Hundreds gather in New York City to protest against migrant detention camps and impending raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, July 12, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Spencer Platt-Getty Images)
Hundreds gather in New York City to protest against migrant detention camps and impending raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, July 12, 2019. (Photo/JTA-Spencer Platt-Getty Images)

Letters: migrants, murals, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism

Standing against hate

I have been reading with great interest Gabe Stutman’s recent articles in J. noting similarities between conflicts and problems at our southern border and the Holocaust (“Emotional testimony from survivors at San Francisco ICE protest,” July 12).

I am reminded of so many stories my mother-in-law shared of growing up in Nuremberg, a hotbed of anti-Semitism. She told me she was met most mornings on her way to school by a young boy who called her a “dirty Jew” and spit on her. One day in April 1933, her father and other businessmen in Nuremberg were taken to a large field in Nuremberg and forced to cut the grass with their teeth. Five years later, during Kristallnacht, her father was picked up again, and this time imprisoned for two months in Dachau concentration camp outside Munich. The charge was — being Jewish.

There were more stories, all examples of hate and degradation against her family, incidents that ultimately led to the need to flee Germany for their lives. My mother-in-law was lucky and made it to the U.S. Her parents and millions more were caught in the Nazi reign of terror and sent to Auschwitz and other extermination camps to be murdered.

This was the outcome of the consistent marginalization of Jews, Roma (also known as Gypsies) and homosexuals, which placed them in the category of “other.”

I hear this same marginalization in the hateful rhetoric calling immigrants invaders, criminals, people to be banned from entering our country; people who can be held in inhumane conditions and separated from their families. Even people who can die as a result of our inhumane treatment.

How long can this continue?

Desperate to do something, I recently hung the sign “Oakland Stands Against Hate” in our front window. And now I write this letter to voice my deep concern over the gross indecency with the way people are being dehumanized and treated at the border.

These are small acts but necessary given what I know about what happened to my husband’s family in Europe. Thank you to Gabe Stutman and all the J. reporters who are covering everything from Never Again Action to survivors of the Holocaust offering testimony at ICE protests to keep us informed about this very serious situation. Given the overwhelmingly positive response to the sign “Oakland Stands Against Hate,” I know I am not alone.

Judy Vasos | Oakland

Depictions of history

The disturbing recent vote of the San Francisco Board of Education to deface and destroy a set of murals depicting the life of George Washington brings to mind the historic attitude Jews have had for more than 2,000 years to the Arch of Titus frieze showing the looted menorah held in triumphal procession by the Roman legions that destroyed the Second Temple.

Since its erection, the rabbis have banned Jews from walking under the arch, but there is no reported evidence that its destruction was sought. In fact, the arch remains as one of the few intact structures in the Roman Forum to this day.

We tolerate it, and to some degree cherish it, as objective proof that despite the continued cycle of anti-Semitic campaigns aimed at our spiritual and physical destruction, the Jewish people have survived and thrived, their religious values and heritage intact for more than 3,000 years.

The school board should reconsider its position and allow the Washington mural to remain as a similar inspiration and source of ethnic pride for the school’s indigenous and African American students who, like their forbears who survived the slavery and ethnic hatred represented in the mural, will overcome any manifestations of such racism now and in the future.

Jerome M. Garchik | San Francisco

Shocked and speechless

What is just as shocking, if not more so, about the release on bail of Ross Farca is that the judge who reduced his bail is Jewish. I’m speechless.

Roni Silverberg | San Francisco

Taube was not on a ‘cruise’

Tad Taube did not cross the Atlantic on a “cruise ship,” as was written in a recent article about him (“Tad Taube, proud philanthropist and builder of Jewish life in Poland,” July 12).

The Queen Mary was an ocean liner, a workhorse of trans-Atlantic travel in the days before jet aircraft.

Fun fact: A few years after Taube’s voyage, the Queen Mary was pressed into military service, carrying 10,000 soldiers at a time to battle in Europe, probably in conditions similar to what Taube experienced. Allied commanders bet, correctly, that the speedy liner could outrun any German warship that might try to catch it.

Ilya Gurin | Mountain View

Activist Jews are trouble

Most Jews agree that the threat of anti-Jewish violence in America is real and growing, but there’s much disagreement over the cause (“Violent anti-Semitism is a clear and present danger in our own backyard,” J. editorial, July 12).

Perhaps Judaism itself can offer some enlightenment.

The Torah never promises a time when Jews would have no enemies, but it does say that as long as we follow the laws that God gave us, those enemies would have no power to harm us. Any time our adversaries can attack us with impunity, it’s a sure sign that we’ve deviated from the right path.

So what are we doing wrong? Is it possible that Jewish social activism, despite its seemingly good intentions, is actually one of the leading causes of violent anti-Semitism? Such activism usually consists of left-wing Jews waging aggressive campaigns to force their ideologies on a society that doesn’t want them and feels threatened by them.

Although these ideologies typically make no reference to God and often stand in direct opposition to true Jewish values, their proponents often make the false claim that they’re acting according to the “highest” Jewish values, which makes many people believe that Judaism itself is the enemy, which must be pushed back hard if people are to maintain their existing way of life. And such people may not be averse to violence if all else fails.

Jews should not turn a blind eye to injustice just to avoid antagonizing unjust people. But we should also get over the conceit of thinking we’re much wiser than other people and therefore entitled to dictate to them how they must live their lives. And trying to force false, corrupted and non-Jewish ideologies on people in the name of Judaism can not possibly end well for the Jewish people.

