Columnists

An offensive conversion 'solution'

By Miriam Shaviv, February 11, 2010

Six months ago, in the wake of the JFS case, consecutive commentators blasted the British courts for appearing to brand Judaism racist because it determined Jewishness by matrilineal descent and not by religious practice. Judaism cannot possibly be racist, they said, because anyone can convert into it — no matter their skin colour or ethnicity. “To be told now that Judaism is racist, when Jews have been in the forefront of the fight against racism in this country, is distressing,” wrote Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. “To confuse religion and race is a mistake.”

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The politics of disinvitation

By David Aaronovitch, February 11, 2010

There ought to be an addition to the books of etiquette on the subject of disinvitation. Invitation we know all about.

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'Equality' debate is artificial

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 11, 2010

The tension between private rights and public obligations is one of the most enduring themes of human development. As a result of the American and French Revolutions — or, rather, as a result of the ferment in political thought that gave rise to them — the balance between public obligations and private rights began to shift.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment stressed the primacy of the rights of man, by which they meant the rights of individual men (and women) over the rights of the state, and of organised religion, which they tended to regard as an adjunct of the state.

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The chill in the Chilcot inquiry

By Melanie Phillips, February 4, 2010

In all the stürm und drang over the Chilcot inquiry into the war in Iraq, one feature has so far escaped attention. That is the emphasis placed on Israel’s role in the crisis, not least by the inquiry panel member Sir Roderic Lyne.

To those of us of a nervous disposition, the way Lyne, formerly Our Man in Moscow, has been dragging Israel into the story of what happened in 2003 is more than a little grating.

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Comment is (not quite) free

By Geoffrey Alderman, February 4, 2010

You may be familiar with the Guardian newspaper’s website and with that website’s “Comment is Free” section.

Comment is Free takes its name from the famous dictum of C P Scott, the legendary owner and editor of the then Manchester Guardian, in 1921. “Comment is free, but facts are sacred,” Scott declared.

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Duelling rabbis' real agenda

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 28, 2010

A public rift has broken out among the rabbinate of the United Synagogue. What are we to make of it?

Two weeks ago in the JC, rabbis Naftali Brawer (Borehamwood) and Michael Harris (Hampstead) issued an extraordinary call for the US to reach an accommodation with the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements in order to facilitate a change in the law so as to reverse the Supreme Court judgment in the JFS case.

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Please file under 'pending'

By Daniel Finkelstein, January 28, 2010

To: Michael Gove MP, Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families
From: Daniel Finkelstein
Re: Jewish school admission policy

● I thought you might find it useful if I prepared a memo for you on Jewish school admissions. I realise that we talk often about these sorts of things, but I thought it couldn’t hurt if I sent you a note of the kind I used to draft, as director of the Conservative research department for members of the Shadow Cabinet. It is an irony, of course, that in those day you were the Times journalist and I the politician.

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Tedious trade union turncoats

By Julie Burchill, January 21, 2010

One of my dearest Jewish compadres, the young writer Emma Forrest, once said to me — after observing me simultaneously talking to my cat, reading Heat magazine, drinking a blue cocktail at noon and watching the live streaming of Big Brother — “Wow, you really are a goy, aren’t you?”

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An MP's quest for Jewish voters

By Geoffrey Alderman, January 21, 2010

Some weeks ago, I sat down in front of my laptop to revisit my data on parliamentary constituencies with significant Jewish electorates — significant, that is, in relation to the degree of marginality of the particular seat.

The trend of the opinion polls suggests that the Conservatives are heading for an overall majority. But there are a number of imponderables, including the impact of so-called “minor” parties — primarily the Greens, UKIP and the BNP. Some polls are suggesting that we could end up with a hung parliament.

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Will our children stay?

By Miriam Shaviv, January 14, 2010

Does this community have a future? And if so, what kind of a future?

A recent conversation has left me profoundly concerned. Earlier this week, my husband and I hosted a dinner party for three other couples. Although we are all in our 30s, we were otherwise diverse: secular, traditional and religious; sending our children to both Jewish and mainstream schools; working both within the Jewish community and without.

Although everyone was currently residing in Greater London, two had emigrated here from overseas, and others grew up in east London or the north of England.

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