Last week the United Synagogue made a particularly nasty attack on this newspaper. I have read more or less every edition of every Anglo-Jewish broadsheet since the beginning of time. But I have never before read an attack of such viciousness on any such newspaper, and I would never have expected such a mindset to be projected from within the portals of the US. Yet that is precisely what informed the US's email message to its members, also published on its website, to which I refer.
You may recall that in October 1a>the JC reported1b> that the US had deliberately carried out an indeterminate number of clandestine burials of stillborn infants in unmarked graves, and that as a result the parents had been denied the opportunity to visit individual burial sites. This now discontinued practice - of secretly burying stillborn children in unmarked graves - was certainly not confined to the US, or even to the Anglo-Jewish world; until comparatively recently many religious denominations in Britain kept parents in purposeful ignorance of the grave locations of their stillborn children. No-one can possibly blame the present administration of the US for this practice.
But the fact remains that US officials at the time misled and even lied to grieving parents, deliberately keeping from them the locations of their children's remains. These parents now wish - understandably - to locate these graves if at all possible. The JC therefore, with their permission, cooperated with the US's burial society, which undertook to launch a comprehensive investigation "in an attempt to shed more light on the sad events which had taken place more than 30 years ago". The report of that investigation has now been completed, although the US has not published it.
In its leader last week the JC condemned the report as a whitewash. In response, the US declared in an email to its members that "at a time when the tabloid media is so in the spotlight, how sad to learn that our own community's tabloid media is struggling to rise above the morality of the News of the World."
The report (which I have read in full) is indeed a whitewash. Whilst containing a great deal of interesting but essentially irrelevant historical tittle-tattle, and whilst waffling on about the distress that the affected parents must have suffered, it is silent – totally – on who was to blame. Not one name is named. In justification of this omission the US claims that it has "no way of finding out who (if anyone) was personally responsible". Why not? The names of the officials around at that time must be known. And, if they are still alive, and for the sake of accountability and transparency, put it to them that they owe the parents whom they misled a fulsome apology?
Instead of taking this sensible road, the US has sought to deflect criticism by rounding on the JC - "our own community's tabloid media" – whose standards, it claims, are scarcely above those of the News of the World.
The News of the World was shut down after incontrovertible evidence emerged that it had resorted to unacceptable and indeed illegal methods in its quest for news. Phone hacking is a criminal offence
If those now in charge of the US sincerely believe that this behaviour is on a par with that of the JC, then it seems to me that a question mark must hang over their fitness for office. If those now in charge of the US sincerely believe that the pursuit of justice is not consonant with Jewish values, as the email says of the JC's staff. let them say so.
And if (as the email claims) the US 'has no way of finding who (if anyone) was personally responsible for something which happened over a quarter of a century ago,' then let those now in charge at head office employ the services of a competent historian who (I wager) will have very little difficulty in digging out the truth, however unpalatable head office may deem this information to be.