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Personal choice can’t trump faith
I note both the recent comment piece by Rabbi Wittenberg (‘We will let our congregations decide on gay union ceremonies, Jewish News, 13 November 2014), and the article ‘Three same-sex couples celebrate shul weddings’ (Jewish News, 18 December). There are a number of parts to this pro argument and decision to include gay marriage ceremonies within the Masorti and general reformist movements that I find troubling. This includes whether a genuine and widespread conversation and consultative process was really undertaken beforehand and allowed the general membership the opportunity to either openly or quietly voice views with respect to such a dramatic addition, in this instance, to the Masorti constitution. One of Rabbi Wittenberg’s key remarks in his recent article… “For many people under 40 there is no issue about gay marriage…” is misleading.
The strengths and influences of the modern liberal media, and often politically correct superficial cultural movements that we know of today – and the educational and political establishment in general – have all contributed to a one-sided view of the argument in favour of the idea that gay unions and marriage are the norm. Therefore the implication is that it enjoys majority support. So many under 40s are understandably impressionable and swayed by powerful social and cultural forces, which influence modern-day life. These younger groups will not likely have a full, fair and balanced picture of the discourse around the issue of gay marriage. This unbalanced share of the youth market might be convenient to persuasion but in the long run is not healthy. Indeed, in my view, it is potentially dangerous.
I believe that the institutions, the value and the significance of traditional marriage that is between a man and a woman is becoming increasingly undermined and, in the long run, at risk of becoming an insignificant part of our core values that we hold dearly in society and to ourselves today and in millennia past. I have little doubt as a consequence of moving further away from our traditions and continuing with these irresponsible experiments, that these cherished and God-inspired principles will lead further to the breakdown of the family structure and the immense importance of the sanity and security of the child will be in jeopardy. I believe that all peoples and individuals should be allowed equal weight and standing in whatever they wish to follow ‘in private’, as long as it is considered reasonable and legal and does not openly and directly impinge on other peoples beliefs and sensitivities.
The issue of sexuality is of personal choice and desire and the decision to practice and be part of a gay union is a personal choice as it is a desire. The difficulty here lies in the choice that one makes for him or herself and, thereafter, which direction to take. I don’t believe that formal religious institutions ought to facilitate or play keeper for this type of lifestyle choice. A relationship between a man and a man and a woman and a woman ought to be centred around a very special and intimate friendship, and it ought to be respected and recognised as a deep and loving friendship. However, it ought not to be consummated or recognised within the realms of traditional marriage and its institutions. The concept and practice of marriage between a man and a woman, I believe, is precisely why God planned for a natural physiology and biology of nature to do its work, and not for one’s personal lifestyle choices and desires to either trump or compete with the religious centrality of formal and religious marriage ceremony.
S. Levy, by email
Orthodox schools must be influential
Richy Thompson writes under a deceptive headline exhorting strictly-Orthodox schools to be part of British life (Jewish News, 11 December 2014) and then, with naked partisanship, proceeds to fly his British Humanist Association (BHA) flag in pointing the way. Orthodox Jews roundly reject humanist tenets that with contrived blinkered vision fail to recognise the divine hand behind the wonders of creation. Evolution has been rejected by many scientists, but for the Orthodox Jew, the laws of science were themselves part of creation and are of no validity beyond the material world.
Traditional British life has always acknowledged God as Supreme and, in fact, it is the BHA that has unpardonably strayed. The Torah contains a comprehensive prescription for good human interrelations (bein odom lechaveiro) together with responsibility and accountability to the Master of the Universe. Orthodox schools have no need for the artificial substitutes genially tendered by BHA, heavily polluted by its support for such abominations as single-sex marriages. On the contrary, they will contribute best to British society by drawing from its own spiritual treasures to be a ‘light among the nations’ and any external attempts to divert them from this must be regarded as the work of Satan.
Geoffrey Niman, by email
First & second class citizens in Israel
According to Harry Levy (Jewish News, Letters, 11 December), Israel is the nation state of the Jews. He appears to believe it has always been both “Jewish” and “democratic”. Unfortunately for him, approximately four million Palestinians also live in Israel or the territory controlled by it. So if Israel wants to be both “Jewish” and “democratic” as defined by its current government, the question is how will this impact upon those of its citizens and under its control who are not Jews? Are they first or second-class citizens? After 47 years of occupation, I think we already know the answer.
