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Rabbi's Blog

rabbi 05 smallsf badge lgRabbi Joel Landau  (rabbi@adathisraelsf.org) has been the Rabbi of Adath Israel since May 2013. He was ordained by the Chief Rabbinate in Jerusalem and has served previously as a congregational Rabbi in Charleston, South Carolina and Irvine, California. A full biography of Rabbi Landau is available here.


 

Blog #1 - The Delta Variant of Covid-19 in SF:

One of the topics that I’m sure we’ve all been following has been the proliferation of the Delta variant of Covid-19. Based on media reports, it sounds very scary. However, according to Dr. Monica Gandhi, UCSF’s Associate Division Chief handling infectious disease, the media and the public should stop overreacting about the Delta variant of Covid-19. 

In an op-ed piece published on SFGate, Gandhi calls out the news media for “fear-based headlines” about the Delta variant. According to the scientist, headlines that focus on “evidence of its increased transmissibility,” as well as the Delta variant’s “particular ability to ‘break through’ vaccine protection” are misleading. Gandhi points out that since case rates of Covid-19, driven largely by the Delta variant, are no longer coupled to hospitalizations and deaths, it’s no longer a crisis. “The significance of this decoupling cannot be overstated,” she says. Although the Delta variant and its breakthrough infections are causing more cases in California, only 300 patients in the entire state of nearly 40 million people are currently in the ICU because of Covid-19. And those cases are “tragically among the unvaccinated.”

According to Gandhi “We are now in a ‘control’ phase in our state.” Infections will crop up due to variants like Delta, but if you’ve been vaccinated against the virus, these cases shouldn’t matter. They’re likely to be mild and are very unlikely to result in hospitalization or death.

Looking at case rates, then, is no longer a good way to judge the impact of the virus. Yet, officials and members of the media keep sending the message that the Delta variant is scary. That’s a big problem. Because “heightened anxiety and new masking guidelines around the delta variant also sends a confusing message about vaccines and their effectiveness.”

In other words, telling people about high case rates and the rapid spread of a new variant creates fear for no reason. Based on hospitalization data, the vaccines coupled with natural immunity are working amazingly well to protect Californians. Sending the message that vaccinated people need to be afraid of the Delta variant implies that vaccines aren’t good enough to protect us. And based on the data, that message is false.

Likewise, telling people to mask “just in case” because of the Delta variant implies that current vaccines can’t keep the variant in check. Again, she says that’s not true. Instead of fear about the Delta variant, “the remarkable ability of the vaccines in preventing hospitalizations...should drive messaging on school openings, masking, gathering and re-engaging in normal life in communities with high rates of immunity.”

We should be celebrating the effectiveness of the vaccines and encouraging more people to get vaccinated, not freaking out about variants, the scientist says.

Opinion: Delta variant panic could cause more harm than good,” by Dr. Monica Gandhi, Kyle Hunter MPH, originally published on the SF Gate

 

Blog #2 - Lookism:

When it comes to many of our interactions in life, data indicates that our looks can make a significant impact on the outcome. This is despite the fact that our looks are totally irrelevant in regard to most things we want to pursue. The following article addresses how to cope with this age-old inequity.  

Covid remote work relaxed fashion grooming but not bias based on looks,” by Rabbi Avi Shafran, originally published on www.nbcnews.com

 

Blog #3 - The Ben & Jerry’s Bruhaha – A Deeper Understanding

Last week, I shared with you an overview of the reactions to Ben & Jerry’s decision to not renew the license of the Ben & Jerry’s franchises in Israel that do not adhere to the demand to refrain from selling Ben & Jerry’s ice cream over the green line. This week we look to gain a better understanding of what the big deal is and what we can do about it. 

Ben and Jerry’s: Not your Plain-Vanilla Crisis,” by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, originally published on Cross-Currents

 

Send a letter to Ben & Jerry’s to voice your protest! Here is a sample letter: 

Dear Ben and Dear Jerry and to whomever else it may concern:

I was so sorry to hear that you’ve accepted the false narrative that Israel is an occupying force in Palestine. This is so far from the truth. Please consider the following facts:

Israel has been the home of the Jewish people since Biblical times, thousands of years.

There has always been a Jewish presence in Israel even when Jews were mostly expelled from the land.

When the modern state was created, it was with the unanimous consent of 53
nations (the complete League of Nations membership at the time in 1922). Subsequently, Israel was attacked by surrounding Arab nations, which expressed their desire explicitly to destroy all Jews. Thereafter as well, every war has consisted of Israel defending itself. 

Without exception. Any land won was in defensive wars. Never did Israel try to gain land by an offensive war. Clearly Israel is not an expansionist, colonialist country. Obviously, Jews have a right to the land of Israel. Why do people say otherwise? Jew-hatred is cloaked by being called anti-Zionist and therefore not anti-Jewish. But as Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.” Dr. King would turn over in his grave to see the treatment afforded Israel today. He was a great supporter.

What about Apartheid? Israeli Arabs are full citizens with all rights and privileges. Does this sound like apartheid? The only walls and separations are because of non-citizens who have perpetrated so many terrorist attacks on innocents that it became necessary to provide self-protective measures. Not out of racism etc., only out of unfortunate necessity.

Israel is the only free country in the region that affords complete equal rights to women as well as many other freedoms. Should it be the only country which should suffer from BDS? This happens because Israel is demonized and held to a double standard. If Israel should be punished for being occupiers, which they are not, shouldn’t you stop selling ice cream in America where occupiers clearly murdered and stole the land and then put the native population in reservations, where many still are? America was a land of slavery; Israel was and is not. Clearly a double standard, and worse.

Please think about these points and realize that the pressure that you’ve caved into is caused by anti-Semitism and not true concerns for social justice. Better to help the American Indians and other oppressed people than to call Israel “occupiers.” 

Please re-think your decisions and act on true social justice and not what has become popular despite its terrible unfairness.

Kudos to you if you stand up strong in the face of hate.

With all good wishes,

 

Blog #4 - It’s Not Just an Attack, it’s a War:

Last week, I shared with you a response to the brazen partial libelous attack on Orthodoxy by the Netflix series “My Unorthodox Life”. This week, we see that the scope of the attacks on traditional Judaism is unfortunately quite widespread. However, there may be a way to “fight back” by producing shows that display a positive perspective on our way of life.  


Hollywood’s War on Judaism,” by Yechezkel Laing, originally published on the Jewish News Syndicate