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A thank-you from the armed forces
I was delighted to read the Chief Rabbi’s opinion piece on why he re-wrote the Prayer for the Royal Family to include our armed forces. This prayer is appreciated and welcomed by all Jewish serving personnel as well as our AJEX veterans. Sadly we are too often forgotten by the mainstream Jewish community, which also fails to recognise there is a significant serving Armed Forces Jewish Community which works comfortably alongside its comrades in arms of all faiths and none. We have Jewish sailors, soldiers and airmen and women of all ranks from private soldier to brigadier.
They serve in all roles including special forces, bomb disposal, commandos, logistics, medical, aviation and much more, within all three services. Sadly, unlike our American colleagues, we are too often forgotten by the wider Jewish community and the appeals by our charity, the Friends of Jewish Servicemen & Women (The Friends), fall mainly on deaf ears. We rely mainly on self-help with the support of a handful of members of The Friends and a very small number, too few, of community leaders to raise funds to cover those needs not provided for through the public purse. These needs have included the purchase of siddurim for individual issue to all our personnel as well as tallesim and chummashim. Also this year we have acquired and refurbished, with some help, a portable Sefer Torah which is scheduled to be re-dedicated shortly.
These funds also cover our annual Shabbaton, regular events throughout the UK, special parcels for yom tovim and the production of our magazine, Menorah. Sadly the Friends is the Cinderella of Jewish charities. If people join HM Forces and declare themselves to be Jewish, we have a duty to support them and help them to keep their Jewish faith during their service. We have even brought many others back into the fold. For too long our Armed Forces Jewish Community has been ignored or neglected by our community. Perhaps the Chief Rabbi’s prayer will now go some way to remedy this. He has our heartfelt thanks.
Colonel Martin Newman Chairman,
Jewish Committee for HM Forces
An excellent ajex remembrance day
The turnout at the recent Ajex annual remembrance parade was excellent. I attended the short march from Horse Guards Parade and the marching was first class, as also was the band which accompanied us, which came from the famous Grenadier Guards. There were also the younger people who marched along with the JLGB whom it is always a pleasure to see every year on parade in all weathers. Kitted out in their scarlet uniforms, they make us senior citizens feel proud. Lord Stirling of Plaistow, the president of Ajex, gave a rousing talk on our return to Horse Guards parade prior to fall out. The support by spectators and all the marchers was an appropriate turnout and it was a pleasure to be there, particularly as it was also Mitzvah Day .
No big surprise at ofsted questions
Unlike Joseph Feld (Jewish News, 6 November), I am not surprised by the offensive nature of Ofsted inspectors asking children in Orthodox Jewish schools about their “views on lesbianism, same-sex marriage and whether Charedi girls had boyfriends or knew how to get pregnant”. As one 11th-grade girl was reported as saying: “They made us feel threatened about our religion… they asked this many times until we answered what they wanted us to say.
We felt very bullied.” A school in Manchester has been downgraded from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’ and placed into special measures as a result of what Ofsted must have considered its inadequate response to such questions, despite its acknowledged high academic standard. It was one of three of the 10 state-funded Jewish secondary schools in the UK to suffer an unannounced visit. However, unless Ofsted made such inspections of 30 percent of all 7,000 state-funded faith schools, which seems highly unlikely since it would not have the necessary manpower, there would appear to be a suspicion that Jewish schools are being singled out for some reason.
That one “successful Christian school” was treated similarly is hardly reassuring, considering their much larger number. Rabbi Avraham Pinter of the Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls School in Stamford Hill was quoted as saying after Ofsted swooped on the school two months ago: “It is going crazy … there is another agenda here. I don’t know what it is, it seems sinister to me.”
Unlike him, I think the answer is fairly obvious. There is a problem with certain Muslim schools encouraging violent anti-democratic ideas, as was found recently in Birmingham. This is something of which strictly Orthodox Jewish schools cannot conceivably be accused. So Ofsted is so scared of being labelled Islamophobic if it tackles this real problem that it is constructing a cover should anyone accuse it of that cardinal sin against political correctness, that it is equally targeting other religious groups. To accuse it of anti-Semitism would be unfair but not entirely unjustifiable, despite its claim that it is “not systematically targeting Jewish state-aided faith schools”.
Martin D. Stern,
Continuing saga of el al & the orthodox
Last time it was buses. Now poor old letter writer Herbert Goldberg is at it again. Every day, millions of air passengers obediently allow themselves to be processed through metal detectors and X-ray machines. Why bother? The industry would save billions if it stipulated naked-only flights. I hope Mr Goldberg agrees that, even in our liberal society, limitations do exist.
