This week, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet tackles teacher’s gas chamber slur and welcoming the prophet Elijah
Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi or follow him on Twitter @RabbiYYS.
Teacher should be sacked
Ask the Rabbi
Dear Rabbi
I’m not Jewish, but am aware of the tumult regarding the teacher at North London Collegiate School who allegedly told a student to get back in the queue or she would send her to the “gas chamber”. As a teacher myself, there has been much debate on the subject. Personally, I think it was nothing more than a flippant remark, although admittedly a very insensitive one. Lots of people are calling for the teacher’s head. I say we should cut her some slack. She will have learned her lesson. Besides, if people do force her out, imagine what that will do for her love of Jews.
Christina
Dear Christina
I’m Jewish, so you’ll forgive me if I see things a little differently to you. To date, all we’ve been told is that the school sought legal advice and appropriate action was taken against the teacher. We haven’t been told who the teacher is or what discipline, if truly any, was taken.
When footballer Nicolas Anelka made his quenelle gesture, he was severely reprimanded with a hefty penalty imposed. Personally, I think what this teacher did is far worse. You might argue it was just a stupid remark, but there are a lot of stupid things one can say to a misbehaving school child. One wonders what this woman thinks or believes about Jews or the sort of conversations she might have about the Holocaust to come out with a statement like that. For all the whitewashing, it surely constitutes racial abuse.
I believe she should be fired from her job. Bearing in mind the remark was made in the presence of many other students, it is morally imperative they learn that such behaviour is never tolerated. Had the reverse happened in a multicultural Jewish school, I assure you that’s the sort of action that would be taken.
What is perhaps even more disturbing is the apparent deafening silence from the many Jewish parents who send their children to the school. Are they more concerned with not rocking the boat and possibly jeopardising their child’s place than what they could do for their children’s sense of Jewish self-esteem? There ought to be a robust response with a threat of a walkout.
This is an opportune moment to teach those children that you need to respect yourself if you want others to respect you.  That’s a more valuable lesson than anything else they could teach in that school.
Why to Indulge in fairy tales?
Dear Rabbi
When I was growing up, I believed in the fairytale of prophet Elijah coming through our front door when we opened it on Passover eve. I also believed he drank from the cup. As I got older, I learnt it was all just to keep me awake as long as possible. I, however, am a firm believer on not being dishonest to children. I don’t want to feed them these same fairytales only for them to be disappointed later and find themselves wondering why they had been lied to for so many years. I’d like your take on the matter.
Menashe
Dear Menashe
Wait! Are you telling me it’s all really not true?
What about that man in the red suit who comes down my chimney on a cold winter’s night and leaves me presents?  Menashe, all my childhood dreams shattered! You’ve ruined my life!
OK let’s cut to the chase. First, I believe in childhood innocence and fantasy is an integral part of stimulating imaginations and nurturing creativity. We spend enough of our lives coping with harsh realities. Let children enjoy their little fantasies before reality bites.
Second, and more to the point, unlike Father Christmas or the Easter bunny, Elijah did exist and today, we are told, he is present in various different settings including a circumcision (hence a special chair is designated) as well as the seder table on Passover eve. To be sure, the opening of the door doesn’t signify letting him in. Opening the door to the outside demonstrates our faith in God on “the night of protection” and in the merit of us all demonstrating that faith, we will surely be deserving of Elijah the prophet foretelling the advent of the Messianic age which, tradition tells us, will be followed immediately with Moshiach’s arrival.
Do what you feel is right
Dear Rabbi
I often read your column and think about observing a little more. Then I read about an Orthodox Jew doing immoral things and question if it’s worth it after all.
Irving
Dear Irving
That you are telling me this is, I presume, because you want me to convince you otherwise. You’ve heard the expression “guns don’t kill people do”. Similarly, religion isn’t responsible for people’s immoral conduct, their own subjective choices is.
If you believe Torah to be true, then adhere to it for its own sake because you want to, regardless of the apparent hypocrisy of others. Your life should be governed by what you recognise as right and not by using the behaviour of others as your moral compass. So, stop with the excuses and get your act together!