Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. FlatowCourtesy

I have often described the American victims of Palestinian Arab terrorism as the forgotten victims. There are no United Nations committees investigating their deaths. There are no CNN specials chronicling their lives.

But now we have a rare opportunity to remember one of them, and to create an everlasting memorial to her. And all you have to do to help make that happen is to send a brief mail.

There is a lake in San Francisco named after a 19th century politician named William Stow who, as it turns out, was a rabid antisemite. Thanks to the efforts of Myrna Melgar, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Stow’s name is going to be removed, but the new name has not been chosen. I have proposed that it be named after Joan Davenny, and media reports indicate that her name is now among those being considered.

Joan was murdered by a Palestinian Arab terrorist who blew up a bus in Jerusalem on August 21, 1995. She was killed for the “crime” of being Jewish. Just four months earlier, my daughter Alisa was murdered under similar circumstances.

Joan and her family had deep roots in San Francisco. Her grandparents, George and Pauline Edelstein, founded a prominent local synagogue, Congregation Beth Shalom. Her father, U.S. navy veteran Burton Edelstein, owned and operated the city’s popular Outside In clothing store, and her mother, Betty Kahn Edelstein, operated the iconic Minerva's Owl bookstore.Joan’s parents were active in various Jewish organizations, including Hadassah and Israel Bonds.

Joan, who was born at San Francisco’s Mount Zion Hospital, attended local elementary, middle and high schools, and the city’s College of Marin. She and her sisters also attended local Jewish summer camps. A number of her family members still reside in and around San Francisco.

Childhood friend Emily Honig recalled: "She was a person who just had an extraordinary amount of passion for literature, reading, learning, history and people. There was nothing dull about Joan."

As a high school senior, Joan spent a year in Italy in the home of the world renowned sculptor Jacques Lipschitz (Joan and his daughter were close friends). She also worked for music promoter Bill Graham at the iconic Fillmore West concert venue in San Francisco.

Subsequently Joan was a beloved teacher of social studies and language arts in Connecticut, at the Ezra Academy Day School and the Makom Community Hebrew High School, in Connecticut. "She loved teaching," Ezra Academy’s assistant principal, Rabbi Jesse Fink, said. "Through her effervescent and upbeat manner, she taught children to learn and really love the material they were studying….She was dynamic, totally energized for any subject.”

Joan Davenny was a victim of antisemitism of the most brutal kind. Honoring her would be a fitting rebuke to the bigotry for which William W. Stow stood. Every visitor to Joan Davenny Lake would be reminded of the horrible actions to which racist attitudes can lead. Could anything be more important than that?

Supervisor Melgar has demonstrated genuine political courage and determination to remove the stain of racism and antisemitism that the name of William Stow represents. Let’s encourage her to replace Stow’s name with that of Joan Davenny. Ms. Melgar can be reached at: [email protected]

Stephen M. Flatow is President-elect of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995 and the author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror