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The JC letters page, 23rd March

Andrea Alexander, Herbert Goldberg, Gad Levy, Carolyn Addleman, Peter Baum, David Berens, Hanan Charles, Laurence Julius, Maurice Lawson, Gary Mond, Mary Regnier-Leigh, Roslyn Pine, Natalie Shaw and Raymond Solomon, Mauro Weingarten George Severs, Leonora Samuel, Andrew Dismore and Dr J Spitzer share their views with JC readers

    More than one option

    I read last week’s article From Gogglebox to Government with interest. Josh Tapper is spot on when he says: “I feel like Jewish parents have the dream that their child’s going to go off to university to become a doctor or a lawyer”.  
     
    Both of my children left a Jewish school last year. One has gone to a leading Russell Group University, the other to a five-star luxury hotel as a chef apprentice. When the younger announced his intentions, the reaction was mixed with friends saying to me: “surely you can’t be happy about that”, or, “what about A levels?” 
     
    I am proud of both children for following their dreams and doing the best they are able to do in areas they are good at and enjoy. However, I honestly believe — albeit perhaps I shouldn’t say it — that my younger will have the last laugh. 
     
    Here is a child who is following his passion, working long hours in an industry that’s known for being tough.  However, my child is thriving, earning a very good, chef-apprentice wage, being sponsored by his employer for day-release at one of the country’s top culinary colleges and literally earning while learning.
     
    In the meantime, my other child has embarked on a four-year degree programme, potentially accumulating masses of debt with no guarantee of a decent job at the end of it all. Who is the happier and who will be the most successful?  
     
    It’s time that parents — and Jewish ones in particular — open their eyes to the masses of opportunities that are available to young people that don’t involve sixth form and university. If schools promoted apprenticeships instead of bolstering their sixth-form numbers, the youth of today may come out a happier, more well-rounded cohort.
     
    Andrea Alexander
    Pinner, Middlesex

    Unwanted guests

    The presence of an uninvited guest at the ZF 70th Anniversary dinner attended by Mark Regev, the Israeli Ambassador, was, in itself, a matter of serious concern.    
     
    It is of greater concern that the uninvited guest was Katie Hopkins, whose name is familiar for her ranting. The excuse that she was “a guest of a guest” is a ridiculous piece of damage-limitation that will convince nobody.
     
    Of greatest concern, however, was the appalling behaviour of Rabbis Mülstein and Surget.They were invited to a celebratory dinner, not a discussion group, brains trust or debate. If they didn’t like the speakers, they should have stayed at home.
     
    For Rabbi Mülstein to heckle one of the speakers was outrageous and reminiscent of the behaviour of those who regularly disrupt any meeting that hosts an Israeli speaker whatever their political hue, or disrupt concerts whenever an Israeli ensemble or soloist appears.
     
    For both rabbis and an unnamed woman to make an exhibition of themselves by walking out of an event to which they were personally invited was a further impertinence, as was the demand that there should have been a Q&A session. It was not their event, and if they really wanted to question the speakers, they could have invited them to address their own communities specifically for that purpose.
     
    If the two rabbis consider this an acceptable standard of behaviour, I assume they would not object to my attending their Shabbat services and heckling their sermons to object to Reform Judaism.  
     
    Herbert Goldberg
    Pinner, Middlesex
     
     

    The New Normal

    I was interested to read Miriam Shaviv’s article about the inaction of the Jewish community when confronted by the latest rise in antisemitism.
     
    She recognises the fear and the anger but observed that no Jews are marching, compared with the high level of demonstrations in 7/7, 2005 and the Gaza War.
     
    I recall in 2014 when 4,500 Jews marched and protested against the rise of antisemitism. It could have been the beginning of Jewish mobilisation. Instead, it marked the formation of yet another organisation representing the Jews denouncing antisemitism.
     
    It is not that we, as a community, don’t agree how to respond, as some suggest. It is that, when anger spills over into activism, it has been capitalised on by small groups, who claim to “represent” Jews. This weakens the impetus created by the fear and anger.
     
    Maybe now is the time to make our presence felt, like the small number of Jews of Glasgow, who recently marched against racism, not withstanding being outnumbered by haters. They made their voice heard and were not cowed.
     
    The time has come to reclaim the public arena that we have ceded to the Jew-haters. 
     
    Gad Levy, 
    London N3
     

    Naivety

    The decision of UJS to publicly castigate the Israeli government’s recent decision to deport some people who entered Israel between 2005 and 2012 is ill considered and naïve. Israel has taken in more refugees per capita and per square mile of territory than any other nation in global history and continues to uphold its international duties and moral obligations, giving refugee status when applicable.
     
