Letters

My open letter to chief rabbi Mirvis

I’d like to share with readers my letter to the Chief Rabbi, also sent to the Holocaust Educational Trust.

I have received no reply.

Dear Chief Rabbi On the first anniversary of mass murder at Charlie Hebdo’s offices, you wrote in The Daily Telegraph that the magazine’s drawings could be put in the same category as anti-Semitic cartoons: You wrote: “Needless to say I find them objectionable, but I am comforted that the appropriate response is to forcefully and unequivocally condemn them.”

The Islamists who took their guns to Charlie Hebdo also “forcefully and unequivocally” condemned, not only the cartoons but they also condemned journalists to death; it was soon followed by the murder of four Jews in a Parisian supermarket. However, you omitted that connection, an ironic omission since you were so keen to compare Hebdo’s cartoons to an anti-Semitic variant.

Gerard Biard, the editor of Charlie Hebdo, wrote: “Every time we draw a cartoon of Mohammed we defend the freedom of religion. Religion must not be a political argument.” During your Holocaust Memorial Day address, you suggested the mass murders in the Nazi extermination camps could have been stopped. “If the employees in the pesticide factory manufacturing Zyklon B turned to their employers and said: ‘Why are we making more of this product? Where is it going to and what is it going to be used for?’ then perhaps the murderers might not have had at their disposal the means by which to carry on with their efficient killing machine. But sometimes the easiest way forward is not to ask difficult questions.”

However, it is unlikely that the employees at the factory making Zyklon B knew that it would be used to gas people. But let’s assume that they did know and had been courageous enough to organise a strike and stop production – what would have happened? The answer is obvious: they would have been immediately arrested and sent to a concentration camp or quickly executed after having been interrogated and tortured. Clearly, you are imposing a moral imperative few people would support.

I conclude that you dabbled in a ridiculous make-believe reconstruction of the grim realities of the Holocaust.

Anthony, Posner London

Orthodox teens don’t get pregnant

I write following several reports from Ofsted criticising Charedi schools. My son attends Beis Aharon School in Hackney, which is under scrutiny on standards – but it is the Department for Education which is to blame for the decline of moral standards across schools in the UK, not the schools.

Ofsted’s so-called standards shift constantly. What was despicable and illegal 10 years ago is now the norm. For example, they criticise faith schools for not preparing students for life in modern Britain by not teaching them to respect gays and lesbians, but who is to say what will be worthy of respect in two or three years’ time? Jewish law has been passed down the generations, as it was received at Sinai, and has never changed. It is crystal clear and leaves children confident and secure in their beliefs.

Notwithstanding this, we are supposed to enjoy freedom of religion, where “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. How can this be if Jewish religious schools are now criticised for placing ethos and morals first? They have been teaching this way for hundreds of years and the results speak for themselves.

In Orthodox Jewish society, we are proud that there are no teenage pregnancies or instances of drug use, or violence, truancy or vandalism. We are respectful British citizens and tolerant of other walks of life, without teaching about their faith or glorifying immoral behaviours. In short, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Someone should tell Ofsted.

Baile Goldberg, Stamford Hill

We are ‘heathens’ not ‘real’ jews

While agreeing with David Kanareck’s sentiments about Progressive Judaism in his letter (25 February, Jewish News), I fear he wastes valuable time. In my experience, people of letter writer Martin Stern’s persuasion will never be swayed by any persuasive argument as to the relevance and validity of Progressive Judaism in Anglo-Jewry. To some strains of Orthodoxy we are not real Jews, more like heathens; they might possibly visit a church for whatever reason, than heaven forbid step foot into a Progressive synagogue. However, I do know quite a few Orthodox people who did take the plunge and attended my Progressive synagogue for a simcha. Some expressed amazement because men wore a kippah and a tallit, the Torah was read in Hebrew and we observed the mitzvah of hagbah and hakkaphot. Even better, our Siddur and Machzor are read from right to left. As far as I know, none were punished for their misdeeds by earthly, or heavenly vengeance. ‘That doesn’t make you a real Jew’ – I hear some of my brethren say. Well, if that is true, why do we have security for services, functions and religious school? Why are our children who go to a university subject to the same attacks as ‘real’ Jews? If we wear a kippah or a Magen David in public, are we not as vulnerable to attack?  I am not even going to mention the Holocaust as I think my point is made. Mr Stern is entitled to his views, as I am to mine. The difference is that to my liberal mind, Anglo-Jewry is one big family facing increasing trials and tribulations. We will never agree religiously, but must surely stand together to overcome our detractors – or face an uncertain future.

Robert Dulin, Winchmore Hill

I’m not sure what David Kanareck means when he writes: “I know Mr Stern has an Aristotelian view of Judaism” – although I very much doubt he is comparing me to Maimonides! I dispute his claim that my views on Progressive conversions contradict those expressed in the Talmud (Yevamot 47 a/b) which he asserts state that “in essence, if someone wants to become a proselyte, you tell him/ her that Jews are a persecuted and despised people [and] if he/she still wants to go ahead, they are accepted without delay”.

