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The JC letters page, 4th May

Paul Edlin, Adrian Cohen, Herbert Goldberg, Russell Waterman, Gordon Kay , Jeffrey Levy, Dr David Fligg and Herzl E Hamburger share their views with JC readers

    Board-ering on farce

    We refer to the recent reports in the JC (April 27) on the upcoming elections at the Board of Deputies. We are deputies and a former honorary officer of the Board and are greatly concerned by this matter. 

    While what has occurred may appear almost farcical, there is at least perceived damage to the previously impeccable record of transparency and democratic accountability of the Board in relation to its election processes. Going forward, we want to ensure that the nomination and election processes are seen to be unquestionably and transparently carried out fairly and correctly and in accordance with the constitution of the Board.

    We call for:

    1. The current chairman of the constitution committee to resign immediately — failing that, to recuse himself from further involvement in the current election pending his retirement at the end of the current triennial.

    2. An independent audit of the nominations to ensure that only correctly nominated candidates will be eligible for the election.

    3. The election process going forward to be organised and supervised by the Electoral Reform Society to ensure impartiality and fairness or the appointment of at least four independent scrutineers to guarantee transparent impartiality in the count.

    Paul Edlin

    Adrian Cohen

    It is a plot worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan. The Board of Deputies decided to end its current triennial with a Gibraltarian jamboree.

    With the forthcoming elections for president only weeks ahead, and buoyed up by the brew at the Rock’s branch of Costa Coffee, Simon Hochhauser huddled together with some of his backers and decided to make a last-minute stand for the top job, having previously ruled himself out. 

    Each candidate’s nomination paper requires 20 other deputies to endorse it but each deputy can endorse only one presidential candidate. With three other declared candidacies, accounting in total for 60 supporting deputies, Dr Hochhauser needed a legal “fix” that would allow each deputy to endorse more than one candidate.

    The principal constitutional adviser to the Board immediately ruled that this would not be permissible but then changed his mind.

    And then changed his mind again. 

    Finally, Dr Hochhauser managed to get 20 nominations and will be on the ballot paper.

    If that weren’t enough, Dr Hochhauser said that he would be unable to take over the presidency immediately if elected so another “fix” was attempted to keep Jonathan Arkush as president for six months after the end of his term.

    The conclusion to be drawn is that Dr Hochhauser could be elected only by overriding the constitution but the ends justify the means. 

    I would remind Dr Hochhauser of Elbert Hubbard’s quotation: “The graveyards are full of people the world could not do without”. 

    All that Dr Hochhauser’s intervention has done is bring the Board into disrepute, distract it from its sterling work fighting antisemitism and cast a shadow over the final weeks of the outstanding presidency of Jonathan Arkush.

    Herbert Goldberg

    Pinner, Middlesex HA5

    Hassell acted ‘fairly’

    I am disgusted by your call for the senior coroner for Inner North London, Mary Hassell, to resign (Leader online and P60). Without going into the varied and complicated arguments on the rights and wrongs of Mary Hassell’s so-called cab-rank policy, it is clear that your response to Friday’s announcement is vindictive.

    This was a difficult question of how to respond to religious demands in a supposedly secular society during a time of public service cuts and limited funds.

    I have followed your coverage as this story has unfolded, and your lack of foresight and sensitivity is astounding.

    Your reporting has been completely unbalanced and helped turn a judicial matter into a political witch-hunt.

    It is my understanding that Mary Hassell has acted in a manner that she believed to be fairest for the local community as a whole and sensible for those working under strain within a very busy coroner’s office.

    You can believe her approach is right or wrong, and thankfully we live in a liberal democracy where you are able to express your opinions, but the JC has turned this into a personal vendetta against an individual.

    You are calling for her to resign. Why? She is a hard-working human being like many of us and you would ruin her career for what?

    This judicial matter has now been discussed in the appropriate place. If she now chooses to ignore this ruling, then you may have a case. But thus far she has done nothing wrong. She has acted in a way that she believed was appropriate to protect the interests of the whole community and the coroner’s service.

    And, crucially, she also believed her policy had the approval of her superior, the chief coroner.

    I believe that, in the eyes of the UK public, those baying for Mary Hassell’s blood will eventually reflect badly on the Jewish community.