    Surely the primary role of UJS is to protect and support Jewish Students on UK Campuses and not to make political statements affecting other countries. 
     
    As British Jews, in a country where antisemitism has demonstrably increased in recent years, the one true place we could call home if we needed to would be Israel. As we are not Israeli citizens it is difficult for us to fully understand the challenges that face the Israeli people on a daily basis and it is not right for us to tell their government or representatives what to do, in the same way as it is not right for Israel to tell us what to do.
     
    We fully understand UJS wants to try to do what it believes is in the best interests of Jewish students in a hostile environment but their current campaign will do just the opposite — betray our friends in order to placate our enemies.
     
    Carolyn Addleman, Peter Baum, David Berens, Hanan Charles, Laurence Julius, Maurice Lawson, Gary Mond, Mary Regnier-Leigh, Roslyn Pine, Natalie Shaw, Raymond Solomon
     
     

    Why oppose?

     
     
    Would any member of the Board oppose  the “opt-out organ donations” if the life of one of their family members was in the balance waiting for an organ transplant? The “opt-out” option is in many countries, including Wales,Spain, Norway and Israel, with Scotland soon to follow.
     
    In the countries where the “opt out” option is in place, far more lives are being saved. It is an option where the individual or family members have the right to choose!
     
    It is not incumbent on the Board of Deputies to make such important moral decisions on behalf of the entire Jewish community without consultation.
     
    I implore the Board to reconsider its judgment.
     
    Mauro Weingarten 
    London NW3 
     
     

    Help please

     
    I am a doctoral student at the University of Cambridge where I am researching a history of HIV/AIDS activism in the United Kingdom in the 1980s and 1990s, and wondered if any of your readers might have memories of Jewish charities and groups, such as the Jewish AIDS Trust, which they might share. If so, I can be reached via email.
     
    George Severs
    PhD Student, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge
     
     

    You can do it!

     
    Keren David ( JC March 15) is inclined to use disposable dishes at Passover because of the difficulty with koshering the dishwasher as well as the yomtov restrictions. This year, I’m also buying in a supply of disposable dishes and cutlery and have made sure it is all compostable.
     
    You can buy compostable plates, cups, bowls and cutlery online. Let’s make sure we celebrate our holiday in a way which leaves our world nicer, without generating extra rubbish that ends up in landfill. 
     
    Leonora Samuel, 
    London NW4
     

    Being supportive

     
    It is not often I agree with Theresa Villiers MP, but I wholeheartedly support her efforts to amend the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act 2009.  
     
    When I was MP for Hendon, I was responsible for the original private member’s Bill, which I piloted through Parliament to  become this Act.
    Inevitably, when trying  to get a Bill passed into law, compromises become necessary, so I had reluctantly to agree to the original “sunset clause”, limiting the Act’s restitution powers  to ten years, in the face of concerns from museums and galleries who might be affected and who sought “closure”.
     
    I am pleased that, ten years on, as the Act has worked well, Mrs Villiers’s Bill to extend its duration indefinitely is very welcome.
     
    However, like all private member’s Bills, there can be no certainty that, even with the best will in the world, this amendment will be successful.
     
    So my advice, as things stand, must be to remind anyone who may have a claim to restitution of Holocaust looted art, or other objects, not to delay, but to bring that claim forward now. Unless it is removed, the sunset clause will take effect next year and no further claims can then be countenanced.  
     
    Andrew Dismore AM
    Labour London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden
     
     

    Infant first

     
    In his call to regulate circumcision, ( JC, March 9), Rabbi Jonathan Romain states that “ultimately, circumcision is a medical procedure, so whether done for religious or health reasons, it should be monitored and safeguarded like any other medical procedure.”
     
    It is inconceivable that any rabbi would be unaware that, in Judaism, Brit Milah is not carried out for medical reasons. Its performance is a fundamental of Jewish religious belief and ignoring this undermines Jewish religious practice.
     
    In all cases, the primary concern is always for the infant’s health. In the UK, we are proud that the Initiation Society, one of the world’s oldest communal organisations, maintains the highest standards of regulation and is envied and replicated in communities worldwide.
     
    It is sad to see a rabbi undermining authentic Judaism. If not coming from a Jew, his views could be construed as being antisemitic.
     
    Dr J Spitzer
    Medical officer of the Initiation Society
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