By Rabbi Aaron Goldstein
I was delighted to learn of the latest crop of students accepted to the rabbinical programme at Leo Baeck College. Our future looks very bright with four young members of Liberal and Reform Synagogues, all with solid youth and youth movement backgrounds – an exciting and dynamic group. Having been involved in student recruitment for Leo Baeck, an annual concern was to balance the synagogues’ rabbinic needs while insuring all rabbis could find a job, a simple case of demand and supply.
Of course it was not as simple as all that; life never is: For example, my father retired at 65, but some work longer and others, for whatever reason, stop working as a rabbi earlier. The intent of the process remains clear, to get the best match possible – quantity and quality – of happy, employed rabbis and serviced communities.
Reading about the shleppers of the ancient Israelite community, the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites – the Eddie Stobart of their day who transported the Tabernacle in the wilderness, got me thinking. Each individual counted and had a role to play.
When someone is in the UK, even illegally or having overstayed their leave to remain, we have a responsibility to treat them with humanity. Taking the wages of those who have worked – as the Government proposes – is inhumane. Ramban noted: “One who feels compelled to hire himself out as a day labourer is usually in dire financial straits. An employer who hires such an individual must keep in mind that, by withholding the worker’s wages, the employer may actually cause him to starve.” “The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you overnight (Leviticus 19:13).”
‘Fortress Britain’ should pass the highest moral test – how it treats the most vulnerable in society: and that includes the stranger, the person who happens for whatever reason, to be living with us. There were inequalities in ancient Israelite society, yet the principle of balancing supply and demand provided a sound foundation to explore the needs for employment for those of working age – with those outside it systematically supported.
• Rabbi Aaron Goldstein is the senior rabbi at Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue and a tutor at Leo Baeck College