As is clear from the Talmud and subsequent Halachic literature, the sine qua non for conversion is that the applicant wishes to accept the totality of Torah Judaism – the function of the Beit Din is merely to ascertain that this is the case. In Talmudic times and, until about 250 years ago in Europe, converting from the dominant religion to Judaism was a capital offence.

Even at the present day, this is the case in countries where sharia law is applied. In those circumstances, anyone wanting to convert could be assumed to be either sincere or insane. Having excluded the latter, there was no need to delay. However, this is no longer true in Western democracies where there are few disadvantages in being Jewish and, even more so, in Israel where there are considerable advantages.

So the sincerity /insanity dichotomy no longer applies in them – it is this crucial point that Mr Kanareck fails to appreciate. Since Liberal “Judaism” rejects the obligatory nature of halachah, however liberally it may be interpreted (pun intended), its “conversion rituals” are meaningless gestures and have no effect in making the applicant into a Jew.

Martin D. Stern

Salford

York students’ stand on Israel

I would like to respond to the disingenuous letter from students at York University, which sought to justify their criticism of Israel as being no way anti-Semitic (Jewish News, 3 March).

Criticism of Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic, although I would ask the correspondents if they would expend as much time and energy to criticising any other nation state. Somehow I do not believe they would. Much of the criticism of Israel is based on false narratives that ignore historical facts. Among these is the canard that the Jews stole land from the indigenous people living there, the Palestinians. This is simply not true.

The other lie peddled is that one day in June 1967 the Israeli government woke up and decided to invade the nation state of Palestine that had Jerusalem as its capital; that assertion again has no basis in reality. And then the most appalling lie of all, that Israel is an apartheid state. This is demonstrably not true, as anyone who took the time to visit the country instead of pontificating from their ivory towers would see immediately.

Arabs in Israel have the same educational, civic and health rights as Jews. They eat in the same cafés, sit on the same buses and attend the same universities as Jews.

That is not apartheid. According to Natan Sharansky, there are three ‘Ds’, which distinguish legitimate criticism of Israel from illegitimate.

They are: delegitimisation of Israel (questioning her right to exist); demonisation of Israel (everything that Israel does is inherently evil) and double standards (holding Israel to higher standards that any other country in the world).

Any one of those criteria renders criticism of Israel as something far more sinister Your correspondents certainly fulfil two of those (demonisation and double standards).

Ruth Leveson, Borehamwood

Chief’s maayan is truly welcome

For us now living in 2016, the thought that women would not be educated equally as well as men is a foreign and odd one. Although, as we know that has not always been the case.

Only 100 years ago, the situation was completely different. Women now hold positions of importance in all areas of society and no one would question that this is the way it should be.

However, unfortunately, the Jewish religion fell behind the times in this area. We know that together with the backing of the Chofetz Chaim, Sarah Schenirer set up the basis for learning for women that exists until today.

But that’s where it ended. There was no future development of the role for women in our religion and this, in our opinion, is one of the main reasons why we are seeing an upsurge of desire from women for a more central and defer role within our religion.

The Chief Rabbi’s Maayan programme for the education of women, and other similar programmes around the world, which offer high-level learning and community leadership training in an Orthodox manner and within the boundaries of Halacha is a wonderful initiative and one the community here in the UK has been crying out for.

We believe that it will lead to a much deeper connection for women to Judaism and will offer them a real place of leadership in our community as well as delivering positive female role models for women and girls in the community.

We would like to commend the Chief Rabbi and his team for creating this programme and addressing one of the biggest challenges of our generation and we wish him hatzlacha.

Joshua Pomerance, Executive Director of Mizrachi UK

Stamford Hill’s AJEX reforming

After almost disappearing for two years, Stamford Hill AJEX is being restarted and reformed. If you are Jewish you are welcome to join AJEX – you do not have to have been in the armed forces. Also, please note you do not have to live in Stamford Hill to be a member of the local AJEX. Norman Bright Stamford Hill

why attack our american allies? Rabbi Zvi Solomons, in his piece “What does the Torah say about capital punishment?” (Jewish News, 25 February), is critical of the fact that “we are friendly with countries which continue to exult in public executions” and included America within that group. In reality, we need all the friends we can get without the necessity of jettisoning those few that we do have.

Barry Borman By email

• Last week’s letter by Sidney Sands ‘Churchill’s View of the Middle East’ incorrectly stated that Winston Churchill wrote that Israel was to blame for its “shameful treatment of the Palestinians”. This quote is, in fact, attributed to Boris Johnson’s in his book, The Churchill Factor. Further, last week’s letter ‘Let’s Make Peace Among Ourselves’ was written by Barry Hyman and not as stated.