We at Amnesty International strongly refute your characterisation of a decision to cancel an event at our east London office as an example of our supposed “antisemitism” ( JC Editorial, Jan 26).
It is nothing of the kind and we are dismayed that you would describe it thus.
We regularly host a wide range of organisations at our office — from refugee and mental-health specialists to women’s rights campaigners and anti-racism groups — but we reserve the right to withhold permission for our building to be used for an event which runs directly counter to our own work.
We are currently campaigning for all governments around the world to ban goods produced in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank — which have been repeatedly condemned as illegal by the United Nations — from entering their markets, and to prevent companies domiciled in their countries from operating in the settlements or trading in settlement products.
We cancelled this booking because it became clear from the title of the event and the stance of those most involved that the focus would in essence be an attack on our campaign. JLC members worldwide represent a range of views, but vocal participants in the JLC — and UN Watch in particular — have taken positions on the settlements which are incompatible with our own. Israel’s discriminatory settlement policies have led to undeniable human rights violations, documented by Amnesty and other human rights organisations over many years.
We are advised that providing our own venue for this event would have put at risk relationships with partners and colleagues, both Israeli and Palestinian.
You may not agree with everything that Amnesty does or says, but the Jewish Chronicle should accept that our work is always based on key human rights principles.
The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion are central to our work, as is freedom from discrimination of any kind.
It is ludicrous to describe a principled opposition to Israel’s illegal settlements as antisemitism.
Director of Supporter Campaigning and Communications
Amnesty International UK Section, London EC2
I was dismayed to read your report ( JC Jan 26) that Lord Sacks “helped” Vice-President Pence to write his speech to the Knesset. Explaining one or two words of felicitation in the local language is one thing, as would be giving advice on historical accuracy of Israel’s claim to the land. Of equal significance, however, would be the need to give thought to the unacceptable political association of the person delivering the speech, and the messages that such proximity with that person might imply.
There is a sad tendency nowadays for speeches to be read from auto-cues and notes, the origins of which I treat with grave suspicion.
This is particularly evident in the new crop of politicians in our own Parliament, some of whom resemble sixth formers fresh from a debating society.
Oh for the days of politicians — and indeed clergymen — who expounded their own thoughts, beliefs and intentions.
Churchill was perhaps the last man to show this courtesy to those whom he addressed. You list the relationship between Lord Jakobovits and Mrs Thatcher, Rabbi Mirvis and Mrs May, to which could be added Lord Sacks’s frequent visits — of which he has frequently told us — to number 10, in the days of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.
They may each have their own interpretation of chapter six of The Ethics of the Fathers: “Crave not after the table of Kings” but mine is a more fundamental one.
Jennifer Lipman ( Why don’t our leaders condemn bad schools? JC, January 19) challenges those of us who support faith schools to “scream from the rooftops that you can offer an education with Jewish values that is not stuck in the dark ages”. I understand her challenge but would prefer to demonstrate this confidently and consistently, which many Jewish schools do.
I am proud to be associated with Sacks Morasha Jewish Primary School which, in the ten years it has been in existence, has developed a formidable reputation for both secular and Jewish studies as validated by its results, its rankings in various league tables and by Ofsted as well as by the success of its pupils in their secondary schools.
We are fortunate in the UK that the Government is prepared to fund faith schools and it is incumbent on all of us to embrace the national curriculum requirements, including Ofsted’s views and inspections.
Sacks Morasha — and I am sure other faith schools — demonstrate that these are no impediment to us delivering an immersive Orthodox Jewish experience and education for all students that is consistent with our modern and centrist Orthodox ethos. I am confident that we are able to help all our students to be fully committed to a life of Torah, Jewish values and to the state of Israel, but also with a strong commitment to Britain and British values, and who will make a meaningful contribution to the Jewish community, Israel and wider society. That is certainly our aim.
Chair of Trustees, Finchley Jewish Primary School Trust
I fully support Jennifer Lipman’s comments about unregistered schools in the Charedi community. Not only are these children being denied a good general education, they are also at risk from a lack of safeguarding procedures.
If a child was being abused or mistreated in any way, it would be far too easy to cover it up unlike in mainstream schools. Every child has the right to education and to be safe. Unregistered schools are a disgrace and must be stopped.
I have to agree with Mrs S. Myers ( Letters, January 26) regarding only being able to buy koshered liver.
While Mrs Myers may be the last housewife making her own chopped liver for Shabbat, I am not a housewife but also make my own.
I, too, was dismayed when I went to buy liver to find I could now only purchase a koshered product. I also agree that the process of koshering, refrigerating and then heating again is a minefield for bacteria/poisons to grow. This is one reason I do not eat liver in restaurants or at functions because for a very long time now caterers have only been able to buy koshered liver. It also alters the texture and taste. Liver should be cooked immediately after koshering thus avoiding any issues.
I have already written to Mark Goldwater, Chief Executive of the London Board for Shechita who explained thus: “The policy is that of the London Board’s Rabbinical Authority (consisting of the UK’s three most eminent senior Dayanim). The decision to implement the policy was taken by them after weighing most carefully all the potential issues including their knowledge that the majority of customers who frequent our licensed butchers may not be otherwise fully observant Jews.
“They are the rabbinical heads of ‘mainstream’ Jewry in the UK and are fully familiar with the challenges facing the community and essentially what makes them tick”.
I fully understand the “housewife” and myself not wanting to spend the time koshering other cuts of meat as this takes hours, but to kosher liver takes minutes.
If the London Board are that concerned, surely educating youngsters about the art of koshering would be better than to assume customers who frequent their licensed butchers “may not be otherwise fully observant Jews”.
If this is the issue, then give the customer the choice to buy koshered or non-koshered liver.
I suspect that the Dayanim will not reply as I have asked them to do. I also suspect that their knowledge of cooking is possibly close to non-existent as they have not taken into consideration the issues mentioned above regarding bacteria, texture, taste etc.
I still very much look forward to hearing from them.
Clive Lawton takes Mizrachi UK to task for organising a trip to Rome, Poland and Israel that spends only a brief afternoon at Auschwitz ( Letters, January 26).
While all Holocaust education is worthwhile and valuable, in order to begin to appreciate the full enormity of the Holocaust, it is necessary to understand what existed before the Nazis came to power. Only by understanding the rich history of the Jewish people in Poland for hundreds of years can one properly contextualise the mass extermination of six million of our forebears.
I would strongly urge anyone who can spare the time to go on a trip such as March of the Living, which teaches the participants about the story of the Jews in Poland as well as taking them to the death camps and teaching them about the darkest period of Jewish history.
I went on one such trip a few years ago and can honestly say it was a life-changing experience. The trip was greatly enriched by the presence of some of the amazing survivors who told their personal stories to us over the six days of the trip.
Those who can should go now while these extraordinary people are still with us and able to bear witness to the horrors they experienced.
The unnamed hero of crossword compiling for the JC deserves a mention. Turning from more serious matters in the JC, I always enjoy getting some of the more abstruse or ingenious clues when I can, learning some of the Yiddish that is needed, certainly getting to grips with Israeli geography, or screen stars of yesteryear, or distinguished Jews in our history.
The biblical names needed, with chapter and verse kindly provided, I’m too lazy to look up. I would just like the compiler, and the editor, to know that the crossword is a pre-Sabbath treat.
Moreton in Marsh