    Russell Waterman


    Not all about Corbyn

    I am surprised Miriam Shaviv (JC April 27) has such a fragile response to antisemitism and is considering moving her family to Israel to avoid it.

    She blames it all on Jeremy Corbyn, believing he is the sole reason for increasing recorded number of incidents. The fact is antisemitism has always been there and always will be.

    My children have asked similar questions and I have answered simply. There will always be people who choose to hate us, whether through ignorance or malice. The former can be solved by engaging with all communities and all ways of life, being ambassadors for our faith and culture, and learning and connecting with others. Knowledge can defeat ignorance.

    Malicious antisemitism is always going to be there, left or right, but I agree with the recent comments by Rabbi Lord Sacks who suggested that antisemitism is the litmus test of a fair society.

    You can blame Corbyn as much as you like for not properly dealing with antisemitism in his own party, but you cannot blame him for the rise of it across the UK.

    Our current government’s policy of hard-right economic austerity, anti-immigration rhetoric and a badly conceived Brexit referendum has done much to stoke the fire.

    Add to this the new aspect of social media adding petrol to the flames. Now, what might have been said to a TV screen or down the pub 10 years ago can now be published and republished with even greater ferocity.

    Working to build a more open, fairer and united society reduces antisemitism and other forms of racism and is a Jewish value. Compare what’s going on now with the economic and social policies of the Blair-Brown years and you will see the difference.

    I have great respect for those making aliyah, mainly because they are choosing to live in Israel for positive reasons.

    However, to consider moving to escape antisemitism is not a good idea; some of the world’s most vicious antisemites live in nearby states, with threats or actual acts of violence being all too common. Israel needs to show a military presence in most public places and there is a demand for all adults to serve in the forces.

    Compare this with the UK, with over 350 years of tolerance to Jews and a voluntary CST. Jewish people have senior roles in nearly every industry and aspect of society.

    Is that really worth throwing away, because one party leader is not doing enough?

    We need to increase our good work at showing the beauty of Judaism and what being a modern Jew in today’s Britain is all about.

    Drop the fear, and be confident. It will engage our children to be more active Jews and citizens, loving their faith and being of service to their society.

    Gordon Kay

    Brighton BN1

    Jeremy Corbyn quite rightly comes out in a rush of wind to give media interviews on Windrush. But where was he last Wednesday following his meeting with the Board of Deputies and Jewish Leadership Council the previous day? Not a puff of air to be seen!

    He left it to his comrades to put his case  in the media. He can’t even bring himself to face questions from the media over his inaction to deal with antisemitism.

    He’s just not fit for purpose to be leader of his party or, indeed, a potential prime minister.

    Jeffrey Levy

    London N2

    Pleasant Promenading

    Harry Levy and A. Miles (Letters, April 27) comment on the lack of any recognition of Israel’s 70th anniversary and Daniel Barenboim’s West East Divan Orchestra premiering David Robert Coleman’s Looking for Palestine, at the forthcoming BBC Proms.

    It should be noted, however, that an important feature of this year’s Proms will be the centenary commemoration of Leonard Bernstein.

    One of the most significant musicians of the 20th century, Bernstein wore his Judaism and Zionism as badges of honour, and his close associations with Israel in general, and the Israel Philharmonic in particular, are on record.

    After the debacle of that orchestra’s last appearance at the festival, with their performance wrecked by anti-Zionist hoodlums, one wonders whether they would brave a return visit, 70th anniversary or not.

    Perhaps, as Mr Levy fears, Barenboim might once again offer a post-performance, politically motivated speech. One hopes not. Last year, his glorious account of Elgar’s Second Symphony was sullied by a muddled anti-Brexit speech about isolationism, nationalism and European culture.

    Whatever stance Coleman’s new work takes —and let us not try to second-guess this — I hope that Maestro Barenboim allows the music to speak for itself, and for the audience to reach its own conclusions.

    Dr David Fligg,

    Leeds LS17

    Free of freemasonry

    Professor Geoffrey Alderman’s  comment  (Letters, April 27) that my late father (Sir Sidney Hamburger) advanced his public and communal career through his involvement in Freemasonry is totally incorrect.

    My father’s connection with that organisation was tenuous at best, almost minute.

    His position as an influential Jewish communal statesman was solely due his leadership, vision, oratory and a unique ability to connect with all strata of society irrespective of race, colour or religion.

    Herzl E Hamburger


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