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The JC letters page, 16th February

Sharman Kadish, Laurence Factor, Colin Linder, Marilyn Schiller Corne, Kay Bagon, Harry Levy, Stan Labovitch, Mycal Miller, Ron Davidson and John Tilsiter share their views with JC readers

    Saving our heritage

    Wonderful to see that Natasha Kaplinsky and the other celebrities who attended last week’s Parliamentary reception, have now discovered the Jewish architectural heritage. 

    Efforts to research, document and preserve historic synagogues, cemeteries and other sites of Jewish interest in Britain and across Europe have been going on for nearly 40 years. 

    I founded the Working Party on Jewish Monuments in 1991. Between 1996 and 2001, I initiated and led a comprehensive survey of the Jewish-built heritage all over England, Scotland and Wales  (including, of course, Merthyr Tydfil and Sunderland synagogues), mainly supported by the then English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The survey was extended to the island of Ireland (including Cork), the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and even reached Gibraltar. In total, I raised over £1 million for this project that has done much to raise awareness of the existence and vulnerability of historic Jewish buildings and sites locally. 

    The year 2004 saw the formation of Jewish Heritage UK, with myself as Founder-Director. This was the first organisation solely dedicated to protection, preservation and public access to historic synagogues and sites nationwide. The charity has carried out two Quinquennial Synagogues At Risk? surveys, published in 2010 and 2015 respectively (both are available online). So far, some £5 million of public funding, thanks mainly to the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage (now re-branded Historic England) has been secured for Jewish restoration projects. 

    In contrast to most of mainland Europe, whose Jewries were decimated during the Nazi Holocaust, Britain possesses a small but vibrant Jewish community (c.270,000 [2011 Census]) that has worshipped in freedom and without interruption for over 350 years. We are in the fortunate position not only of being able to repair and restore historic synagogues (for example, the Grade II*  Listed Middle Street in Brighton (Brighton rocked by UJS plan to sell Hillel, JC February 9), but also to keep them in use by living congregations. 

    (Dr) Sharman Kadish 
    (Director, Jewish Heritage UK 2004-2016) 
    Manchester, M25


    Free to speak

    The article by Yehuda Bauer is a timely reminder of how freedom of speech is being circumscribed, not only in the UK, but also elsewhere in Europe. 

    The article was a critique of recent Polish legislation that seeks to criminalise anyone who alleges that the Polish state bore any responsibility for crimes committed during the Nazi occupation. This would include allegations that any Jews were murdered by Poles during the period. 

    My understanding is that this legislation applies internationally and not solely in Poland. Mr Bauer is fortunate to live in Israel, which in practical terms makes him immune to prosecution for the content of his article. The rest of us will need to be careful what we say and who we say it to since those of us who live in the UK or any other EU state would not enjoy such immunity. If we breach the Polish law we may be subject to the issue of a European Arrest Warrant. 

    Surely another good reason to quit the EU (aka the Fourth Reich).

    Laurence Factor 
    London HA7


    Real fears

    Mr Feld asks (Letters 9 February) why should any Jewish settlers living in the heart of biblical Israel (ie as citizens of a possible future Palestinian Arab state) be a problem?

    I suggest that he stops and considers the murderous persecution that Christians (and other minorities) have suffered and are still suffering in Muslim countries.

    For example, in Egypt in 2017 alone, 128 Coptic Christians were killed and 200 driven from their homes. (Open Doors UK).

    Bearing in mind that Coptic Christians are Arabic speaking Egyptians, it is not hard to imagine what pro-Israel, Jewish, Hebrew-speaking citizens of a Palestinian state would have to put up with.

    I suggest to Mr Feld that there is a very significant problem for any future Jewish citizens of a Palestinian state, namely their consequent considerable reduction of life expectancy.

    (Dr) Colin Linder 
    Edgware, HA8


    Memories 

    As a native Cardiffian I was very interested in the article on the history of Welsh Jewry, and more especially so in the picture of leaders of the Cardiff community in the 1920s. 

