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The JC letters page, 29th December

Sharon Jacobs, John Bowers QC, Gordon Kay, Alison Ryde,  Dr Michael Ingram, Herschel Zimonas, and Laurence Miller share their views with JC readers

    Synagogue memories

    It is with some sadness that I read of the demise of Higher Crumpsall and Higher Broughton Shul. Although I now live in London, I have a strong family connection with Crumpsall. My parents and my husband and I married in this shul. The Bloomenfield and Weinstein families  have a long history and were instrumental in doing various carpentry and upholstery repairs —  I often saw my uncle Jack repairing the rollers of the Sefer Torah on his dining-room table.

    The memories of the choir, Rev Hillman and the view from the ladies’ galleries from early childhood will be cherished. For some years, I would return on Rosh Hashanah rather than stay in London.

    Such an iconic building deserves preservation and to find a new role within the Jewish community.

    Sharon Jacobs (née Weinstein) 
    London N20 

    In her otherwise admirable article about the Crumpsall shul, Jenni Frazer made the unforgivable error that the Grimsby shul has closed. Having been there a week ago, I can report that the beautiful synagogue is still operating. There are services once a month on Friday nights and Jonathan Arkush takes our wonderful Yom Kippur service. 

    We have had a recent influx of congregants from Israel and South Africa (well, four people have joined!).

    We have continued to operate when larger congregations have faltered, largely because of the close-knit nature of the community and the dedication of a small number of people (and the Grimsby diaspora who are willing to return). 

    Long may it continue to thrive. If any of you wish to visit, let us know

    John Bowers QC
    Brasenose College, Oxford


    Corbyn and Chanukah

    I disagree with Miriam Shaviv’s view that Jeremy Corbyn should not be invited to light a chanukiah outside the remit of the Labour party or only have connections via official channels. 

    It is appropriate for Jewish organisations to invite their local MP. In this case, it is even more significant as we need to respect his position as Leader of the Opposition and potential future prime minister.  While I find his stance on antisemitism in the Labour party weak and ineffective, by showing respect we may be able to build a more positive relationship with him. It is not just important for the future, but shows us Jews as respectful of the political system that we have. 

    As for sources of antisemitism, can this paper look beyond Corbyn’s Labour party? Your paper rarely focuses on the link between the rise in antisemitism, and extreme economic and social inequality. The source is not Corbyn but years of Conservative austerity policies. Most of the Jewish heartlands have been protected from the impact of the policies, but people across the country are angry. 

    Theresa May and David Cameron’s support of Israel and Jewish organisations is without doubt, but the impact of their policies has allowed antisemitism to rear its head. This has been inflamed by an ill-conceived Brexit vote which has made this government the most nationalist in decades. This does not happen in societies at ease with themselves. 

    Gordon Kay, 
    Brighton, BN1 


    Help needed

    A splendid new Ark is being installed in the Oxford Jewish Centre.  We rejoice in a number of alumni and visitors who continue their relationship with the Oxford Jewish Congregation, but the task of maintaining contact with them has proved challenging. We have succeeded in raising about 90 per cent of our target of £150,000 for a completely new Ark and bimah, and the official dedication will be in February.  We would be delighted for any of our alumni and OJC past members to get in touch.  Please contact president@ojc-online.org 

    Alison Ryde 
    President OJC


    Travels to India

    Your article on the Restoration of Kolkata’s shuls (JC, Dec 22) highlighted the difficulty that this tiny community has getting a minyan. That very difficulty provided one of the most memorable moments in my travels when, back in 2012, I was called on to make up the number. 

    Thanks to visitors from Mumbai, they had managed to muster nine men and the prospect of a minyan was tantalisingly realisable. It was an amazing privilege for my friend and I to respond to that call which meant they could leyn and say Kaddish in that historic Ezra shul for the first time in  14 years. I remember the shammas in tears as he read from the ancient, faded Sefer Torah. 

    We were rewarded with a  post-Kiddush tour of the other  stunning Victorian shuls, normally kept secure and protected as historic monuments, but opened up for us to admire —  an additional privileged reward  of our visit to this fascinating city. 

    Dr Michael Ingram, 
    Radlett, Herts


    Hard truths

    I cannot understand why Jonathan Boyd (How to meet the multicultural challenge), and, indeed, the JC itself are so reluctant to confront the real issue with the Islamic centre in Golders Green.

    Why is everyone bending over backwards to make excuses for the centre? Mr Boyd says that, “close to half of all British Muslims dismiss all anti-Jewish tropes”, which is jolly nice of them, but it does mean that more than half don’t dismiss such tropes. If “close to half” of all British non-Muslims didn’t dismiss anti-Muslim tropes, I doubt Mr Boyd would dismiss the findings so lightly.

    If Islam were as truly benign as we are constantly being exhorted to believe, there’d be no need for exhortation. And if this were a Hindu or Buddhist or Sikh centre, it would probably just rate an “and finally” paragraph in the Hendon Times, and be genuinely welcomed.

    Hostility to an Islamic centre has nothing to with parking, multiculturalism or Islamophobia, and everything to do with security.

    Leaving aside the many reports of British Islamists running away to fight with ISIS or plotting havoc in the UK, somewhat closer to home,  local MP Mike Freer has been accused of being a “Jewish pig”. He isn’t Jewish, but that tells you all you need to know.

    How soon before similar attacks on actual Jews and Jewish businesses in the area become commonplace?

    In the meantime, the North Finchley mosque remains freely accessible, while local synagogues all have security gates and 24-hour security patrols.

    Herschel Zimonas 
    London N12 


    Colour Coded

    Another addition to Ian Kay’s rabbinical snooker table might have been my late grandfather, Rabbi Joseph Green Z’L ,the first Rosh Yeshiva Etz Chaim and Rav of the Great Garden Street Synagogue in London’s East End.

    Laurence Miller
    London NW11

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