Geoffrey Alderman

I'm ashamed to be British

By Geoffrey Alderman, August 27, 2009

This has not been the best of months for the standing and reputation of the British judicial system. On Thursday 6 August, the UK justice secretary, Jack Straw, announced that he had decided to release from prison, on compassionate grounds, one Ronald Biggs. Exactly two weeks later the Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, announced that he had decided to release from prison, on identical grounds, Mr Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi.

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A wedding guest’s discourtesy

By Geoffrey Alderman, August 20, 2009

On Sunday August 9, a marriage ceremony took place in London’s East End. The bride was an investment banker and her groom the director of a training company and there were around 800 guests.

By all accounts (and there have been many accounts, since the wedding to which I refer was reported across the national press and on radio and television), this was a glitzy, upper-middle-class affair.

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Jerusalem’s district of disputes

By Geoffrey Alderman, August 13, 2009

The district of Sheikh Jarrah lies in the north-east quarter of Jerusalem. Beyond it rises the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University, reached by a highway that was, in 1948, the scene of the massacre of 78 Jews — many of them doctors and nurses — by Arab terrorists.

Today, the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood houses the headquarters of Israel’s police service, the ministry of justice, and the British consulate.

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Irresponsible immobile rabbisc

By Geoffrey Alderman, August 6, 2009

On July 22, the Beth Din of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations issued an encyclical on the subject of mobile telephones. The encyclical itself is — naturally — in unvowelled Hebrew.

So we can be sure that, as originally promulgated, it was neither meant for nor intended to be read by the generality of Jews in this country. No; its primary target audience consisted merely of a subset of practising Orthodox Jews, the word “practising” here denoting the observance of rules and regulations over and above those prescribed in the Torah and the Talmud.

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Catastrophe was self-inflicted

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 30, 2009

What are we to make of the recent decision by the Israeli government to require the removal of the word “naqba” from a textbook designed for use in schools catering for Arab youngsters?

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UK’s arms ban: pure hypocrisy

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 23, 2009

Earlier this month, the British government appeared to take the first step towards the imposition of an embargo on the export of United Kingdom-manufactured military equipment to Israel.
That is not how the news was meant to look. Indeed, it now seems that the decision was not meant to be in the public domain at all.

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So Gaza was disproportionate

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 16, 2009

Earlier this year, two military operations were undertaken in two of the world’s most volatile conflict zones. In the first, Israel launched a large-scale incursion into Gaza, following months of rocket and grenade attacks against Israel by Gaza’s Hamas government and by independent Islamist militias that Hamas was unable or unwilling to control.

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Can the Board speak for us all?

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 9, 2009

What does the future hold for the Board of Deputies of British Jews as it approaches its 250th birthday?

It is being said that, for the first time in its history, the Board’s leadership is now left-of-centre — not in any narrow, party-political sense but rather as a measurement of the leadership’s perceived position in relation to a range of communal issues.

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Could the whole sorry, not to say costly, mess have been avoided?

By Geoffrey Alderman, July 2, 2009

The time has surely come to pin the tails firmly upon the donkeys to which they rightfully belong.

To judge by my electronic mailbag, British Jewry is in a state of confusion over the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of “M,” whose mother was converted by a non-Orthodox Beth Din and whose application for admission to the JFS was, on that basis, vetoed by Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.

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Are all Jews in the news ours?

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 25, 2009

Did you know that David Cameron has Jewish roots? I must confess I didn’t until I read an item in last week’s Jewish Tribune. I was aware of Cameron’s direct descent from William IV and William’s fecund mistress Dorothea Jordan, and that Cameron is therefore a distant cousin (a fifth cousin, twice removed, to be exact) of our present Queen — though on the wrong side of the sheets (a fact upon which the Tribune was naturally silent).

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Women rabbis? Why ever not?

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 18, 2009

Avraham Weiss is one of the most dynamic Orthodox rabbis to have emerged in the post-Holocaust era.

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The real Obama ultimatum

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 11, 2009

Did Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo on June 4 signal a looming confrontation with the government of Israel?

As an example of political rhetoric, the speech was a tour-de-force. It confirmed — if confirmation was needed — that the US President is a great orator. It also confirmed the President as a risk-taker, and a courageous one.

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HSA’s policies need attention

By Geoffrey Alderman, June 4, 2009

The Hospital Savings Association (HSA) was founded in 1922, long before the establishment of the National Health Service. The HSA was then merely one of a large number of quasi-charitable bodies — many of them associated with the trade-union and friendly-society (including Jewish friendly-society) movements — that provided access to quality medical care in return for a modest weekly outlay. In the case of the HSA, this outlay amounted to three (old) pence per week. At that time, workhouse hospitals catered for the poor, and private hospitals for the well-to-do.

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It’s not Zionism that fuels hate

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 28, 2009

A question that has often arisen in recent times is: what are the causes of contemporary anti-Jewish prejudice? It is a big question, and it would require a great deal more space than a newspaper column to answer it in any depth.

Nonetheless, simply because a question has been asked before doesn’t mean it should not be asked again. Just because I’m a simple newspaper columnist doesn’t mean that I should not attempt some sort of answer. Besides, I confess that I have an ulterior motive in troubling you again with this topic.

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UK faith schools are not divisive

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 27, 2009

The riots that took place in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham in 2001, followed by the terrorist attacks in the USA later that year and in London in 2005, combined to bring about fundamental changes in British educational policy and in the manner in which British citizenship is officially articulated. In concluding that all these events involved Islamist extremists, we need not ignore the genuine grievances of, particularly young, Muslims.

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Why Bibi and Obama cosied up

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 21, 2009

On Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu met US President Barack Obama in one of the most minutely choreographed get-togethers in the history of diplomatic relations. The President can claim an overwhelming mandate to break with the policies of the Bush era. The Prime Minister can claim an overwhelming mandate to protect Israel’s interests in the international arena.

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Slaughtering of the opposition

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 14, 2009

The decision by the European Parliament last week to legalise Jewish religious slaughter —shechita — in all EU member states is a victory for religious freedom. It also reflects a remarkable pooling of efforts by a disciplined coalition of pro-shechita lobbies: the European Jewish Congress, the Conference of European Rabbis, and last but by no means least, Shechita UK.

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Beware ‘ethnic’ lists for MPs

By Geoffrey Alderman, May 7, 2009

Last November, I devoted my column to a consideration of the Speaker’s Conference that had been summoned to “consider, and make recommendations for rectifying, the disparity between the representation of women and ethnic minorities and disabled people in the House of Commons and their representation in the UK population at large”.

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No rabbi can ‘represent’ us all

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 30, 2009

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, soon to step down as head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, has never been afraid to speak his mind. But some off-the-cuff remarks he made over the recent Passover/Easter period are likely to have set several cats among the pigeons, though I doubt that his Eminence will have realised this at the time.

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Beis Medrash Elyon School, behave!

By Geoffrey Alderman, April 23, 2009

Beis Medrash Elyon is an independent secondary school for boys. It was established in 2001 and currently has on its roll some 45 or so pupils. Most of its teaching staff are part-time. It is an Orthodox Jewish faith school; indeed five years ago it took the trouble of obtaining special designation by the UK government as one of a select number of independent schools that are permitted “to take account of certain religious considerations in making specified employment decisions which relate to teaching staff”.

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