Fraser Michaelson, by email
Berger’s call will be bad for free speech
Luciana Berger MP’s call for Twitter to ban racist words is misguided. The very hashtag used to abuse her personally, #filthyjewbitch, would escape her proposed ban since the words ‘filthy’, ‘Jew’ and ‘bitch’ are words with perfectly innocuous meanings. Even banning an unambiguously offensive word such as ‘kike’ would achieve little. Anti-Semites would simply turn to more obscure language to convey the same message. Euphemisms as bland as ‘International banking cartel’ and ‘the neocons’ have been used to slander Jews. The only concrete result to expect from policies such as those proposed by Berger is an adverse effect on legitimate free speech. This is foreshadowed in history by American comedian Lenny Bruce’s ‘Are there any niggers here tonight?’ stand-up routine, which used a panoply of offensive racial epithets to make cutting social commentary. Bruce, who was Jewish, was hounded into jail and an eventual early death by authorities keen, like Luciana Berger, to be seen to be tough on offensive speech. Berger should do her research on the efficacy of banning words before proposing the same policy.
Matei Clej, by email
Jewish state bill will take away rights
In response to the points raised by Levi Sokolic (Jewish News, Letters, 18 December 2014), he has got the wrong end of the stick. Israel consists of many minorities – Druze, Israeli Arabs, Palestinians and Christian settlers. While the declaration of Independence affirmed Israel as both Jewish and democratic, with each gaining equal attribute, the new law would place one above the other. From then on, Israel would be Jewish before being democratic, the former more important than the latter. It would have far reaching implications for a fifth of Israeli cititzens who are not Jewish. Netanyahu has explicitly said that under the new law, everyone would enjoy equal rights, but “national rights” would be allowed to Jews alone. Lest there be any doubt, the new bill would demote Arabic from its current status as an official language. Such a move could have been made to antagonise Israel’s Arab minority, who have long endured discrimination. Those who fear that a third intifada is coming often predict that the next time will be the involvement of the Palestinians, turning on the State as citizens. This manoeuvre will make such a bleak outcome even more likely. Netanyahu’s decision will be seized on by those opponents of Zionism who have always said a Jewish democratic state is an oxymoron. Israel can either be one or the other – but not both. By its vote, the Israeli cabinet has sided with anti-Zionists, agreeing that, yes, these two components – enshrined and entwined so inseparably in the Declaration of Independence – are indeed at odds, and one needs priority. The bill will fundamentally stamp out the rights of the Palestinians to their own self-determination and for an outcome for at least stability if peace is that much further on. Israel’s Jewishness and democracy are not for further discussion and the bill is anathema. Respecting the dignity of all human beings has been the great Jewish value. Israel is characterised by the twin pillars of nationhood and democracy. The removal of one will bring down the whole building. Let us hope that Netanyahu is astute.
Professor Jonathan Bellini, by email
Mazeltov on a truly modest simcha image
How very refreshing and elegant it is to see batmitzvah girl Rebecca Dryer in your newspaper (Jewish News, 24 December), decently dressed and not displaying her upper body to all and sundry. We can, and should, learn from the laudable restraint and courtesy shown by the Edgware Adas Yisrael community and her parents. A girl’s batmitzvah is meant to celebrate the occasion of a youngster reaching Jewish legal adulthood, wherein she tries to model the Jewish female adult in all the mitzvot now incumbent opon her. I never could understand why a newly adult girl is photographed in bare shoulders, arms and neckline. The Jewish woman is celebrated as a newcomer to the modest, and kindly idea of Torah obligations as a newly matured Jewish female adult. She would certainly be unwelcome in any shul in the usual “off the shoulder” guise. It is and was always a puzzle to me why a newly adult Jewish daughter has to flout all modesty and be photographed in a dress that neither flatters nor dignifies her newly attained Torah adulthood. The usual photographs are a “nebbech“! Well done, Rebecca – you have correctly modelled our Mother Rebecca in your dress and modest Jewish example. Mazeltov to your rabbi, your parents and, most importantly, to you.
Dr Anne R. Cohn NW11
Why in Israel was there no security?
Apparently there were no guards at the Har Nof Synagogue, in Jerusalem, where November’s massacre occurred. Throughout Europe – east and west – wherever I have davened, there has invariably been a security presence, some more elaborate than others. But in Israel apparently they have to wait for a congregant with the presence of mind to phone the police. And what was Bibi’s response? Oh yes. Knock down the houses of people who are already dead.
Mike Scheuer, NW5