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The JC Letters Page March 10 2017

Baroness Deech, Michael Freedland, Jake Leigh, Martin D. Stern, Ray Sylvester, Melvyn Lipitch, and Matt Plen, Chief Executive, Masorti Judaism share their views with JC readers

    Illustration: Getty Images

    The wrong priorities

    Lord Wasserman is right: Westminster is not the place for another Holocaust memorial.  We already have in this country about 10 Holocaust memorials and centres, in Newark, Hyde Park, the Jewish Museum, the Imperial War Museum and elsewhere.  None has prevented the recent rise in antisemitism and attempts to delegitimise Israel

    We should be asking why some students, who have studied the Holocaust at school, seem not to have made the connection between that event, and Jewish people and their state today. As a recent House of Commons review put it, "too many young people have far too superficial an understanding of the causes, nature and consequences of the Holocaust."

    Another piece of sculpture and an exhibition centre in Westminster are likely to be the target of graffiti and will need to be protected by a barrier, hardly the image one would want.   Some of the millions set aside for it would be better spent on improving Holocaust education in schools, and on preserving the memories of the survivors.

    Baroness Deech, House of Lords


    Writing a wrong

    Not good to talk ill of the dead.  That’s the rule. But early on in my journalistic career I was told that all rules were made to be broken.   And it was so right to break that one where Gerald Kaufmann was concerned.  He was not just an antisemitic egoist, he was a thoroughly unpleasant man.

    I discovered that when I was young, when I was asked by the JC to cover a meeting at Welwyn Garden City, to be addressed by the Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s principal adviser, a certain Gerald Kaufmann. I not only accepted the commission but also agreed to drive the speaker back to his home in St.John’s Wood, some 15 miles from where I lived. Perhaps I thought he could be a useful contact. 

    It was a journey of complete silence from him. He never thanked me for the ride, and when I asked about meeting the PM, the reply was swift:  “Why on earth should the Prime Minister want to meet you?” he asked, scathingly.

    Well, his boss later proved that he did. Mr.Wilson and I met perhaps a dozen times, notably for a BBC obituary to Golda Meir.  He even came to a celebration of my programme You Don’t Have To Be Jewish at the old Woburn House.

    Talking of which, Kaufmann came on to that programme to plug a book he had written about Israel - knowing what we know now, a surprisingly positive, but badly written thin volume.  “Why another book about Israel?” I asked.  “Because there hasn’t been one before ,”he answered.  I then proceeded to name a list of respected authors, ranging from Abba Eban to Harold Wilson himself. He got up and walked out of the studio.

    Michael Freedland, Bournemouth, BH1


    Choosing to help

    My name is Jake Leigh and I am 12 years old, about to have my Bar Mitzvah. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article you published about World Jewish Relief's work in Moldova last week.

    I was on the trip and I think it is very important for people to understand what the situation is like in eastern Europe, so that that they are not just giving money to charities like World Jewish Relief for the sake of it, but because they care and want to help the terrible situations going on in parts of Europe .

    Meeting Jewish kids my own age from Moldova was a highly fascinating experience because, although they are not in terrible states of poverty, they still only have a fraction of what we have here in London. Yet they still stay strong and are really proud of their Jewish heritage because it brings them together with not only other Jewish Moldovan kids; but Jews all the way from the UK like us

    After having been on this trip and experiencing the work that is being done by World Jewish Relief first hand, I will be donating a portion of my Bar Mitzvah money to this amazing organisation. I also hope to do lots more fundraising and help out in the future.
    I hope that people know what is going on outside the comfort of their homes and choose to help.

    Jake Leigh, Finchley N3


    Masorti is distinct

    My colleague Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner says Masorti is ‘a north London phenomenon’ and ‘Orthodox in all but name.'.  Rabbi Janner-Klausner should be aware that Masorti Judaism is a family of 15 communities all over the UK, including Bristol, Oxford, Liverpool, Leeds, St Albans, Newberry Park, Borehamwood, Hatch End, Edgware, Finchley and St John’s Wood.  The fact that our biggest synagogues are located in areas with large Jewish populations should come as no surprise – we pleased to be able to serve the mainstream Jewish community.

    Moreover, Masorti is a distinctive stream of Judaism.  While we share important values with colleagues in other denominations, our combination of traditional, halachic Jewish practice with a commitment to inclusivity, open-mindedness and equality, is unique. 

    Our blend of traditional Judaism for modern Jews is clearly attractive, as evidenced by a 50 per cent growth in our membership over the last 10 years.  As members of a Masorti community, my children – both boys and girls – take for granted that they are able to participate in a traditional service on the basis of full equality. 

    At Masorti, we are proud to be part of a diverse Jewish community that caters for a range of belief and practice.  I fully share Rabbi Janner-Klauser’s conviction that Jews from all denominations need to cooperate, not compete, for the good of the community.

    Matt Plen, Chief Executive, Masorti Judaism


    Laura Janner-Klausner is entitled to her views but when she claims that "Masorti are Orthodox in all but name", she is verging on the ridiculous. As the UK branch of the US Conservative movement which has voted this week to allow their synagogues to admit non-Jews as full members, it would be more accurate to say that "Masorti are Reform in all but name".

    Martin D. Stern, Salford M7


    God on top

    Simon Rocker's fascinating feature on the history of head coverings, (A blessing on your head - why the kippah came to be worn), reminded me of a conversation I had with the secretary of a school in which I taught. After a short Q and A about the names of Jewish men’s head coverings, I asked what was behind the question.

    She said that she had been watching a documentary about Israel on a TV and noticed that a man  wearing a kippah was leaning back washing his windows without his kippah  falling off. “Why didn’t it fall off?” she asked. I could have told her about hair clips etc but said instead, “It doesn’t fall off because he believes in God” . “Do you wear a kippah?” “Yes,” I replied when I am in the synagogue.” “Does it fall off?” “ Yes”, I answered,  “very often.”

    Ray Sylvester, Ilkeston, Derbyshire


    Never existed

    Professor Eric Heinze in his excellent analysis of Russian Jew-hatred, refers to "The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion" as a forgery.

    Describing it so implies there was an original document thus attributing to it a scintilla of credibility, whereas being a creation of Tzarist police, I suggest it be more accurately described as a fabrication.

    Melvyn Lipitch, London W14

     

     

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