Under the planned renovation of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, a new roof deck will be added on top of the existing courtyard portico. (Rendering courtesy of Mark Cavagnero Associates)
Under the planned renovation of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, a new roof deck will be added on top of the existing courtyard portico. (Rendering courtesy of Mark Cavagnero Associates)

Don’t blame Trump; don’t blame Israel; ‘wanton disregard’ in Emanu-El plan


Emanu-El’s project? Boo!

I have been a member of Congregation Emanu-El for over 60 years.

In addition to what you reported about the main sanctuary (“Emanu-El reveals details of $72 million remodel of an S.F. icon”), the beautiful, historic, 100-year-old Moorish courtyard — with its tiled mosaic fountain and lion heads — is going to be altered beyond recognition.

The architect obviously wants to make a name for himself by totally redesigning the building, but has blatantly overlooked and disregarded the historic significance and serene beauty of it, which should be declared historic by the city.

I want to hear a hue and cry from our congregation and all historians who have ever had the pleasure to walk or sit within those hallowed courtyard walls.

Although the main sanctuary is not going to be touched, the courtyard and Moorish fountain are part and parcel of the of the main sanctuary, our beautiful house of worship. Surely, enough office space and community areas could be added without compromising the historic integrity, beauty and welcoming serenity of that beautiful fountain and courtyard.

The wanton disregard of sacred human sensibilities dishonors the congregation and members who came before.

There is also the possibility that the fountain would be chopped up just to use a few pieces of it.  The fact the powers that be would consider such a thing is appalling — a travesty beyond measure.

Perhaps it could be donated to another church or temple that would appreciate the equanimity it brings just sitting looking at it.

I realize, it’s not the material building, but our wonderful clergy inside who make Temple Emanu-El my beloved spiritual home, but this bigger-than-life project is out of control.  I beseech all those involved to reconsider the removal of the fountain, and so much the courtyard.

Michele Woolfe-Avramov
San Francisco


Stop blaming Israel

Regarding your article (“At Manny’s, a tense discussion of Israel and anti-Semitism”), I did not get to attend this meeting, but I was struck that no one present brought up the fact of the oppression of the Palestinians by their own leadership and their leadership’s commitment to destroy Israel as a Jewish state.

Why would any Israeli government want to negotiate with leaders of Hamas and the PLO who state this agenda openly?

Why didn’t anyone at the meeting who spoke for the Zionist idea directly oppose the statement that Israelis kill Palestinian children?

Instead, only a lone voice in the audience called out “false!”

I am getting the impression that those who are supposed to represent our Jewish right to self-determination in our ancestral homeland, and to stand up for the security of Israel, don’t even understand the need for a Jewish state. And even worse, they have swallowed the propaganda of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

It is time to speak clearly: If the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel is the prerequisite of the Palestinian leadership for coming to the negotiating table and actually coming to some agreement for a two-state solution, then they continue to allow their people to be “occupied” instead of working to establish a viable civilian society that does more for their people than teach them to launch rockets into Israel and kill Israelis.

The Palestinian leadership has as much or more responsibility for the suffering of their people than does Israel. Maybe all those picketers who have plagued Manny’s for so many months should be picketing the offices of Hamas and Abbas instead!

Dorothea Dorenz
Berkeley


Israeli superiority complex justified

At the recent Palo Alto Z3 conference, some sessions are reported to have focused on “Can Israeli Jews abandon their superiority complex and accept American Jews as equal partners in the global Jewish enterprise?” (“Blossoming into a movement, Zionism confab in Palo Alto packs the house”)

Who, speaking for what group, is the source of this “superiority complex” assessment?

The global Jewish enterprise — whatever that actually means — has no future if the Jewish State is replaced by the river-to-the sea “Palestine” that many in the U.S. (including some who call themselves Jews) are demanding.

How has that global Jewish enterprise responded to Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar recently advising Israel that “We have hundreds of kilometers of tunnels, hundreds of control rooms above and below the ground, thousands of anti-tank missiles and thousands of mortar shells,” and “we can turn the enemy cities into ghost towns if they decide to attack us”, adding that “had it not been for Iran’s financial support, weapons and the transfer of expertise to the resistance in Gaza and Palestine, we would not have reached where we are.”

American Jews certainly do not participate as equal partners when Israel is forced to stop rocket and missile bombardment of its civilians and deal with threats of annihilation.

Meanwhile, in the same article, Tzipi Livni is concerned about Israeli religious authority that does not recognize liberal Jewish streams. This is a less than perfect situation, as so often happens in human endeavors. But it should be borne in mind that in the U.S., Conservative and Reform synagogue memberships are shrinking. In the past, American Jews mobilized to free Soviet Jewry and to help Israelis survive their relentlessly hostile neighbors. Can American Jews revitalize their own non-Orthodox communities? Unless they can, their effort to promote these denominations in Israel is tragically misplaced.

