Ask the Rabbi: 13/11/2014

Ask the Rabbi: 13/11/2014

By Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet

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Why yachad is not welcome

Dear Rabbi,

There’s a vote on acceptance of Yachad into the Board of Deputies next week. Do you have an opinion on this? I know the Zionist Federation rejected this group. Should the Board follow suit?


Dear Martin,

The question to consider is, what is the Board of Deputies? Should it incorporate every body or organisation that lays claim to being Jewish? If so, then surely it would also have to consider Jews for Jesus and Jews for Palestine, were they to want representation on the Board.

Obviously, it is there to represent organisations which, in turn, represent mainstream Anglo-Jewry. Which then begs the question: what is mainstream?

For this, we have to consider Yachad’s track record. On Israel’s Memorial and Independence Day – a time when Jews worldwide celebrate the re-founding of the homeland – and reflect on the losses endured in the process, Yachad hosted ‘Breaking the Silence,’ an anti-IDF organisation described, even by left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz as, “not a neutral observer,” and an organisation with its own “clear agenda…to expose the consequences of IDF troops… rather than seeking justice for specific injustices.”

It’s also worthwhile noting that Hannah Weisfeld, director of Yachad, once told a SOAS panel discussion on ‘Is BDS Working?’: “We would be having a very different conversation in this room if the BDS movement was about a targeted boycott… I am not saying I would necessarily support it, but…” In other words, Yachad might consider supporting BDS if it targeted Jews in specific areas. In a separate panel discussion at UCL, Weisfeld openly supported +972 Mag, an online magazine, which has labelled Israel an apartheid state. Does that then mean Yachad considers Israel to be apartheid?

Should the Board support such an organisation? Would this be representative of Anglo-Jewry? Yachad was highly critical of the Zionist Federation for not granting it membership, even though it went to vote. Regardless of the arguments, it was a democratic process, not one taken by select individuals.

Does that then mean that Yachad only respects a subjective democracy? And why did the ZF, which is part of the World Zionist Organisation, vote against inclusion?

Clearly it had some real concerns.

Should members of the Board then not also consider these same concerns? Perhaps it had, which is why the vote to include Yachad has been postponed several times. This is most curious, unless one considers the timing of those earlier proposed votes, which coincided with the recent war in Israel. Were those at the helm anxious that at a time of greater support and sensitivity for Israel, the vote would have gone against, and that perhaps now, with the passage of time, and relative calm, there is a greater chance of inclusion? If so, one needs to seriously question why there should be such concern during a time of crisis, if indeed Yachad is “representative of the silent majority of Anglo-Jewry,” as it claims to be. Finally, in a recent desperate letter to Board representatives, Yachad wrote: “If we don’t get in, it will be a bit of a disaster for the community…” And, in an apparent surreptitious, move, it mentions in the same letter how it is collecting signatures for an open, stand-alone letter to be published in support of it, but not owned by it. Come on guys.

If you believe in yourselves, take ownership of the letter rather than orchestrate it, but pretend it is an outside initiative. My conclusion is that I do not think any extreme organisation has a place on the Board of Deputies, whether to the right or the left. I consider Yachad to fall squarely on the extreme left.

If you let it in, Naturei Karta should be allowed as well. As should Jews for Palestine, et al. Opening the floodgates – now that would be a bit of a disaster for the community.

Boy, i want to know the sex!

Dear Rabbi,

After three boys, I’m pregnant again and curious about the gender. Is it appropriate to ask my doctor? I’m told it’s bad luck to ask the sex.


Dear Peninah,

First, mazeltov on your good news! The real question is, why do you want to know? Your question, with particular emphasis on “after three boys,” suggests you’re hoping for a girl. In which case, if you perform the scan and you determine that it is another boy, is that going to disappoint you throughout the rest of your pregnancy? It is not bad luck, nor is there any law that proscribes it. Nevertheless, there is an accepted custom that we don’t ask, based on the Midrash (Bereshit Rabah 65:12) that lists: “What is the gender of a child a woman is bearing,” among the seven things that are concealed from people. Commentaries explain the rationale for the reason I suggested above. Hey, if you have another boy, then just go on to have another and, if necessary, another after that. You’ll get that girl eventually.

Read more!

Sedra: Chayei Sara

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