LettersAn overestimate of Israeli numbers

Dear Sir

Once, again, we see the unsubstantiated assertion that there are 70,000 to 80,000 Israelis living in the UK (‘Together at Last?’, Jewish News, 9 July). This is very clearly a significant overestimate. The 2011 census revealed that, of the 56 million people living in England and Wales, just over 16,000 held an Israeli passport (including around 10,000 also holding a British passport). Fewer than 18,000 people said that they were born in Israel, and 6,200 said that they spoke Hebrew as their main language. These categories clearly overlap to a large degree – so it would certainly be unrealistic to assume there could be more than around 20,000 to 25,000 ‘Israelis’ (however that is defined) in the UK. This also puts paid to the suggestion in the article by Shaul Zadka that Israelis comprise around a quarter of the Jewish population, which numbers at least 270,000, and probably nearer 300,000. In fact, the census data suggest that only around two-thirds of those born in Israel or with an Israeli passport identify as Jewish. A more realistic estimate would be that Israeli Jews comprise only around one in 20 of the British Jewish community.

Daniel Vulkan Formerly senior researcher Board of Deputies of British Jews

Why the big kippah debate will go on

Dear Sir,

Further to the debate over whether a proud Jew must wear a kippah, it was common practice for Jews not to have head coverings – only for praying. You will never see a picture of any sage pre-11th century without a head covering for religious political reasons, although this was uncommon In the Talmud, it states that unmarried men should not wear headgear and Maimonides even allows brachot without headgear. The Vilna Gaon states that it is unnecessary to wear headgear only for praying. Nowadays, the religious groups demand kippah wearing and the type of hat/kippah shows which group you belong to, but nobody has the right to say you should wear a kippah. However, when in Rome… However, in the 11th century, Rabbi Gorman instituted the rule saying head coverings should be worn by those studying the Torah. This has been extended by various religious groups and has become political, as seen by the different types of hats and kippas that have been adopted to show the group to which a person belongs. It is fascinating to see how the various authorities change their rules. Once, it was forbidden for pictures of people to be shown, but now images of rabbis appear on every wall and in newspapers. Even Rabbi Akiva’s Messiah has been altered, and so change will continue.

Mike Dehaan N14

Dear Sir,

I take issue with the letter from Shlomo Avrohom (“Without A Kippah, A Jew Is Not Dressed”, Letters, Jewish News, 23 July). A proud Jew who does not wear a kippah is not per se arrogant and neither is the statement an oxymoron. There are many ways to demonstrate pride in, as well as learning more about and practising one’s Judaism, some of which are highly visible, like wearing a kippah – some are not. Pride emanates from within a person. Jews who do not necessarily wear a kippah may strongly support Israel, actively participate in synagogue activities and Jewish communal life, generously donate to charities, pray to God on a regular basis either at home or in synagogue, have the utmost respect for women, are kind in their dealings with fellow human beings (Jews and non-Jews), and have sound business ethics, to name just a few significant tenets of Judaism. Many Jews do learn and practise more Judaism, however they may be dressed. Many proud Jews have reasons of their own for not wearing a kippah at all times, while always doing so when praying to God either at home or in Shul. Likewise, it sometimes comes to light that some Jews who cover their heads at all times (and most of their body also), are prone to straying from living on “God’s terms” as Mr Avrohom puts it, having committed adultery, rape, been involved in fraud and financial crimes and all manner of other misdemeanours. To Mr Avrohom and anyone else predisposed to categorise a Jew, or anybody else, by what they wear should bear in mind the idiom: ‘Do not judge a book by its covers’ and, in this case, neither judge a Jew by his headcovering or lack of! We should never use one criterion regarding the pride of any Jew or deign to even consider that we can know how proud a Jew is or not.

From a proud Jew. J D Milaric By email

Us view on that royal ‘nazi salute’

Dear Sir,

I would like to add an American view of the 1933 photo published by The Sun recently of the Royal family. Although today we look back and see “that salute” as being German and fascist, the Germans were not alone in using it. From 1892 to 1942, all American pupils gave the Bellamy Salute when they recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every school day. By 1942, it had become an embarrassment that American and German loyalists were using a similar one and President Roosevelt changed the etiquette to the present day American salute of right hand over heart. Can The Sun prove that in 1933 the children in the photo were not practising the USA Bellamy Salute?

Joseph Feld By email

Doing a mitzvah with a barmitzvah

Dear Sir,

What a wise decision by Chief Rabbi Mirvis to have boys preparing for their barmitzvahs taught something about leading services. The Reform Movement has always done this, for boys as well as girls, of course. When I was taught my barmitzvah portion and Haftara 60 years ago, there was no attempt whatsoever either to tell me what the whole thing was all about, or to instruct me in the whole service – and I was attending cheder three nights a week and Sunday mornings. Coming from an unlearned household, I was delighted to ‘perform’ as I had a good child-soprano voice, and was promptly three-line-whipped into the choir at the beautiful New Synagogue, in Egerton Road. It was not until I joined a budding Reform community of 25 families – that at Radlett & Bushey, which now has some 2,000 members – that I was instructed in leading services. Rabbi Mirvis is doing a mitzvah with barmitzvah. Who knows, perhaps it will one day include batmitzvah, too.

Barry Hyman Bushey Heath

The History of patrilineal tradition

Dear Sir,

I am not a member of a Reform shul…but in going back to patrilineality, the movement is going back to ancient Jewish mores. The change to matrilineal “tradition” started only in the very early Middle Ages. And while I am at it, just exactly where does it command us to wear a kippah? Dr Cornel Fleming, N6 5LU