The behaviour of some Jews may bother him, but he should accept that different people have different requirements. Mr Goldberg would be infuriated if an Al Jazeera documentary on Gaza was aired on El Al. Mr Stern would baulk at having to sit through a Hollywood movie. And could the anxious flyer stomach an airplane disaster movie at 30,000ft? An airline must endeavour to please everyone. So while superstitious incantations over the address system have been banned, El Al has accommodated antediluvian Jewish beliefs by agreeing to serve kosher food. Letter writer Herbert Goldberg may not be overcome with desire sitting next to a female, but neither does he get excited about basic adherence to Jewish law.
He will happily embrace and kiss another person’s wife and wouldn’t take issue with Jewish students being handed paraphernalia encouraging promiscuity on campus. His is so far removed from the moral lifestyle of his religious brethren it’s no wonder he has trouble making sense of their seating preferences.
The odds of a plane crashing are so remote and huge sums are spent designing safer aircraft. Yet rigorous safety procedures do not pacify those who get nervous about flying. Are we to label unreasonable those who fear travelling on the safest mode of transport? The same can be said for those concerned about their spiritual soul. It’s rare that an illicit relationship would evolve from sitting next to someone for hours on end, and Halacha does not prescribe segregation in such circumstances. But we shouldn’t be prejudiced against those who fear such an outcome, however irrational it may seem.
Tragedies do happen. A little tolerance and consideration from Herbert Goldberg and his ilk would be welcome.
The implications of Yachad’s inclusion
The admission of Yachad to the Board of Deputies simply encourages growth in the number of diverse political groupings seeking representation. This will have the effect of creating a distorted representation of the underlying feelings of the Jewish community. There already exist among the deputies the complete range of political opinion. Multiplying the effect of certain views by admitting bodies such as Yachad will just create a game of politics to see who can raise their representation by starting a new group.
Yachad may have won the current battle but it could yet lose the war. First, much of its hip and trendy membership will soon lose patience with the fusty, antique machinations of the Board of Deputies. Second, and more obviously, I predict that its backers will swiftly tire of supporting Israel’s enemies, especially if – heaven forbid – we continue to see more massacres of innocent Jews. The Jewish world is so tiny that everyone has, or at least feels, that he or she has a connection to someone else. I await, with awed and horrid fascination, to see what happens, when anyone connected to Yachad is ever affected by any sort of anti-Jewish hatred.
Writing in Jewish News on 20 November, the chair of Yachad criticised your columnist Rabbi Yizchak Schochet for saying Yachad backs the BDS movement and that because it has radical anti-Israel speakers at its events, perhaps Jews for Palestine and Jews for Jesus should also be admitted to the Board of Deputies. What was surprising is that Daniel Reisel did not refute any of those claims but wrote instead: “Engage us in debate.” This reminds me of many people on social media who write the most outrageous things about Jews, the Holocaust and Israel and then suugest: “Let’s debate?” Instead of quoting verses from the Tanach and Talmud without any type of Yeshiva background, and completely misunderstanding the meaning, may I suggest politely that Yachad clears up why it thinks it is acceptable to encourage companies to boycott cities that will always be part of Israel no matter what? Perhaps it could also explain, with radical Islam on and within Israel’s borders, what exactly should Israel do. And please write something other than retreat to the 1967 lines, because more than 97 percent of Israelis no longer accept that.
Hooray for return of forty under 40!
I wept with naches and my heart swelled with pride when I came to your Forty Under 40 feature in Jewish News on 20 November. It was like one big treat to read something that lifts our heart in this solemn period of killings and horrendous news printed in all the papers around the world. The 10 people featured were all worthy to be mentioned and admired for their outstanding devotion in giving their all to the good of today’s Jewish society. You mention that next month Jewish News, in partnership with the Jewish Leadership Council, will relaunch Forty Under 40. Hooray for such a brilliant idea!
Bettine Le Beau
Words of wisdom that simply aren’t
I cannot help thinking your weekly sedra section is for children, as the explanations and imaginations of rabbis 2,000-plus years later are easily contradictable. In one example, common sense tells us what to do with surplus crops when the same can happen next year, especially after a famine. To say that the surpluses were sold at lower prices is of course market forces having their way. So please use sedras of this kind in a separate childrens’ section. The summations of famous rabbis are often upheld as words of wisdom when they are nothing of the sort.