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Christmas is when secular Jews go crackers

By John Nathan, December 23, 2009

A question for secular Jews: Which festival makes you feel most Jewish? It is hard to beat the piety that comes with the abstinence of Yom Kippur. But piety, surely, is more a Christian concept.

What about Rosh Hashanah? For me, the elemental call of a ram’s horn ushering in the new year sends me at the speed of light back to Rosh Hashanahs of my past. And to one in particular.

I was in that period of ostentatious observance common among Jewish boys in the run-up to barmitzvah. I laid tefilin, I asked questions. In synagogue, I sang loudly. It didn’t last.

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Israel-Arab dispute is a local affair

By Naomi Shepherd, December 23, 2009

The world seems to be obsessed with the Israel/Palestine conflict. It figures near the top of the pile of documents on the American President’s desk. Tempers rise in debates at the United Nations, which are punctuated by walk-outs. Diplomats and mediators shuttle wearily between Jerusalem and Ramallah, while vast media coverage has led to more complaints about partisan reporting than on any other news topic. All this for a struggle over a territory without oil or other significant reserves and with a total population, including Israelis and Palestinians, of around 10 million.

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I’m sort-of Jewish. Can I still join?

By Bryony Gordon, December 23, 2009

My name is Bryony and I am, in the words of Jonathan Miller, Jew-ish. In my 29 years on this planet, I have been to a synagogue twice — once for the barmitzvah of a family friend, and the next time, I seem to recall, on a school trip.

I could not tell the difference between Yiddish and Hebrew if I tried.

This year, in keeping with every other year, I shall celebrate Christmas instead of Chanucah.

I am a screaming atheist — I’m not in the slightest bit religious. And, technically, I am not the slightest bit Jewish.

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Auschwitz theft: sign of times

By Rabbi Barry Marcus, December 23, 2009

The joy of our Chanucah celebrations was dampened when we awoke on the 7th day to learn of the distressing theft of the infamous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign from the gates at the entrance of Auschwitz I.

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This is an attack on democracy

By Tzipi Livni, December 17, 2009

For me to be put on trial is an abuse of the British legal system, because it’s not about me, it’s not a lawsuit about Tzipi Livni, it’s not a lawsuit against Israel, it’s a lawsuit against any democracy which fights terror.

I am proud of the decisions I made as Israeli Foreign Minister in order to protect our civilians. I am proud of the Israeli soldiers who have taken action in order to stop terrorism and taken all the necessary steps in order to avoid civilian casualties in impossible situations.

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This ruling creates more problems than it resolves

By Joshua Rozenberg, December 17, 2009

The difficulty of the JFS case, said Lord Mance, one of the Supreme Court judges who dismissed the school’s appeal, “is that the word ‘Jewish’ may refer to a people, race or ethnic group and/or to membership of a religion”.

Lord Pannick QC, for JFS, tried to persuade the court that it was only the latter — and that its definition was a matter of Jewish law alone.

But the problem he faced was the Race Relations Act 1996. This bans discrimination not just on grounds of race but also on grounds of ethnic or national origins.

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My relief at the verdict for my son

By Father E, December 17, 2009

The father of the child at the centre of the JFS Supreme Court ruling who brought the original case against the school has spoken of his “relief” at this week’s decision.

The father, known as “E” for legal reasons, said: “I believe it’s important for people to know that the same Race Relations Act that provides such valued protection for Jews, as well as others, from ill-judged or misguided prejudices, also provides for the fair and equal treatment of all children within our educational system.

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It's the right decision for the community

By Lucian Hudson and Danny Rich, December 17, 2009

Liberal Judaism wholeheartedly welcomes the Supreme Court decision.

Although arguably legally complex, this issue is for Liberal Jews a simple one: Jewish identity is a matter of sincere commitment, and genuine identification. Liberal Judaism has, therefore, right from the outset, supported those families who have felt discriminated against by the Jewish Free School (JFS) Board of Governors.

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We will find the legislative remedy to this verdict

By Lord Jonathan Sacks, December 17, 2009

While disappointed that the Supreme Court, by the slimmest of majorities, was unable to find in favour of JFS, as a community we should be heartened by the fact that the court recognised the religious integrity of the school, the United Synagogue, the London Beth Din and our office.

The judges, without exception, were emphatic in denying that racism played any part in this case.

The most important outcome is a point made, one way or another, by eight of the nine judges, that there may be something wrong with race relations legislation as it stands.

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Both glad and angry

By David Lightman, December 17, 2009

After battling to get my daughter into JFS for over five years, we now have victory. While there is a part of me that feels a huge sense of relief, my overriding sensation is one of sorrow, sadness and anger.

First, because things should never have gone to court, let alone the highest in the land.

For the past five years we tried to talk to the Chief Rabbi, the Beth Din and the Office of the Chief Rabbi, only to be met with silence. We would have chosen a private conversation, but the OCR and Beth Din ensured this could never happen.

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