Julia Lutch
Davis


Israel will always defend its citizens

Another Islamic Jihad terrorist has gone to meet his maker. Schools and businesses are shuttered for who knows how long. “Red Alert” apps are buzzing.  The news is interrupted by a seeming endless parade of security alerts. Israelis head to their shelters and sealed rooms. Thank God for Iron Dome, or the civilian death toll in Israel would doubtless be higher.

Certainly, the IDF acted in good faith, eliminating a terrorist who had no interest in peaceful coexistence throughout his short, violent life.

One could question the motivation of Israel’s Prime Minister for launching the raid when he did to influence the political negotiations to form Israel’s next government. But to focus on this is to miss the major point. Israel cannot and should not be held to a double standard in ensuring the lives and safety of its residents in the face of cynical terrorists who hide behind their own civilians to cause mayhem and destruction to Israel’s civilian population.

In the days and weeks to come, one hopes that calm will return to the region and people can go about their lives with peace and security and this whole chapter will soon be in the rear-view mirror.

Steve Lipman
Foster City


Rise of anti-Semitism isn’t Trump’s doing

In a recent J. opinion piece marking one year since the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting (“Anti-Semitism is rising in the U.S. — and many Jews blame Trump”), the author cited statistics from a poll, including: 41 percent of respondents believe that the Republican Party (meaning President Trump) bears almost all responsibility for today’s ever-increasing, American anti-Semitism.

Given the continuous media condemnation of President Trump for all problems, including growing anti-Semitism, it should be no surprise that polls reflect what the media has been telling Americans for the last several years.

In a parallel situation, European surveys have shown, for more than 10 years, that Europeans rate Israel to be the most dangerous nation on Earth for world peace — not China, Iran or North Korea.

These surveys simply reflect what the left-progressive European news media have been telling Europeans for decades. Furthermore, increasing European anti-Semitic acts — primarily in France and Germany — are occurring in nations where Mr. Trump is not respected.

In assessing the theory that President Trump has created America’s increase in anti-Semitism, one must ask if that is due to his (a) strong, open support for Israel, (b) moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, or (c) his observantly Jewish son-in-law serving as a close adviser?

Conversely, Democrat presidential-contenders were plentiful at last month’s conclave for J Street. None were at AIPAC’s convention.

Or would logic suggest that, given President Trump’s open respect for Jews/Israel, Jew-haters around the world respond with more acts of Jew-hatred, to assert that such support for Jews/Israel should not exist?

Fred Korr
Oakland


Some Dem candidates are ignorant about Israel

As a lifelong Democrat, I am greatly disturbed by the threats of several of the party’s presidential candidates to withhold financial aid from Israel (“Bernie Sanders: Some U.S. aid money to Israel should go to Gaza”).

Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigeig wrongly slam the Jewish state for: (1) the lack of progress in moving toward a two-state solution, (2) the plight of Gaza, (3) overall Palestinian woes, and (4) Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Such arguments display considerable ignorance or unconcern about the past and recent history of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

It is the Palestinians who have scuttled the two-state solution, refusing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and failing to participate in negotiations sought by Israel. Yes, Gaza is a disaster, but why blame Israel, which withdrew from the strip several years ago and continues to provide the area with power, fuel, food and medical supplies?

Where is the acknowledgement that Hamas and other terrorist groups use Gaza to attack Israel with rockets and violent human assaults? And Jewish settlements in the West Bank should not be seen as an absolute obstacle to eventual Palestinian sovereignty in the area, despite the argument that a future state cannot include any Jews. Why can’t a few Jews reside in a Palestinian state, given the fact that one in five Israeli citizens is Arab.

These presidential candidates downplay the significance of the strong military, intelligence, economic and moral ties between Israel and the United States. Israel is our closest and most vital ally in the Middle East, sharing with us the values of democracy, diversity, religious and cultural tolerance, and personal liberty.

In their rush to punish Israel on erroneous grounds, the critics overlook these realities.

Al Sokolow
Davis


J Street pulls apart Jews

There are American Jews, Israeli Jews and J Street.  While the best minds of the first two are trying to smooth the differences between their corresponding camps, J Street is trying to pull them apart as far as possible.

The case in point was J Street’s late October conference in Washington, D.C., where leading Democratic presidential candidates, to approving applause of the attendees, were competing with each other in their quid pro quo toward Israel: Withdraw, unconditionally, from the “occupied” territories, or face a cut-off of aid from the United States (“Bernie Sanders: Some U.S. aid money to Israel should go to Gaza”).

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group of more than 50 Jewish organizations from across the ideological spectrum, has clearly stated: “Adoption of this suggested approach would reward those who are the true obstacles to progress towards peace, engage in terrorism, and deprive the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank of the opportunities for a better life.”

Obviously, American Jewish organizations and the Israeli Jews are not thrilled, to say the least, with J Street’s position of pressing Israel into nonreciprocal concessions.

As their progressive brethren who believe that their socialism will be different from all other socialisms, J Street believes that this time Israeli withdrawals will bring peace into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

There is a well-known saying regarding the human trait of trying to do the same thing again and again, and expecting a different result. Maybe J Street should become familiar with this saying.

Vladimir Kaplan
San Mateo

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