By Dr Michael Sinclair
Some 17 or so years ago the Jewish Agency was facing the latest in a series of budgetary crises. Income was declining, costs were escalating.
What was to be done?
I sat among the 400 or so representatives from around the Jewish World gathered in Jerusalem listening to yet another mind numbing speech with not a kernel of a practical solution within its cliché-filled lines.
In an effort to lighten the gloom, I proposed that the Government of Israel auction off titles in order to fund essential projects.
The Prince of Arad, Count of Galilee, Baron Ashdod?
My suggestion was for a short while taken seriously, until, that is; I explained that it had been a joke, such is the malaise of Diaspora leadership. And nothing much has changed.
The enticement of access to the governing establishment, the glamour of a gong, these make our soi-disant communal leaders both compliant and silent.
And I know of what I write.
A year or so previously I had come under serious and persistent pressure to accept the offer of a Knighthood for “services to Jewish education”.
I politely said “No”.
The pressure intensified. I’m ashamed to say I momentarily wavered, but my wife; Penny, is made of stronger stuff. She gave me one look, and I turned the “K” down.
Access, titles, the mirage of influence and special treatment. These are all ways to keep a minority under control.
When a past president of the Board of Deputies said that, as a community, we have access but not real influence, he was being harshly realistic.
But when that statement is followed by inaction, we know we are in trouble. And we are in trouble now. And there is inaction.
So here are some questions:
Why was there no protest when David Cameron succumbed to anti-Israel pressure, and stepped down as an honorary patron of the JNF?
Why are our students discouraged (or even threatened with withdrawal of funding) from publicly demonstrating against injustices that they and indeed our entire community experience?
Why should our schools and synagogues need private security protection?
Why has it been necessary for independent groups of British Jews to act as the catalysts for and initiators of major pro-Israel public gatherings and protests? (Rather than the major communal organisations.)
Why haven’t the 40 or so Jewish peers mobilised, as one unified group, to prepare for an onslaught on shechita, or worse still, on brit mila?
I will tell you why there are no answers from our “leaders”.
“Shtiller heit”. It means: “Keep a low profile”. It means: “Don’t make waves”. It means: “We do things differently. We do things quietly”. It especially means: “We don’t want to upset the establishment”.
And unless we change, unless we are brave, unless we refuse to be bought, unless we are proud, then we will be the accomplices in our own decline.