Margaret Bourke-White’s 1945 Life magazine photo of the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp — while a pile of bodies lies on the ground behind him. That any human being could look at such a memorial and be stirred not to feel empathy but to mock Jewish suffering and spread similar hate is unfathomable. Yet anti-Semitism, humankind’s oldest and most enduring hatred, is again resurgent.
The Holocaust memorial is a short walk from the Legion of Honor’s celebrated bronze cast of Auguste Rodin’s iconic sculpture “The Thinker.” That is itself poignant — a reminder of humankind’s unlimited capacity for rational thought, but also a cautionary tale because Rodin himself remained shamefully neutral in the face of the anti-Semitic wave of hate that swept France during the Alfred Dreyfus affair in the 1890s. Thinking is no substitute for the courage of Émile Zola or the inspiration of Theodor Herzl.
When we see hate, we must not merely think it is wrong but take action to challenge, oppose and stop it.
Stephen A. Silver
As bullies grow more brazen
How inspiring it was to read about Charles Volk’s struggle taking on (and winning!) against SFSU’s notorious anti-Semitic campus environment (“I’m proud to have been a plaintiff in anti-Semitism lawsuit against SFSU”.
The downside of his experience was the conspicuous silence of the mainstream Jewish community. No other minority group on campus would have tolerated the outrages committed against Jewish students. And anyone who believes that our policy of reaching out to our Muslim (and black) “brothers” would earn us their support is a fool who is blind to the lessons of history.
When will we learn that staying silent accomplishes nothing — except permitting the bullies to grow more brazen. And, sadly, when the chips are down, the Jews still stand alone.
Dr. David L. Levine
New era in ‘special needs’
Thank you for the article about Friendship Circle’s new program for young adults (“Friendship Circle expands, extending a hand to young adults,” May 10).
Programs exist for kids with special needs, but as they grow up they do not grow out of all their issues. The contribution Barbara and I made to start this program arises from my parents’ efforts to cope with my older brother’s problems.
When Jeffrey was born in Toronto in 1951, the term “special needs” did not exist. The pediatrician told my parents Jeff might not live past the age of 6. He died last November at 67.
My father was a war veteran and an accountant; my mother was a bookkeeper turned housewife. Neither was prepared for what lay ahead. They hunted for the few experts there were at the time. One pointed to the next, and they learned from each. With a growing library, my father became a self-taught expert in what was then academically called “learning disabilities.”
He persuaded the school board to lend him an elementary school for a weekend therapy program. Imagine: The custodian unlocked the door, and a cluster of kids with problems and their parents, all led by an accountant, headed for the gym. I was a volunteer from the age of 11. My father would hand me a ball and tell me to do a particular exercise in a corner with a kid; 15 minutes later, I’d be shifted to work with someone else. This family effort continued for years without paperwork, releases or legal repercussions.
My parents banded together with other, mostly Jewish parents to found the Canadian Association for Children with Learning Disabilities. They lobbied the Minister of Education in Ontario to provide educational opportunities for kids with such disabilities. The recognition that such programs were needed was then growing in many places, but in Ontario the creation of “special education” was a direct outcome of this lobbying and is part of Jeff’s legacy.
Memories of a minyan
It gave me great pleasure to read the column “At the storied Eldridge Street Synagogue, my nephew is a minyan-making hero.”
Please be so kind as to, once again, express my appreciation, together with the Eldridge Street Synagogue, to the column’s author, Karen Galatz, and her truly heroic nephew, Ryan. Ryan actually did heroically save the day for us at the Eldridge Street Synagogue that Shabbat morning.
I happen to have been the rabbi of the synagogue at that time, and I was the individual who went up the block to request from Karen and Ryan that they join us. We were inspired by Ryan’s determination as well as his ability to persuade his aunt to allow him to remain in the synagogue and complete the required quorum in order to conduct services and read from the Torah.
Ryan and Karen sat down with us for the Kiddush, giving the congregation a chance to become acquainted with them.
Such opportunities like hosting Ryan and Karen make the sacrifice of maintaining a synagogue in the heart of New York’s Chinatown that much more meaningful.
Thank you for circulating the article.
New York City
KPFA is unfair on Israel
I often listen to radio station KPFA and enjoy many outstanding, excellent programs. However, there is one exception. When the topic is the Israel-Arab conflict, KPFA goes a little crazy.
Although its mission statement pledges “to serve as a forum for various viewpoints,” KPFA presents only one viewpoint: Palestinians are innocent victims and Israelis are oppressors.
KPFA often hosts like-minded Jewish and Israeli contributors. I cannot recall hearing even one speaker who presented an Israeli perspective or discussed Palestinian intentions, accountability or their share of responsibility for the ongoing conflict.
KPFA declares a noble intention to “contribute to lasting understanding between individuals and nations.” However, by critiquing only Israel, KPFA creates lasting misunderstanding.
For one example, consider KPFA’s coverage of Gaza’s continuing “Great March of Return.” KPFA portrays Palestinian protesters as peaceful and unarmed. Undoubtedly some were, but many others were not. In fact, some news reports documented that many “protesters” were Hamas members and Hamas-incited rioters who, recruiting women and children as shields, attempted to cut or crash through Israel’s sovereign border, enter Israel and attack Jews.
KPFA reported accounts of Palestinian “protesters” shot by Israelis without mentioning that Palestinian mobs attacked Israeli soldiers with guns, hand grenades, pipe bombs, slingshots, cleavers, boulder-sized rocks, and incendiary kites and balloons, setting fire to Israeli forests, nature centers and farms.
If KPFA followed its lofty mission statements, it could contribute to the urgent need for tolerance, civility and respect for the “other,” including Israelis and Palestinians.