Ask the Rabbi: 28/08/14

Ask the Rabbi: 28/08/14

Richard Ferrer has become a leading voice on Jewish communal issues since becoming editor of the Jewish News in 2009, writing about contemporary Jewish life for a national audience. He edited the Boston Jewish Advocate, America's oldest Jewish newspaper and created the Channel 4 series Jewish Mum of the Year.

  • Rabbi Schochet completing the ice bucket challenge
    Rabbi Schochet completing the ice bucket challenge

    All Aboard for the ice bucket challenge!

Dear Rabbi

You’re no doubt aware of the ALS charity ice bucket challenge, which I think is childish and inappropriate. Just think about all that water wastage.

Think about all the poor countries where clean water is scarce. I note you haven’t done the challenge yet and presume this is because you share my view.


Dear Gerry

Childish? Inappropriate? What side of the bed did you wake up on before you wrote to me? If nothing else, it proves the power of the internet and social media. Think how we can connect the world in doing something for a positive cause! Imagine what more we can do in that regard.

What a welcome reprieve from baby videos (what makes people think everyone is interested in a child’s first step?); cowardly men and women declaring their undying love (because it’s easier than looking someone in the eyes); and holiday snaps (do you really think your friends want to see every detail of your time away or are you just trying to show off?).

I appreciate your sentiment about wastage, but you need to see this in context. Water is not being wasted. I don’t know how many buckets have been poured, but if you think how much the ALS challenge has raised so far, more than £48million, that can only be good.

Strangely enough it hasn’t hit the UK as much as the US. But I take your challenge (see page five of this week’s Jewish News!) – and I dare Richard Ferrer, the editor of this newspaper, to do it as well. I expect to see proof that he’s completed my challenge on this page next week. Editor, you have 24 hours. And Gerry… lighten up!

Watch Rabbi Schochet rise to the challenge here:


  • Right response to anti-Semitism

Dear Rabbi

As an Israeli citizen living here in the UK, I wonder why rabbis like yourself do not ecourage your congregations to make aliyah.

In Israel, we live with risks and rely on the government to protect us.

But at least we live among our own and not with neighbours who hate us.


Dear Osnat

Let me get this straight. You are an Israeli living here and you want to know why I am not encouraging people to move to Israel?

Is it you who needs convincing or am I missing something?

Unless you are here actively promoting an Israel cause or company, the words ‘teapot’ and ‘kettle’ come to mind. But your question does raise a much bigger issue.

Is aliyah a necessary idealistic requirement or more a reaction to anti-Semitism? If the former, that’s a separate discussion that extends well beyond the scope of this column. If the latter, I don’t think running away is the answer.

On the contrary, it scores an own goal, achieving precisely what the Galloways of this world want to accomplish.

The only response to anti-Semitism is confronting it head-on. Granted, the feeble Board of Deputies did very little until it was pushed by the community.

Then the self-appointed Jewish Leadership Council suddenly woke up as well with: “Oh, we’re supposed to actually do something about this? We thought we were just supposed to sit here and feel good about ourselves.” We cannot rely on organisations to do our battles.

There are things each of us must do individually and the simple starting point is to hold your head high and take pride in who you are and what you represent. The world will only respect you if you know how to respect yourself.



  • The danger in running away

Dear Rabbi

Will there ever be lasting peace in the Middle East?


Dear Rosella

Some 22 years ago, I held a Q&A at my shul on the various peace proposals of the time. I recall arguing the only way to ensure peace is for Israel to stand strong in its resolve and show no weakness. There were those who insisted then we must withdraw from Gaza and that withdrawal would be the starting point towards peace.

I argued against the rationale of trying to establish peace by inviting your enemy closer into your borders, but it fell on deaf ears.

Today the facts speak for themselves. I asked at the time: ‘What would you do if Jerusalem became part of the negotiations?’. The response was that it wouldn’t happen. Today the facts speak for themselves. Israel walked – some say ran – away from Gaza and Lebanon, handing them over on a silver platter.

The Arabs watched in disbelief at these events and mocked our ineptitude, our weakness. And that is why hostilities break out in precisely those places where we exposed ourselves as vulnerable. The Arab world lauded our stance during the Six Day and Yom Kippur wars.

They laughed openly at Ehud Barak and always maintained a sense of awe for Ariel Sharon. The Arab mentality respects the hard stance. You hold in high regard the adversary who keeps his ground and will not be taken advantage of. That’s the only response. Will that ensure lasting peace? Who knows. I suspect only the Messiah can guarantee that.

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