How could UCSF do it?
I worked at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco for close to 20 years, and also worked on “The Jewish Wedding” Zakheim mural project, securing funding for its restoration and re-placing in the new JCC facility in 2004. Over the years, I gave countless tours of the building and the Zakheim mural was always a highlight.
I’ve always marveled at Zakheim’s curation of the Coit Tower murals, and his own mural there, “The Library,” where the central figure, surrounded by books, is holding a copy of Das Kapital.
The proposed destruction of the cherished UCSF Zakheim murals raises so many questions for me (“Jewish muralist’s historic work faces demolition at UCSF”). Why go back to the artist’s family seeking funding, especially knowing that Nathan Zakheim is a highly regarded art restorer? Did UCSF seek bids from qualified art restorers before they came up with that huge $8 million number? Did UCSF seek funding for the restoration and removal of the mural? Were they turned down by all the significant art-loving philanthropic institutions in San Francisco? Or was their announcement a strategy to find funding or provoke a hue and cry from art lovers? I can’t imagine they thought nobody would notice.
There is a certain irony in the fact that much of Zakheim’s work, including the UCSF project, was funded in part by the Roosevelt Era WPA public art program, a remarkable initiative that successfully put our nation’s creatives to work during the Great Depression. Would that we had federal leadership with any vision or understanding of how to move our country forward at this difficult time.
Partial funding for the JCCSF project came from the National Endowment for the Arts, under their “Save America’s Treasures” program.
UCSF has stated that it would not use public money to restore the murals. Yet the university’s creation was indeed partly funded by public money, that is, the federal government.
We are at an unprecedented time in our nation’s history. Every piece of our lives has been turned upside down, the arts most of all. How strange that a venerable institution, working so hard to save lives during this crisis, has decided to destroy an important piece of their and our city’s heritage.
Welcoming Jews of color
I appreciated the article on Jews of color in the June 11 issue (“For Jews of color, protests are reminders of pain — even within the Jewish community”).
As a community, and particularly in synagogues and JCCs, we need to work to be more welcoming to all Jews. The article brought out the importance of truly listening to both Jews of color, and our neighbors. Thank you for the thoughtful interviews.
Annexation is a menace
I would like to applaud and thank Eva Seligman-Kennard for her clear and forthright letter in regard to unilateral annexation by Israel’s current government (“Annexation is reckless,” June 11).
Note that 28 sitting senators, joined by eight leading Senate candidates in battleground states, have made public their opposition by calling on the Israeli government not to carry out annexation and noting its dangerous ramifications for Israel, the Palestinians and the wider region.
These messages add to the increasingly overwhelming chorus of American and Israeli political and communal leaders, security officials and foreign-policy experts who are sounding the alarm about the potential for disaster. This is a pivotal moment. I urge all of you to join me in speaking out against annexation and in defense of the shared interests and democratic values of the U.S.-Israeli relationship.
Point Reyes Station
‘Right of return’ is the snag
Regarding the June 11 letter to J. headlined “Annexation is reckless,” aside from the letter’s harsh tone and aggressive rhetoric, the writer’s primary argument is flawed: Annexation is not the obstacle in the way of a two-state solution. What prevents a solution to the conflict is the Palestinian fixation on the imagined “right of return,” which has led them to again and again withdraw from all negotiation efforts.
It is impossible to sort out such complex issues when one side is consistently unwilling to engage in discussion based on its denial of the very legitimacy of the other.
The popular claim that Jewish presence in the West Bank is the primary obstacle in the way of peace is the result of decades of political lobbying, which was largely indulged by the international community, and has served to masquerade a simple fact: It is Jewish sovereignty on any part of the land that has always been the true obstacle.
The question of legality is more complex. Annexation is not “indefinite military rule without civil or political rights,” as the letter-writer claims. In fact, annexation means recognizing the new territories as part of Israel, with all the benefits that come with that status.
