By Rabbi Aaron Gol...
February 11, 2013
I do admit that in my contribution to these pages, I have at times been critical of the leadership of the Jewish Community in this country. I did so as a critical friend and supporter when I disagreed strongly on certain issues but one who will definitely keep paying his subs to the Board via my Synagogue through thick and thin!
However, today I am delighted to congratulate the leadership of Anglo-Jewry, the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Leadership Council and all the organisations who have responded so appropriately to the grotesque Gerald Scarfe cartoon published by the Sunday Times on National Holocaust Memorial Day. I feel pride at the manner of the Jewish Community’s response and thankful to them for eliciting the “unreserved apology” of the newspaper and remarkable personal apology from Rupert Murdoch to Benjamin Netanyahu.
It is concerning that it was the second time in a week that Anglo-Jewry had to appeal for penance from those whose remarks or actions fall into the category of ‘alibi anti-Semitism.’ This phrase coined by the renowned political philosopher Norman Geras is applied to comments whereby Israeli actions are used as a veil for anti-Semitism. The words of David Ward MP were a despicable example of a phenomenon that at any time, let alone around Holocaust Memorial Day, has become too common in public life. I commend the work of our Jewish communal leaders that has set a positive example for those in other communities.
More controversially, I would also like to congratulate the Board of Deputies on their decision to move forward with their Grow Tatzmiach programme with Oxfam. I believe that this was an important move and I pray that we will now see the fruits of this project as 25 Jewish activists benefit from what will be undoubtedly first-class training from experts in the field of activism and the alleviation of food poverty. Doubts expressed by some of potential brainwashing of these committed Jews are disrespectful to their integrity and strength of Jewish identity. The decision has now been made: let them get on with the work that will see them become beacons within society.
Indeed, we all have the opportunity to be beacons in society and to offer leadership through our actions. I am deeply proud to see the Jewish Community being serious participants in a global campaign to eliminate food poverty: ‘Enough Food for Everyone iF.’ The involvement of Gefiltefest, the Jewish Social Action Forum, Tzedek, and World Jewish Relief is not merely symbolic, it gifts every one of us the opportunity to act.
As the UK takes the Chair of the G8 for 2013, the time is right for Anglo-Jewry to put its values into action. I can conceive of multiple motivations for wishing to act. Some might feel commanded to do so, fulfilling halachot related to leket or peah; others from an historical empathy derived from the lack of food our ancestors experienced in Biblical times, perhaps their reliance on manna, and the critical need for an other to provide for them. There will be those for whom the elimination of food poverty is important just because it is right; and others because of the positive knock-on benefits they see might accrue for our country. Still others are just foodies and want to spread the love! Whatever the reason, I would have thought that 99% of British Jews would agree to the 4 key statements of the ‘Enough Food for Everyone iF’ campaign:
If we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger, and help the poorest people feed themselves.
If we stop poor farmers being pushed off their land, and use crops to feed people, not cars.
If we stop big companies dodging taxes in poor countries, so that millions can free themselves of hunger.
If we force governments and corporations to be honest about the actions they take that stop people getting enough food.
So let us not leave action to the leaders of Anglo-Jewry or its activists. Let us all act according to our values. During this period, the campaign will call on the UK government to take action around four key policy areas: upholding its commitment to the aid budget; stopping big companies dodging taxes in poor countries; ending land grabs, where poor farmers are forced off their land; forcing governments and big corporations to be open and transparent.
Each one of us can participate now by signing up to the www.enoughfoodif.org campaign and by getting as many people involved as possible. The more of us who smaller the ‘iF’ of enough food for everyone.
This article appeared first in the Jewish News 07.02.13