Medical personnel in protective suits await the arrival of possible COVID-19 infections at the Molinette Hospital in Turin, Italy, March 26, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Stefano Guidi/Getty)
Medical personnel in protective suits await the arrival of possible COVID-19 infections at the Molinette Hospital in Turin, Italy, March 26, 2020. (Photo/JTA-Stefano Guidi/Getty)

Open the economy; question authority; cancel camp; oppose ethnic studies; respect your rabbi; etc.

Opening economy also saves lives

J. has done well to emphasize the importance of protecting human life in “Staying at home means saving lives, our highest Jewish value” (May 14). Yes, Jewish institutions’ decisions to remain closed and forego normal operations reflects well on our community and its commitment to the well-being of both ourselves and the general public.

Unfortunately, you went seriously off message by ignoring the suffering of the newly unemployed and making an overgeneralized attack on those who advocate for opening the economy.

First, the editorial implies a false dichotomy between health on the one hand and economic activity on the other. This position disregards the circumstances and well-being of the more than 30 million Americans, disproportionately lower wage earners, who have suddenly become unemployed, as well as some of the detrimental effects of sheltering in place. Many are suffering from psychological distress, depression, familial abuse and suicide (now referred to as “death by distress”). Just last month J. online reported on Shalom Bayit’s concern for the potential increase of spousal abuse in the Jewish community. The callousness of this omission is stunning.

Then selecting one statement from one official, Lt.-Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas, in your presentation of the other, seriously distorts the clear recommendation of the vast majority of those who are unambiguously calling for a phased opening with specific precautions to minimize the likelihood of coronavirus recurrence.

What should have been a clear message of support and hope in a time of crisis, as your recent editorials commendably have been, became a gratuitous rebuke to those who are either outside the scope of your concern or differ from you politically. Let’s try to do better moving forward.

Steve Astrachan
Pleasant Hill

Question authority

Your editorial urging us to keep “listening to authorities” since saving lives is the highest Jewish value overlooks another Jewish value: questioning authority and — when necessary — demanding evidence that what is being demanded of us is, in fact, actually in our interest (“Staying at home means saving lives, our highest Jewish value,” May 14).

This time we have authorities whose advice has changed from “Covid cannot be transmitted person to person” (Dr. Anthony Fauci) to “no need for masks” (same Dr Fauci) to the head of the World Health Organization (not a physician, by the way) who insists that the Chinese did everything they could to stop the disease. More examples abound.

In the interim, out economic and emotional lives are in disarray. I encourage other physicians and members of the Jewish community to ask intelligent questions and insist on evidence-based recommendations from bureaucrats who have upended our lives in what is clearly shaping up to be a disaster where the cure is worse than the disease.

David Levine
San Francisco

Painful decision to cancel camp

I want to commend executive director Sarah Shulman and the board and staff of Ramah Galim for taking a thoughtful and surely painful decision to cancel camp this summer. I am sure there are a lot of kids and staff who are devastated by the decision, and I would be, too.

Of course, Ramah Galim joins the National URJ Camp/Israel Programs and local camps like JCA/Shalom in Los Angeles that have taken similar decisions.

No matter how we slice it, holding camp this summer, whether sleep-away or in a day camp setting, risks the lives of kids and staff. Implementing reduced sessions or stringent social distancing plans (whatever those mean) is engaging in wishful thinking at best and fantasy thinking at worst. It’s Russian Roulette.

God forbid a kid, staff/community person or family member became ill or died because of a decision to hold camp. The risk was simply too great. With 86,000-plus people already dead in the U.S. and a vaccine months if not years away, holding day or summer camps in a public setting is doing a disservice to our community.

Hopefully they will persevere and camps will return for 2021 stronger than ever. From strength to strength!

Steve Lipman
Foster City

Long live Jewish journalism!

I was saddened to read in Jonathan Sarna’s opinion piece (“If Jewish newspapers disappear, the results would be devastating,” April 14) that English and Canadian Jewish newspapers are no more. What a loss to those communities! Hopefully, some enterprising and/or philanthropic group will revive them. Meanwhile, we are so fortunate to have the J.

Celia Menczel
Walnut Creek

Free resource for Jewish films

I saw the article in the J. about viewing Jewish content during this time of Covid (“Watch list dwindling? Here are some more Jewish TV and movies to watch,” May 7). For all Bay Area residents, there is an amazing resource for public library card holders. (there is an app, too) offers hundreds of movies for people to watch for free. Within this catalog are dozens of Jewish feature films and documentaries. It is an impressive list and I am happy to have stumbled across it.

Steve Ganz
San Francisco

Zoom services of great comfort

I was interested to read your article on the virtual synagogue services on Zoom and see a picture of our Rabbi Mordechai Miller (“Synagogues begin sketching out plans for post-quarantine reopening,” May 15). I am a congregant of Beth Ami, a Conservative synagogue here in Santa Rosa.