    I was delighted to find my beloved grandfather, Gabriel Daniel Danovitch, in the group, between Rabbi Grunis and Rev Jerevitch. I also recognised Rev Hamburg and the first person on the left, possibly Abie Schwartz, a former chairman and a first cousin of my late father’s.

    I hope to be in touch with Klavdija Erzen to offer her further information which she may find helpful.

    Marilyn Schiller Corne
    Colney Heath, Herts


    Flying high

    Although there are now several inexpensive airlines which fly from the UK to Israel, the extra cost of taking luggage for the hold is high. (Easyjet and Wizz Air both charge around £30 each way per suitcase.)

    Since our family in Israel can’t live without a supply of English Breakfast tea and Marmite and usually order children’s books and other items from Amazon as soon as they know that we are coming, hand luggage won’t suffice. Consequently, we usually return to the UK carrying very little, so the large suitcase is abandoned in Israel — our relatives are now the custodians of an ever-increasing luggage collection. 

    Incidentally, I see that the old green 20 shekel note, has been replaced by the new red 20 shekel note, which was the colour of the old 200 shekel note… which is now blue, but the new 50 shekel note is now green. Confused? So was I! 

    Kay Bagon 
    Radlett, Herts


    Jewish values

    Regular readers of the JC are quite used to columnist Jonathan Freedland climbing on to his very high horse, sanctimoniously declaring his moral superiority over those who might not completely agree with his views, especially where the current Prime Minister of Israel is involved. As usual, it seems that Mr. Netanyahu, according to Jonathan Freedland, does not have “Jewish values”, which must have made things very difficult for Israel for so many years. Indeed, Israelis who might have voted for Netanyahu during the whole of this time, presumably, had no idea that this was the case. 

    Hopefully, we will have an article in the JC presenting an opposing view on the immigration issue concerned, so that readers will be able to decide themselves about the so-called “Jewish values” Jonathan refers to.

    Harry Levy
    Pinner, HA5 


    Agreeing with Jeremy…

    For the first time in my life I agree with Jeremy Corbyn: the chanting of “Yid Army” by Spurs fans has antisemitic overtones and has past its sell-by date. Until the club proactively bans this cringeworthy chant,they should be known as Tottenham Chutzpah.

    Stan Labovitch
    Windsor SL4 


    Urgent need

    When people go to A&E, they are not seen according to the cab-rank rule, but as a matter of urgency based on the needs of the individual. 

    Apparently, senior coroner Mary Hassell does not believe in the “triage” principle when it comes to burials. Having lost a judicial review in 2015 and been reprimanded in 2016, she now has people calling for her to lose her job.  However, perhaps it would be better if she were sent on a Diversity Awareness course and then given clear guidance as to how to improve her performance in meeting the needs of the various communities she serves.

    Mycal Miller 
    London NW2

    Memories…

    I was sad to read of the passing of Mrs Judit Beach.  Her husband, Mike was a fellow member of the Vintage Gliding Club and I did in fact meet Judit at an International Gliding Rally some 20 years ago. I had known Mike through our mutual interest in aviation but did not know of Judit’s background until we were introduced. As I understood it at the time, she had managed to escape from Hungary as the member of a dance group,then displaying in Britain. 

    Interestingly, Mike’s first wife was also a Jewish Hungarian, perhaps that was part of the attraction! I remember Mike as a very competent and skilled aircraft engineer who restored several elderly aircraft as well as building one or two from scratch. I believe he was also a designer and builder of diamond polishing machinery, which may account for his contact with Jewish people in the diamond trade.

    Although she must have been in her sixties at the time we met, I remember her as a very charming and attractive person.

    Ron Davidson 
    Leics. LE17


    Bread rises

    About a year ago the price of a challah went up by 9 per cent and today I discover that it has increased by a similar amount yet again.  Compared to “normal” loaves they are very expensive.  I have checked my copy of  A Guide to Jewish Knowledge which tells me about the use of “loaves of bread” but not that they must be of any special composition or shape. Do you think Hashem will be miffed if we just say the blessings?

    John Tilsiter, 
    Radlett, Herts

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