Geoffrey Alderman

A History of the Board of Deputies, 1760-2010

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 15, 2010

By Raphael Langham
Vallentine Mitchell £35

The writer of an official history faces multiple dilemmas. Should the history be focused narrowly upon the institution, or seek to place the institution within some wider context? Should the institution's archives dictate the shape of the history, or should a broader range of original sources be consulted? Above all, should the history be sanitised and celebratory or frank and critical?

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Methodist breach not enough

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 15, 2010

I have never believed in withholding praise where praise is due. So I applaud the decision of the Board of Deputies to break off all dialogue with the leadership of the Methodist church.

But I have two reservations. The first is that this breach is not as comprehensive as it should be. The second is that other Christian denominations have not been included in the sanction.

The breach with the Methodists is to be welcomed not simply because they have enthusiastically embraced a report on the Middle East that is a catalogue of lies and half-truths.

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Law snubbed by MP and a jury

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 8, 2010

Last week's acquittal of seven so-called "activists" who had been charged with having caused some £200,000 worth of criminal damage at a Brighton arms factory, must concern to all of us who wish to uphold the rule of law in this country.

What does it mean, to uphold "the rule of law"? Well, it involves us electing a parliament to make laws on our behalf, laws that we are all bound by - whether or not we like them.

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Watchdog has no bite or sight

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 1, 2010

On June 11, the JC Diary included an item about a submission I had made to the Press Complaints Commission. As some of you have been kind enough to contact me about this, I'm going to explain why I complained to the PCC, and what its rejection of my complaint means for what the media here in the UK choose to report about Israel.

In its issue of March 28, the Sunday Times carried an opinion piece by Andrew Sullivan, an Oxford educated Catholic who is said to live in the USA and to be a "political conservative".

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EU shechitah plan is troubling

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 24, 2010

Last week, the European Parliament approved a set of draft proposals designed to provide consumers within the EU with much more accurate information about the food products they buy. Among these is a regulation - still in draft - which, if endorsed by the European Commission later this year, will mean that shechitah-slaughtered meat that finds its way on to the general market will need to be labelled as "meat from slaughter without stunning".

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Numbers that don't add up

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 17, 2010

The counting of Jews has never been straightforward. Orthodox Jews maintain that it is forbidden to count Jews directly. Some say that in biblical times a half-shekel was taken from every Jew, and then the coins were counted.

Today, in Israel, the prohibition on counting Jews is side-stepped through the argument that the census also counts non-Jews. In Britain, the census now contains a religious identity question, but I have come across individual Jews who tell me either that they do not answer this question, or that they answer in a nonsensical manner.

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A Prime Minister's question

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 10, 2010

On several occasions prior to taking office, David Cameron was gracious enough to boast of his friendship with the Jewish people and to declare pride in his own Jewish ancestry. Unfortunately, I now feel moved to question how sincere those protestations of friendship really were. So, here goes:

Dear Prime Minister,

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A Muslim in need of faith facts

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 3, 2010

Mohammed Asif is the chief executive of Engage, a pressure group launched in September 2008 to "enable active citizenship and participation by British Muslims in furtherance of its aims to create a more inclusive and tolerant Britain".

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Experiencing Hackney downs

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 27, 2010

I recently spent a pleasant morning in Jewish Hackney, visiting some of my old haunts and marvelling at the changes that have taken place in the borough since I married and moved away from the area some 36 years ago.

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CST sledge-hammer, MPAC nut

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 21, 2010

The Community Security Trust seems to be seriously exercised by the antics of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee. Why?

It transpires that, earlier this year - well before the general election - the CST held a meeting with the Equality and Human Rights Commission raising concerns about MPAC.

The CST was particularly concerned about MPAC's propaganda activities against certain serving MPs whom it perceived as being either sympathetic to Zionism or Islamophobic.

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Special pleading's bad effects

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 13, 2010

At its recent biennial conference, Liberal Judaism's chief executive, Rabbi Danny Rich, warned his audience against "special pleaders" - by which he meant those who argue that faith groups should be accorded an exceptional position within British society.

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How 'aid' can be anything but

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 6, 2010

The road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. The peacemakers at Versailles thought they were creating a Europe free from war; all that they succeeded in doing was to prepare the continent for a conflict even bloodier than the one they believed they had brought to a conclusion.

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Clegg's not-so-liberal stance

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 29, 2010

By the time you read this, the third and final television debate between the leaders of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties will have taken place.
Whatever else happens on polling day, it is clear that these debates have changed the terms upon which political discourse is conducted in this country.

To some extent, the outcome of the poll is going to be decided by the public's perception of the party leaders based on how they have performed in these debates.

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The ASA drops its standards

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 22, 2010

The decision of the Advertising Standards Authority to ban an advertisement placed in the British press by the Israeli Government Tourist Office is not only wrong. Nor is it merely mean and malicious. It is all these things. But it also betrays a shocking partisanship on the part of the ASA, which has permitted its adjudicatory process to be prostituted in the service of rank political prejudice.

The advertisement contained

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So, there really is a Jewish vote

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 15, 2010

Even before Gordon Brown had journeyed to Buckingham Palace to ask the Queen for a dissolution of parliament, I had found myself on the receiving end of inquiries from the media as to the existence and likely impact of "the Jewish vote".

The fact that we can now ask these questions in public - "Is there a Jewish vote and, if so, what effect might it have?"- shows how far we have come during my own lifetime as an academic interested in such matters.

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Frum move back to the future

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 8, 2010

Three weeks ago, a meeting took place in London that could have fundamental repercussions for the way British Jewry organises itself.

Although held at the Maida Vale premises of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, the gathering owed its existence to the initiative of Jonathan Guttentag, rabbi of the Whitefield Synagogue, Manchester.

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Hacking off Hackney voters

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 1, 2010

Three weeks ago on this page, I addressed a serious communal problem, namely the tendency of our Charedi brethren to put their own interests above everything else. Citing several recent new stories, I referred to the seeming inability or unwillingness of Charedim "to consider their needs in the context of the needs of the wider society of which they are part."

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Bibi is right, Obama is wrong

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 25, 2010

Three weeks ago, the American vice-President Joe Biden visited Israel in order to kick-start what were termed "proximity talks." What this odd phrase really means is that, rather than pressure PA President Mahmoud Abbas to talk face-to-face with Bibi Netanyahu, Mr Biden hopes to act as the go-between. He will talk to one side, and then to the other. And so on and so forth. Whether this is a sensible way of going about peacemaking is a pertinent question, but it is not one that concerns me at the moment.

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Can we trust Gordon Brown?

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 18, 2010

Politics - I keep telling my students - is a nasty business, in which principle counts for little and pragmatism - cynical and often heartless - counts for a great deal.

The late Michael Foot, for instance, was a man of principle, and therefore a very unsuccessful politician. Tony Blair, by contrast, was a survivor, a Thatcherite leader of an ostensibly socialist party. Behind him, waiting in the wings, was of course Gordon Brown, a professional student of politics as well as a consummate practitioner.

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Religion, or mere self-interest?

By Geoffrey Alderman, March 11, 2010

How far out does charedi outreach reach? Just how prepared are charedim to reach out to their Jewish brethren, and on what terms?

Here is a selection of the many news stories that have landed on my desk over the past couple of weeks:

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