Picturing a man’s life
I recently walked past a house being cleared. In front of a skip in the driveway, propped up against a bin, was a portrait, in pastels, of an elderly man with the words ‘Happy 80th birthday 2007’ written down the side.
I looked at it for a while, thought how sad it was, then carried on my walk. But the picture continued to haunt me. I kept thinking about the subject of the artwork, how there must have been an 80th birthday party for him. He would have been surrounded by loving family and friends when the portrait, probably created by a gifted family member or friend, was presented. Now, just over a decade later, his image had been thrown out.
I couldn’t bear thinking about this once loved man being left out with the rubbish, so I went back and and brought the picture home.
It was only then I noticed in one corner there was a yellow Star of David, so I think he might have been a Holocaust survivor, which made me all the more glad I had rescued him.
I would love to reunite this unknown gentleman or his family with the portrait. He has such a kindly, intelligent face, and I wonder if your readers might be able to help. The skip was on Warwick Avenue in Edgware.
Rikki Borston, By email
We must defend shechita
I’m what I consider to be a traditionally observant member of the community and I keep kashrut – no pork or shellfish, no dairy with meat.
As a child, I was taught that by observing the rules of kosher, we cared for the welfare of birds and animals.
With chickens, we have only one choice, that being the ones that are kept in small cages, factory reared and fattened and then slaughtered in a few days.
The ‘non-kosher’ world, since the intervention of Jamie Oliver, has supermarkets that stock free-range and organic chickens.
We get no real choice.
I have become further dismayed by reading recently in the newspapers of the warnings of buying non-organic animals, and therefore reducing all our resistance to antibiotics and the new dangers this creates for us.
Surely our religious leaders should be leading the way when the maintenance of shechita is under pressure, by saying we are for the humane treatment of our ritually killed animals?
In this way, they would be letting the Jewish public have a proper choice, and would be leading the fight against people who are against shechita.
Paul Spector, Bournemouth
Sin in ‘sinagogue’
May I thank Barry Hyman for his kind wishes for a chag sameach, which I wholeheartedly reciprocate (‘No browbeating here’, Jewish News, 29 November).
He mentions en passant that “Orthodox friends who visit [his] ‘house of assembly’… might be a bit nonplussed by the lack of gossip during the service”.
I find this strange since the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] forbids it in very strong terms: “It is forbidden to engage in light-headedness, such as joking, mockery or empty conversation, in synagogues” (Orach Chaim 151:1).
This is included in the laws regarding the holiness of synagogues and applies even when no service is in progress.
As for talking during davenning, it is even more stringent: “One may not engage in general conversation while the chazan is repeating the shemoneh esrei and, if one does so, he is a sinner and … and one should reprimand him”.
Such people truly bring ‘sin’ into sinagogue!
Martin D Stern, By email
Right to pontificate?
What right has Martin D. Stern (Letters, 22 November) to pontificate on what non-orthodox call their clergy or places of worship, and out of respect others should use the same terminology in context?
Orthodoxy should examine the credibility of its version of Torah. I know no academic or biblical scholar who accepts the words followed today in Orthodox services were given 2,200 years ago in a square form of Hebrew.
Robert Feather, By email
The pleasure of all our blessings
After a difficult year for our community, it was a pleasure to relax with my family on Sunday night, light the first Chanukah candle and reflect on all the blessings we still have. Life in this country for British Jews, from secular to strictly Orthodox, remains rich, vibrant and, thankfully, free.
Randal Kaplick, By email
Our PM’s priorities are just right
Say what you like about our put-upon prime minister, but to find time to attend a conference on antisemitism on the same day she was torn apart in the Commons over our exit from the EU shows her priorities are spot-on. What a loss Theresa May will be to our community when she is inevitably removed.
Leslie Acker, By email
I hear Sartre laugh
Your fawning coverage of Theresa May’s politically-astute well-publicised attendance at the first Sara Conference was annoying (Jewish News, 29 November).
Turning up to an event where a large number of attendees are being urged – nay, begged – to vote for your party come the next election might indeed be interpreted as a selfless gesture. It could also be seen in the light of trying to curry favour among those who feel badly let down by the mess she has made.
In words that could have come straight from a Downing Street press release, you say she arrived from “a gruelling two-and-a-half hour grilling in Parliament”. One could observe that is nothing more than the usual cut and thrust of politics and certainly no less than a prime minister in her position might expect.
The Marxist Jean-Paul Sartre, whom you quote so effusively, is very likely laughing in his grave.
Emma Arnold, By email
While life in Israel has returned to normal and hopes are high that Britain is set for a summer without restrictions thanks to vaccines, for billions around the world there is no such imminent light at the end of the tunnel. In the majority of countries around the globe, particularly the poorest, the vaccine rollout has barely kicked off.
That's why Jewish News, the leading source of news and opinion for the entire UK community, is throwing its full weight behind UNICEF’s VaccinAid campaign by using this platform usually reserved for encouraging donations towards our own journalism to instead urge our readers around the globe to perform the greatest mitzvah: saving a life.
We have never before done this for any charity fundraiser but it's hard to recall a campaign that affects so many people, and indeed an entire planet aching for a return to normality. Just like the Chief Rabbi and Rachel Riley, we hope to boost the mission to deliver two billion vaccines, 165 million treatments and 900 million test kits around the world by the end of this year.
Please donate as much as you can, in the spirit of the Talmudic sages: “to save one life is to save the world entire”
By Joe Millis