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July 7, 2006

Be Proud of Wise Men’s Modernizing Influences

Opinion columnist David Klinghoffer argues that Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Baruch Spinoza are “the individuals whose thoughts form the top three most lamentable cultural influences in modern times” (“Three Wise Men’s Unholy Influence,” June 30).

We Jews, however, should be proud of Freud for his gift of enabling talking about, and listening and trying to understand, mental suffering. We should be proud of Marx for his gift of proclaiming the hitherto suppressed historic truth that the haves have nearly always misled and exploited the have-nots.

And we should be proud of Spinoza, whose questioning the legitimacy and establishment of any and all sectarian revelation inspired John Locke, who in turn inspired our Founding Fathers to create the miracle of the American freedom of conscience.

Jerrold Bonn

Via email

To show that wise Jewish women are just as able as their male counterparts to come up with bad ideas, David Klinghoffer might want to add to his list the name of Ayn Rand, who created the cult of reason and promoted the virtues of selfishness in America.

Rand was a product of the Soviet Union and her ideas made some sense in Leninist Russia. But she generalized from her experience in post-revolutionary Russia to come up with a system of beliefs that she applied to the whole of humanity.

A lot of the black and white mentality so prevalent in American society today could be traced to Rand’s cult of reason. Instead of approaching reality with humility, she approached it with boldness and with confidence in the power of reason. In the process, she and her followers missed most of reality that falls somewhere between the black and the white.

Neil Fazel Bay Area Organizations Are Directed by Women We share opinion writers Steven M. Cohen and Shaul Kelner’s concerns about the lack of women leadership in Jewish communal organizations (“Gender Bias Is a Fact of Communal Life,” June 23). From our admittedly skewed San Francisco perspective, we want to note that while tremendous ground still needs to be covered, we are proud of the number of women serving as executive directors of major Bay Area Jewish organizations.

These leaders include Sandee Blechman of the San Francisco Jewish Community Center, with a $17 million annual budget; Judy Edelson of the Peninsula Jewish Community Center, with a $10 million budget; Abby Snay of Jewish Vocational Service, with a $5 million budget; Anita Friedman of Jewish Family and Children’s Services, with a $22 million budget; Deborah Newbrun of Camp Tawonga, with a $2.8 million budget; Connie Wolf of the Contemporary Jewish Museum, with a $2.6 million budget; and Phyllis Cook of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, with $1 billion in assets.

In many cases, these women have been at the helm of these organizations for more than a decade; in others, women leaders were hired only in the last year. The plethora of top female execs of Jewish organizations in the Bay Area weren’t hired because they’re women— they were hired based on their merits and are running organizations that are some of the best in the country.

We are particularly proud to note that the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund and the Walter and Elise Haas Fund have long supported these organizations, as well as national organizations working in the Bay Area that are headed by women, including Ruth Messinger of American Jewish World Service. We are also proud that our respective foundations are headed by women. In our rudimentary tally of Bay Area private foundations supporting Jewish causes, our foundations are the only ones with women serving as executive directors.

While the number of women in leadership positions in the Bay Area Jewish community is laudable, we still have room for improvement. We encourage the Jewish community to take a look at the Bay Area and learn from some of our successes. At the same time, we encourage our funding colleagues to ask questions about gender balance of the staff and boards of organizations seeking their support. Philanthropy can and should play a role in righting this unacceptable imbalance. Debbie Findling Deputy Director

Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund

Stephanie Rapp

Program Officer

Walter & Elise Haas Fund

San Francisco, Calif.

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