Geoffrey Alderman

Solomon Schonfeld: A Purpose in Life

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 5, 2009

By Derek Taylor
Vallentine Mitchell £45 (pb: £16.95)

Last year, Derek Taylor co-authored a work on Jewish Parliamentarians, the numerous errors in which were catalogued by Professor W. D. Rubinstein in Jewish Historical Studies.

Now, in a biography of Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld, Mr Taylor appears disinclined to learn from past mistakes — something he shares with his subject.

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JFS is inclusive - exclusively so

By Geoffrey Alderman, November 5, 2009

Last week, in a packed Supreme Court, I heard learned counsel advance arguments against and for the view of the Court of Appeal that, in acting on an edict handed down by the United Synagogue’s Chief Rabbi and so refusing a child (“M”) admission to JFS, that school had breached the 1976 Race Relations Act.

That this is an important case needs no emphasising. But, if anyone doubted its significance, the presence in that court room of the world’s press (to say nothing of communal representatives of every shade of opinion) ought to have settled the matter.

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Shimon, stay out of politics

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 28, 2009

During the recent Succot festivities, an extraordinary meeting took place in the succah of rabbi Yosef Elyashiv in Jerusalem. Rabbi Elyashiv — now in his hundredth year — is a talmudic sage without equal in the Charedi world. As spiritual leader of the Degel Hatorah party (now part of United Torah Judaism, which has two seats in the current Knesset) he also naturally wields a certain amount of political influence within as well as beyond Jewish state.

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Board packs a (puny) punch

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 22, 2009

There’s nothing like a good row to clear the air — and I welcome the revelations of recent discord between the Board of Deputies and other communal interests.

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Jews in unlikely places

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 15, 2009

By Tony Kushner
Manchester University Press, £60

Is it possible to write a history of Anglo-Jewry in which the Jews of London and Manchester occupy the periphery, while Jewish communities in much smaller provincial centres take centre-stage?

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Items to usher in a good year

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 15, 2009

It is time — I thought as I recovered from Yom Kippur — to reflect upon some recent good news stories. So, now we are into a new year, let me share with you some of these stories and invite you to join me in savouring the optimism that they project.

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Every chief needs a rich patron

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 8, 2009

‘While the Chief Rabbi prepares to don his ermine… speculation is growing over who is likely to succeed him as mainstream Orthodoxy’s spiritual supremo.” So ran the introduction to Simon Rocker’s reflections (JC, September 25) on the gossip now beginning to gather momentum, triggered by the realisation that Professor Lord Sacks has only three-and-a-half years remaining of his contract as Chief Rabbi of “the United Hebrew Congregations”. Who — if anyone — will succeed him?

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Excusing Iran is a fatal flaw

By Geoffrey Alderman, October 1, 2009

At one level, no one need be the least bit surprised at either the tone or the content of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s most recent speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation.

Not once during that speech — apparently — did Ahmadinejad mention Israel or the Jews.

“It is no longer acceptable”, the Iranian President insisted — “that a small minority would dominate the politics, economy and culture of major parts of the world by its complicated networks”.

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Bias within 'impartial' body

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 24, 2009

Christine Chinkin, professor of international law at the London School of Economics, is a much-published academic, the recipient of numerous awards.

On January 11, her signature appeared, along with the signatures of other lawyers, below a letter in the Sunday Times that was highly critical of Israel’s military action in Gaza. The signatories deplored Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel. But these attacks did not, protested the signatories, justify Israel’s military response, which, in the view of the signatories, amounted to “aggression, not self-defence.”

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Firemen ignore the real fires

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 17, 2009

This week, the Fire Brigades Union asked the Trades Union Congress to support a motion exhorting the massed ranks of the British trades-union movement to endorse a policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the state of Israel. Under the motion, the TUC would have to promote a boycott of goods and services originating from Israel, and do its damndest to encourage divestment from companies operating in the territories. Additionally, the TUC would be obliged to reconsider its relationship with the Histadrut, its Israeli counterpart.

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This JFS mess was avoidable

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 9, 2009

I have read few documents in the field of Anglo-Jewish history more miserable in tone and more immature in content than the “Certificate of Religious Practice”, which is now required from all parents who wish their children to be considered for admission to the JFS in September 2010.

Only applicants scoring at least three points in answer to a series of questions will be given “priority” status. Has your child attended synagogue (apparently any synagogue, however informal, will do) on the High Holy Days — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (two points)?

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BNP case is of special concern

By Geoffrey Alderman, September 3, 2009

Last October, the Conservative MP for Monmouth, David Davies, addressed the annual conference of the National Black Police Association. Mr Davies had apparently been invited by mistake — the NBPA had meant to ask the former shadow Home Secretary, David Davis. No matter, Mr Davies is a special constable.

The speech he gave clearly arrested his audience — so much so that, while some gave him the slow handclap, others simply walked out.

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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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