At the end of March and the beginning of April this year, I lost first my mother to the virus and then my father, too. They were in England and I couldn’t go to the funerals, even if I could have traveled there anyway.

Both times we did a “shiva” on Zoom for my family here and there, and it was a great comfort. My parents’ rabbi in England would not allow us to say Kaddish; even though he could see 10 men, he could not count them as “present” on Zoom.

Our rabbi, Mordechai Miller, has taken a different approach, and if he can see 10 people, we can say Kaddish. It has been very comforting. He holds daily morning Shacharit and evening Mincha-Ma’ariv services. We get a minyan most days, in the morning and in the evening. The rabbi has led congregations back East and keeps in contact with the members, and some of the attendees on Zoom are from Minneapolis or St. Louis.

This is my point: I am hoping that you can publish names and times of all the Zoom minyans in the Bay Area. The services are really easy to attend, and although not perfect, it’s great to come together, see other people smiling and pray together. People who don’t normally attend services might find it easier and more convenient to connect from their homes. It’s great at this time of isolation. You don’t even have to go to a shul in your area!

This Shabbat we had an ice cream social after services on Zoom for Evelyn Gurevich’s 97th birthday.

One last thing: I would have liked you to mention how hard these rabbis are working, and recognize them for the commitment they are making to provide a space for prayer and community that the services provide.

Thank you. I look forward to your magazine each week.

Irvin Klein
Santa Rosa

Ethnic studies ‘indoctrination’

The California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum, which received harsh criticism last year including from many Jewish groups, has apparently undergone some minor revisions, although many of its problematic issues remain (“Why are school boards OK’ing California’s flawed ethnic studies model?” May 21).

A good ethnic studies program would seek to highlight the positive contributions made by different ethnic groups in order to increase respect and understanding between them. But this program does the opposite. Its left-wing authors seek to divide people into victims and oppressors, and they urge students to fight for the alleged victims against those they call the oppressors.

This is political indoctrination pure and simple and has no place whatsoever in any taxpayer-funded institution of public learning. Perhaps not surprisingly, the “oppressors” include people of wealth and white heterosexual males, and the program even includes a gratuitous attack on Israel, despite its mandate to focus on the U.S.

This program seeks to divide rather than unite, to wound rather than heal, and to increase anger and alienation, with the ultimate goal being to replace our existing social order with a flawed leftist ideology that has little in common with the principles America was founded on.

People who want to use the public schools to turn students into radical political activists in the service of causes most Americans profoundly reject should not be allowed anywhere near the public education system.

It would be far better to have no ethnic studies program at all than to have the irreparably flawed one now being proposed.

Martin Wasserman
Palo Alto

Civics classes, not ethnic studies

Rabbi Serena Eisenberg in her op-ed asked why California school boards are OKing a frighteningly flawed ethnic studies model curriculum (May 21). Perhaps an Alhambra, California, school board meeting can shed some light on this, as reported in the Alhambra Source:

“Robert L. Gin, one of the longest serving members of the board, put it in the context of the district’s current ethnic framework. ‘Ninety-five percent of our students are Asian American and Hispanic,’ he said. ‘I support the resolution in its entirety. It is a long time coming and I’d like to push it forward.’

“…Not only Jewish groups but Armenian and other ethnic minorities were listed by one caller as opposing the framework for not being inclusive or showing bias against their histories. Jose Sanchez, a teacher at Alhambra High School who was also on the panel that created the draft document, urged the board to support the resolution. He cited his classroom experience with students who read history and wonder, “Where is my history? Where do I come in?”

Apparently “Where is my history? Where do I come in?” is appropriate only if you are from a numerically dominant ethnic group. What we need are civics classes, not ethnic studies. The notion that we are all Americans is dying and, with it I fear, the hopes for a united future for our country.

Julia Lutch

Respect for rabbis

Regarding Yoav Schlesinger’s response to Rabbi Pearce’s op-ed, there’s an element of snark here that I find disturbing. I also resent the lack of respect accorded to Rabbi Pearce (whom I do not know), who served as the dean of Bay Area rabbis for decades.

Terry Seligman
Mill Valley

No kind of victory

Regarding the back-and-forth between Rabbi Pearce in defending synagogues and Mr. Schlesinger in attacking synagogues, clearly Mr. Schlesinger has won. In the Bay Area, only a tiny sliver of Jews are actually members of synagogues, and that tiny sliver gets smaller every year. So, Mr. Schlesinger, enjoy your victory. And when you want to raise Jewish children and there isn’t anywhere to do so, think upon your victory. And when you want to celebrate or mourn a lifecycle event and there isn’t anywhere to do so, wonder about your victory. And when you want to understand why there are fewer and fewer Jews, and you are concerned that fewer and fewer people care about Jews, and you feel sad that this unique people that somehow managed to survive for thousands of years is becoming extinct, know that this is your victory.

Jason Jungreis
San Francisco

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