Martin Wasserman | Palo Alto

An obscene comparison

How offensive to see some Jews dare to compare the current group of economic migrants trying to illegally barge into this country with the Jewish refugees from Germany before World War II (“ ‘Never again’ is now, say hundreds marching through S.F. streets,” July 5).

The Jews were literally running for their lives. Today’s migrants are (understandably) seeking to improve their financial situation by fleeing poverty and corruption in their countries. They are decidedly not equivalent. To debase the Holocaust with such a comparison is an obscenity.

David L. Levine | San Francisco

Not a ‘second Holocaust’

The opinion piece by Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz on tolerance of interfaith marriages (“Intermarried Jews are not a ‘second Holocaust,’ regardless of what any Israeli politician says,” July 12) was interesting and well written.

However, the fact that Reform and Conservative shuls are uniting for the sake of survival proves that these branches are definitely suffering a membership crisis. Perhaps the word “Holocaust” is poorly chosen. Please suggest a better term.

Orrin Davis | Fair Lawn, New Jersey

Border is not a Nazi replay

When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pronounces that the immigrant detention centers on our southern borders are similar to the Nazi concentration camps, it’s egregious. Still, these statements may be attributed to her lack of historic knowledge.

But when a rabbi states that “the current situation justifies this comparison,” then it’s appalling. Unfortunately, these words belong to Rabbi Dev Noily of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont (“‘Never again’ is now, say hundreds marching in S.F. streets,” July 5).

The rabbi sees the current situation in the U.S. as “reminiscent of what was happening in Europe in the 1930s.”

First, there is no equivalent in human history to the mass slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust by the scale, means and barbaric determination of the Nazis and their “willing executioners.” Jews have survived thousands of years by remembering their past. Trivializing the Holocaust is not an option, neither now nor in the future. Remembering it is the safest way to prevent its repetition.

Second, it’s a travesty to declare that the current situation reminds one of Europe of the ’30s. That Europe was falling under fascist control. I lived half of my life under the dictate of the fascism’s twin (socialism), with its ceaseless hysteria of threats to the motherland.

There are some groups and movements here in America who readily see threats of fascism in every criticism of them and disagreement with them. These “threats” are the only commonality between fascism/socialism and America of today.

Vladimir Kaplan | San Mateo

Beware the ‘bad hombres’

The Jewish community’s efforts to support the current wave of migrants at our southern border reflects a commendable concern for humanity but a complete myopia regarding many legitimate issues that arise from this migration.

First, there is no mention that the migration is a massive violation of our border. U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports an excess of 100,000 cross-border apprehensions each month from March to May of this year. Others evade detection.

Neither is there any recognition that the U.S. maintains reasonably generous legal immigration with more than 1 million legal immigrants annually since at least 2014.

These numbers suggest that more may enter the United States outside of our lawful immigration system this year than through it, which is unacceptable.

Then there are the legitimate public safety concerns of an uncontrolled border. The killings of Kate Steinle and police officer Ronald Singh were national news. In March, SFGate and others reported on Arevalo Carranza, who was jailed in Santa Clara County, had an ICE detainer, but was released due to sanctuary policies. Shortly thereafter, he was rearrested for the murder of 59-year-old Bambi Larson. While such cases do not reflect on the majority of migrants, they should be a concern.

Those who have attacked border enforcement without qualification have incentivized these increased numbers to make the perilous journey through Mexico and across the Rio Grande. They must bear some responsibility for both the dangers the migrants have encountered and the current overcrowding at federal detention facilities.

Hopefully we can agree on policies that will assure a secure southern border, humane treatment for those already in our country (without criminal records), and assist our Central American neighbors to achieve better governance and thereby stem the lawlessness at our border and beyond.

Steve Astrachan | Pleasant Hill

The use of ‘Never again’

In my opinion, David Biale, in his July 1 op-ed “A historian’s perspective: Concentration camps in America?” makes an excellent argument that “the outrage occurring on our southern border” is much more significant than how Ocasio-Cortez may have erred by claiming that the migrant detention centers are concentration camps.

Biale noted Shmuley Boteach’s full-page ad in the New York Times condemning Ocasio-Cortez’s claim. He then went on to state that both Ocasio-Cortez and Boteach are “exploiting the memory of the Holocaust by harnessing it for a political purpose to deflect attention from our government’s practices.”

It does appear that Shmuley and many other Trump supporters have been at least partly, if not largely, motivated to deflect attention from our government’s cruel, inhumane treatment of the migrants.

Ocasio-Cortez, on the other hand, has been motivated to shed more light on these atrocities.

Paradoxically, by referring to the detention centers as concentration camps and using the phrase “Never again,” she has triggered a reaction that has deflected attention away from what she rightfully condemns.

Biale points out the danger that “if we inflate every injustice in the world as a Holocaust, then we lose sight of what that event actually meant.” He also warns us about the other extreme of how the Holocaust could be considered “so sacred that it leaves no room to be outraged by anything else.”

I would add — especially when a phrase that invokes the Holocaust is used. Imagine one of Jeffrey Epstein’s victims using the phrase “Never again” in her condemnation of Epstein’s pedophilia, and Epstein in his self-defense accusing the victim of demeaning Jews by expropriating this phase associated with the Holocaust.

Mark Davidow | Glen Ellen

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