Woeful ignorance of facts
The reaction to Hayley Tontovich’s letter of 3 June stems from her woeful ignorance of history and her “opinions” masquerading as facts (Jewish News, 1 July 2021).
She claims Balfour wanted an “agreed homeland for the Palestinians”. Balfour said in 1920: “As far as the Arabs are concerned I hope they will remember it is we who have established an independent Arab sovereignty… to prepare the way for a self-governing, autonomous Arab state….and remembering all that they will not grudge that small notch, for it is no more than that geographically in what are now Arab territories, being given to the Jews.” That small “notch” was divided illegally by Churchill in 1921, giving 77 percent of it to create Jordan, cleansed of Jews.
At the time, only the local Jews were known as “Palestinians”. There was no Arab Palestinian identity, created in 1964 as a way of claiming Israel for the Arabs.
Vast lands were given to the Arabs after the Ottoman Empire’s demise. Israel comprises a paltry 8,000 square miles, and even that’s too much for some. The charter of the “moderate” Palestinian Authority clearly states the destruction of Israel is the ultimate goal.
James R Windsor, Leytonstone
Rabbi Mirvis correct
I congratulate Chief Rabbi Mirvis on taking a principled stand against the campaign to infiltrate the London School of Jewish Studies with staff who adhere to non-Orthodox distortions of Judaism, currently with the agitation regarding Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz, who recently obtained a ‘semicha’ from Yeshivat Maharat.
Though it likes to describe itself as Orthodox, it is the flagship seminary of the Open Orthodox movement. Whether this really is a form of Orthodoxy is open to doubt, since it seems to adopt fashionable causes such as feminism even where they contradict traditional Orthodox belief and practice.
In reality, Open Orthodoxy appears more akin to the Conservative movement, as it was some 100 years ago, when its difference from Orthodoxy was not so clear.
So when Charley Baginsky, the chief executive officer of Liberal Judaism, wrote about her and other ladies that “the key point is these rabbis are not Progressive Jews; they are Orthodox Jews who wish to serve their communities and education institutions” (Jewish News, 1 July), it is by no means certain that she is correct.
Martin D Stern, Salford
Mutual resolution sought
I disagree with Sarah Adler, who said Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz was treated by the London School of Jewish Studies and the Chief Rabbi “as if she has leprosy” and that he has “confirmed women are second-class citizens and must not rise further than existing levels” (Jewish News, 1 July 2021).
I, and many Orthodox women, neither share such views, nor feel in the least subdued or thwarted in our efforts to advance.
We know there is much to be done for the community and take our rightful place in synagogue, United Synagogue Council, Board of Deputies meetings etc, bringing much satisfaction and self-fulfilment to our lives. It is up to us to be more proactive. I took a degree and a master’s at Jews’ College and have pursued my teaching career, being one of the first, if not the first, to engage in women’s adult education and mixed classes.
I, too, am full of praise for Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz – an excellent educator – and her wishes to strive higher. I am hopeful this matter will be resolved to the mutual agreement of all parties concerned. Halachah is not static, but there are time-honoured laws that have preserved authentic Judaism throughout the ages and are crucial to this day.
Women have always played a prominent role in our history. The Chief Rabbi is not intransigent, but has been entrusted with safeguarding vital Torah values. This cannot be equated with sexism.
Flora Frank, By email
Correct war dead errors
To raise the profile of the sacrifice of our war dead and correct serious errors, we are seeking information on the following three Jewish casualties from their families or friends. These men have, incorrectly, crosses on their graves:
1. Gunner Gershon Levy, son of Marks and Mary of Hackney, died 1941, buried Haverfordwest;
2. Pte Faulk /Francis (?) Emanuel Simons REME died 11/8/1946, Germany;
3. Michael Collier-Bradley RE, died 1943, né Bralofsky, son of Rose and Yecheil Marks Bralofsky/Collier-Bradley, buried North Africa.
Email email@example.com with your phone number if you can help.
Martin Sugarman, AJEX Archivist
Digging knife in? shameful
Last week’s Jewish News front page about Rachel Fink’s exit from JFS was absolutely shameful. Lessons were learned for all and good luck to Sir Michael Wilshaw, who has been tasked possibly with the impossible, but for a Jewish newspaper to go to town and drag someone through the mud is shocking – yet sadly not surprising.
I accept there are failings and possibly serious ones at that and there’s a major learning curve here. And that needs to be addressed because the children matter more than anybody. If you want the facts, read the Ofsted report. But to dig the knife in and twist it? Gutter journalism.
Steven Isaacs, Via social media
An insight into JFS
Thank you for providing new details about recent events at JFS. My children are former pupils. The youngest left the year headteacher Jonthan Miller suddenly quit. While that episode remains shrouded in secrecy, those with an affinity for the school at least better understand some of the events surrounding Mrs Fink’s equally sudden departure.
Sam Cohen, By email
My remedy for ‘get’ concerns
Until the mid-19th century, the English state recognised the absolute validity of divorces granted on the authority of rabbinical courts.
The Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857 had, however, created a civil divorce court, with the power to dissolve a marriage contracted under religious auspices.
Chief Rabbi Nathan Adler tried to persuade the government to insist upon
a clause exempting Jewish marriages from such dissolution; but, influenced by lay communal leaders preoccupied with Jewish equality before the law, the government refused this request.
A simple if admittedly not complete solution to the current difficulties over divorce would be to follow Nathan Adler’s advice, and enact that a marriage contracted under the auspices of a Beth Din may only be dissolved under the authority of a Beth Din and that, until this requirement is fulfilled, neither party to the marriage would be free to marry again, even by means of a purely
Professor Geoffrey Alderman, University of Buckingham
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