We don’t deserve this drama

You report that a “BBC drama has been accused of a “gratuitous’ Israeli slur”, because of the portrayal of “Israeli businessman Semiyon Kleiman, who pushes ahead with plans for a multi-million pound floating casino off the coast of Eilat” (Jewish News, 4 January).

However, the Kleiman character in the drama McMafia is really much more than that. He is a Russian-Israeli MK with senior contacts in the Israeli army and Mossad. He is the epitome of evil – a man without a moral compass and a drug and sex trafficker. Kleiman’s character conjures up old Jewish traditional stereotypes from English literature.

Conversely, the lead character is a tall, good-looking assimilated Jew, the son of Russian Jewish emigres, integrated into British society with the obligatory blonde-haired saintly English girlfriend. McMafia is a BBC drama we could do without. We don’t deserve this.

Anthony Waldman, Hainault

Slowly approaching civilisation

I was surprised at recent reports that universities need government intervention to assure freedom of speech.

I went to Loughborough Univeristy in the 1970s to study engineering. My fellow students were mostly male, but we had female students in adjoining blocks and mixed nationalities within blocks/adjoining rooms. All felt happy and safe in each other’s company. Lifelong relationships were formed.

I’ve been back several times and am glad to say the environment seems as all-embracing and welcoming as it was 40 years ago.

In light of this I was concerned to learn that the Chief Rabbi was criticised by another rabbi for welcoming LGBT celebrations. I would have thought those with such prejudiced views would know the grave dangers of persecution. Again, this was an area without discrimination at my university – we had an openly-gay close friend of our group of engineers. Sometime, as a community,
we struggle to slowly approach civilisation.

Richard Grant, By email

Learn before criticising

I refer to A W Kaye’s critical letter,   “Why are Women Exempt”, referring to women and their children being exempt from washing their hands and making a blessing before eating bread and other foods on buses (Jewish News, 21 December 2017).

First, the “bread” may be termed as “Mezonot” (made with fruit juice etc), which does not require handwashing, but does require a blessing, which most probably was recited quietly whilst on a bus.

Second, if it was bread, perhaps they were holding the bread not in their hands but in wrapping, which under certain circumstances exempts handwashing, especially if there is no access to washing facilities.

I’d point the writer to the wise sage Hillel, who patiently answered an
“irritating” would-be-convert wishing to learn Torah while standing on one leg, “Do unto others as you would have  them do to you – the rest is just commentary – now go and learn!”

Flora Frank, Edgware

My objections are valid

My concern with the extremely religious among us is they tend to ignore wise and healthy food laws, which are ingrained in Judaism, have little respect for women and are excused when they fail to show a good example to their children. Brian Gordon used cheap personality assessments of myself and Noach Bright (Jewish News, 4 January) to criticise.

A. W. Kaye, Stamford Hill

What happened to not judging?

May I be permitted through these columns to respond to A. W. Kaye’s letter (Jewish News, 21 December), in which she comments that she often sees women eating bread and other foods on buses, and asks whether they are exempt from handwashing.

No, ladies are not exempt from washing before eating bread.

I am a frum lady, living in Stamford Hill and, yes, I wear a wig.

I often have to eat bread when travelling long distances by bus, and I simply wash before leaving home and eat within the proscribed time.

Sometimes I may not even need to wash if I eat a small amount of Mezonos bread.

Whatever happened to don lekuf zechus – being
non-judgemental?

Glenda Aussenberg, Stamford Hill

My Poem ahead of HMD

I’d like to share my poem, ‘The power of words’, written to mark this month’s Holocaust Memorial Day.

They can rally the spirits

A force for the good

Powerful and healing

For all brotherhood

Yet when they’re misused

We cannot ignore

They can cause hatred

And instigate war

Tyrants pick their words with care

Throwing principles of scorn

Inciting peaceful men to hate

Their depths of being torn

Hitler and his henchmen

Spread loathing of the Jew

Through lies and propaganda

Till Germans thought it true

Nazis, too, annihilated

Those disabled and those gay

In camps of death with furnaces

That set the skies ablaze

Judy Karbritz, Co-founder, Jewish Poetry Society