Money-making is not all evil

By Miriam Shaviv, October 3, 2008

In the Chief Rabbi's pre-Rosh Hashanah programme on BBC1 on Monday, Rabbi Sacks complained that too much emphasis is put on making money, and not enough on bringing up children. As the JC's TV reviewer Simon Round says opposite, no one can argue with that. And yet, Rabbi Sacks misses a crucial point.]

Many of those intent on bringing up children have no choice but to be more focused on money than ever. With the average property prices in urban areas still 6.1 times average earnings, according to Halifax; with the cost of a childminder reaching £800-£1,000 per child, per month; with food and energy bills rising daily, is it any wonder that the average number of children per family has dropped from 2.0 in 1971 to 1.8 in 2007? Any more than two children is simply beyond the reach of a large part of our population, and even two is a financial strain for many.

For Jewish families, the situation is even worse. As has been frequently pointed out (but no one seems to have taken much notice), the cost of Jewish life is substantial. Kosher food, synagogue membership and Jewish-studies voluntary contributions are just the beginning. Our major festivals are expensive to celebrate. Social convention demands extravagant barmitzvahs and weddings which are beyond the means of many. But most expensive of all, participation in our most intense and best-served communities requires residence in some of the UK's dearest areas. Most of my friends are not materialistic, yet I regularly hear that couples with two, sometimes three offspring cannot even consider more children, although they desperately want them, because they would be pushed into a poverty trap. The result is a real demographic hit to Anglo-Jewry.

Perhaps it is time to acknowledge that for most of us, even in our supposedly "wealthy" community, setting money-making as a top priority is not an obstacle to family life. Rather, it is the only way to achieve one.

Obama's danger

Senator Obama's comments about Iran during the presidential debate last week should give pause to anyone who cares about Israel. According to the Democratic candidate, talks with Iran would be preceded by low-level contact, with no preconditions. Yet, he added, "the notion that we would sit with Ahmadinejad and not say anything while he's spewing his nonsense and his vile comments is ridiculous". It is bad enough - as Senator McCain pointed out - that Senator Obama thinks that giving Iran a verbal ticking off will be enough to frighten the Islamic republic into moderating its position on Israel. But if the Senator really believes that Ahmadinejad's stated intentions towards the Jewish state can be dismissed as "spewing nonsense" - even as he pursues nuclear weapons - he is a dangerous naif. Truly, the only one spewing nonsense last week was Sen Obama.

A Beatle's friend

Why was Paul McCartney's concert in Israel treated as unusual? Dozens of international superstars have played in Israel without attracting a fraction of the international media attention.

One factor was the poignancy of a Beatle performing in the Holy Land some 40 years after the Israeli government banned a Beatles concert to protect the country's youth. (This is probably an urban myth; the concert was apparently cancelled after a row between competing promoters.) But cute as this angle is, it does not entirely explain the media's over-the-top Beatle-mania last week.

One can only conclude that the public threats made against McCartney by anti-Israel activists, particularly in Liverpool, and by Islamist preacher Omar Bakri Muhammad - who said that "If he values his life, Mr McCartney must not come to Israel. He will not be safe there. The sacrifice operatives will be waiting for him" - played a role. The pressure on McCartney to withdraw suddenly became headline news, and Israel was treated to some of its best press in years. So, for once, we owe you one, Sheikh - you useful idiot.

Miriam Shaviv is the JC's comment editor.

Last updated: 12:54pm, October 2 2008