I remember, as student, being aware of the unpleasant fallout of the Jacobs affair and after having read his book was alarmed how the so called religious authorities of the time vilified a very renowned scholar who probably reflected the thoughts and doubts of many of us.
Some years later I was again alarmed as Lord Sacks rewrote parts of one of his books under pressure from religous authorities. He buckled under this pressure and in doing so cast doubts on his own integrity as leader of the United Synagogue.
Once again the United Synagogue’s Rabbi Mirvis has sought to emasculate Rabbi Dweck for raising issues on homosexually in a rational way many of us find challenging and appropriate for wide discussion.
I am now of the belief that our family have no place in a synagogue organisation that denies Rabbi Dweck freedom of expression and having a commissar to judge his public speeches.
The “apology” by Rabbi Dweck was no doubt directed by Rabbi Mirvis who for some reason did not elicit some similar mollifying statements from Rabbis Bassous and Mizrachi.
In deciding to get involved and not supporting Rabbi Dweck the Chief Rabbi has done little to enhance his reputation and that of the body he leads. I do hope others will also think again about their synagogue membership and look for alternative synagogue organisations who are possibly more tolerant and inclusive and can provide a more moral and dignified leadership.
We do not want to see Rabbi Dweck gagged in any way. As a leading UK Rabbi his opinions on controversial issues are much valued and his contributions to evolving halachah highly stimulating and sought after.
How else do we reverse our declining synagogue membership without such debate from our leading rabbis? Indeed, how do we preserve our position in the UK debate as a leading contributor of difficult issues if we choose not to allow our rabbis to speak out as they wish?
Stalinist show trial
Rabbi Dweck’s confession could have been that of a counter revolutionary in a Stalinist show trial after torture and before execution.
Whatever has happened to Judaism as an intellectual democracy?
The unfortunate and demeaning war of words in the Rabbi Dweck affair is but one more example of religious leaders beginning to believe in their own infallibility, and intolerance towards those who dare to step out of line.
Galileo is the famous example — excommunicated and imprisoned by the Catholic Church in 1633 for daring to explain that the earth was not the centre of God’s Universe – albeit some 350 year’s later the Vatican apologised for it’s treatment of him and issued a stamp in his memory.
And let’s not forget our own more recent Louis Jacobs affair.
Rabbi Dweck, in his gracious apologia regrets the ad hominem attacks on him. Continuing in the Latin idiom we, and our religious leaders, might do well to remember the phrase quot homines, tot sententiae — as many men, so as many opinions.
What a relief that this storm has come to a sensible end.
The offer by Senior S&P Rabbi Joseph Dweck to have another rabbi run his eyes over the drafts of shiurim and lectures before they are delivered is simply good professional practice.
In my time as a management consultant our company rule was that no document or speech left the firm without at least a peer review of the documentation — this rule saved many a red face.
While the matter regarding Rabbi Dweck is now satisfactorily concluded there remains the more serious issue of the defamatory and vicious personal attacks upon him by self-promoting Orthodox rabbis.
Having listened to and read some of the outpourings of some these men I have realised that another rabbinic review of their attacks is essential to restore respect to the title of rabbi.
Who is investigating the behaviour of these men? Does Chief Rabbi Mirvis plan to hold further meetings of his advisory group to address the damage they have caused?
Will they be allowed to remain in their posts in the orthodox communities they claim to serve?
If we wish to “focus on promoting unity within our kehilla”, as per Rabbi Mirvis’s announcement, we should ensure that we deal fairly with those who cause disunity through verbal and defamatory abuse.