To this day, the annexation of the Golan Heights is not recognized by international law. However, few would criticize the annexation of the Golan — which included granting rights and citizenship for all people living in those areas — on moral grounds.
Perhaps international law, whose arbiter is the consistently biased, anti-Israel and anti-Semitic United Nations, isn’t a good measure of Israeli policy.
Maybe annexation isn’t the right move right now, but we can’t ignore the historical context in which it is occurring. Portraying annexation as a greedy land grab is overly simplistic and quite a bit dishonest.
Love Israel? Don’t support BLM
Maayan Belding-Zidon’s rationale for why Jews should support Black Lives Matter regardless of its anti-Israel platform (“Israel isn’t an excuse not to support Black Lives Matter,” June 15) doesn’t withstand scrutiny.
The argument she makes in her op-ed is premised on her opinion that “[w]hite supremacy is a much bigger threat to American Jews than BDS is to the State of Israel.”
Based on this opinion, she concludes that “even it were not in our self-interest as Jews to stand in solidarity with Black America against hate and bigotry” she “would join the protests anyway, because as an observant Jew, I am obligated to do so by the Torah.” (Editor’s note: Belding-Zidon lives in Israel.)
The Torah doesn’t command Jews to commit suicide. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is an existential threat to the State of Israel which nobody can seriously deny.
White supremacists in the United States are not intent on destroying Israel; they want to evict Jews from this country. Abhorrent as that is, their ideology in the U.S. is a fringe idea. On the other hand, growing support for BDS on U..S college campuses is frightening, and can morph into a much bigger threat than it is already.
If one group presents an existential threat to Israel, and the other doesn’t, BLM’s failure to openly refute its original anti-Israel platform, and its current identification with Jew-haters of note, should block any support from Jews who believe Israel has a right to exist.
A mind-boggling curriculum
A revised Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum for high schools in California is due to be presented to the state Instructional Quality Commission in August. The original draft, proposed in January, included descriptions of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel without criticism — which has since been removed, as reported by J. (“Ethnic studies model curriculum no longer includes BDS, state officials say,” May 22) — and referred to the creation of Israel as the “nakba,” Arabic for disaster.
This curriculum proposal created a firestorm of disapproval, with 18,000 of 19,000 public comments to the board of education highly critical of it. Despite this, a number of school boards voted to approve it as is, even before awaited revisions are made.
How could the most diverse state, California, and our school boards at this time of racial and ethnic strife have proposed such a resolution? We can claim victory if all the biased statements are removed. But what about the next time?
Unfair swipes at U.S. police
“Racial justice is a Jewish imperative” — the June 12 piece by the J. editorial board — made a compelling case for welcoming and sensitivity to all, including Jews of color who must be fully a part of our community.
However your language and unqualified support for the Black Lives Matter movement raise serious concerns.
“The colonial origins and the inherent legacy of white supremacy embedded in all museums” (a statement in the piece credited to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco) represents the concept of collective racial guilt, which we should reject out of hand.
In “Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s,” Paul Johnson explains that collective racial guilt, which derived from Marxist collective class guilt, was at the base of a new anti-Semitism that arose in late 19th-century Europe, including Germany. He writes: “The new anti-Semitism … was part of the sinister drift away from the apportionment of individual responsibility towards the notion of collective guilt.”
Furthermore, the idea that police use lethal force disproportionately against black people simply does not match the evidence.
Five years ago, I reviewed the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting database and concluded that the ratio of shootings to arrests, which was in the thousandths of a percent, showed no significant difference by race. Subsequently, three separate professional studies have confirmed my conclusion.
We must remember that many black communities suffer from a higher incidence of criminal victimization than does the general population. In the most recent FBI data, black people, 13 percent of the population, were 45 percent of homicide victims.
It is this disproportion that should concern us above all.
I was once the head of a substantial administrative department in Oakland. Two of my employees, local women, lost close relatives to homicide. It was devastating.
The George Floyd case was an unambiguously criminal act and must be addressed as such. But let’s avoid a false narrative that unfairly disparages American police.