Polish Jews still thrive
Jonathan Freedland wrote an article (The Wedding Dance of Death, Aug 25) which was insensitive to the thousands of Jewish Poles still living in Poland today and inaccurately characterises Jewish life here today. For the past four years, I have been fortunate to be the rabbinic representative of the Chief Rabbi of Poland, currently working in Krakow. I have performed Jewish weddings, batmitzvahs, circumcisions and funerals.
It is a small but vibrant Jewish life in Krakow with daily services, Shabbat kiddushes, Chabad, a few restaurants and a JCC filled with life, joy and most of all — Jews! If Jonathan were to come and visit us he would see not that the “Jewish people are dead”, but that they survived and are slowly returning to proud Jewish living in a most unlikely place. He would see Friday-night dinners at the JCC where old survivors sit and sing together with young Jewish students, many of whom only recently found out about their Jewish roots.
The Jewish Community Centre here, built by World Jewish Relief, was opened by HRH The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall in 2008 and welcomes thousands of people through its doors every year. In the ultimate expression of Jewish life, we are opening a Jewish kindergarten in the JCC.In Warsaw he would find Reform, Orthodox, Chabad, secular Jews, a thriving JCC, youth groups, Hillel, young couples and old pensioners and everything in between. He would see Jewish life in Wroclaw, Lodz, and even in Katowice.
We invite Jonathan to visit Poland and experience for himself the miraculous revival of Jewish life in Poland after the fall of Communism.
Rabbi Avi Baumol, Rabbinic Representative of the Chief Rabbi of Poland, in Krakow
Emissary, Shavei Israel
In view of the defacement of a Holocaust memorial in Bulgaria, the rehabilitation of pro-Nazi groups and their odious doctrine in neighbouring Croatia should not go unnoticed.
In Jasenovac, not far from the site of the concentration camp, where up to 400,000 Serbs, Jews and Roma perished, a plaque has been erected, with a slogan used by Hitler’s Croatian henchmen, the notorious Ustashe. This is like putting a plaque close to Auschwitz with “Seig heil” on it. Although the Serbian government has made an official protest, the Croatian government has so far refused to remove it. The EU needs to address the rise of extreme far-right groups and their government sympathisers.
Dee Novak, Reading RG4
In your reports on the disaster in Houston, you mention Hurricane Harvey relief in the US and also the efforts of World Jewish Relief. However, the reports totally failed to mention that — as usual in world disasters — Isra Aid is one of the first to be on the spot. They are providing humanitarian help and relief as well as psychological counselling. Israel has also raised one million dollars for the Jewish community of Houston for repairs to synagogues, Jewish schools and community centres. These facts deserve to be mentioned in a Jewish newspaper.
Thea Valman, London NW11
Far be it from me to want to take unnecessary pride in an offspring’s performance but I feel it would be remiss of me not to point out that the aforementioned loin-fruit actually achieved 9 A*s and 2 9s at GCSE and not the erroneously printed 8 A*s and 2 9s. Clearly he takes after his mother.
Adam Bass, London EC2
JLC in spotlight
Two weeks ago, you reported a solicitor being fined £35,000 for antisemitic comments in disciplinary proceedings instigated by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA). The judgment was very complimentary about the work of CAA and its reasoned, fair and objective approach to the case.
Having worked as a courtroom stenographer for 30 years, I predict the one real-world consequence of JLC CEO Simon Johnson’s decision to accuse CAA’s volunteers of whipping up hysteria about antisemitism just to get headlines: when CAA now brings criminal and disciplinary cases against antisemites, the defence will cross-examine CAA’s volunteers, quoting from Johnson’s video, pointing out that a respected charity has accused CAA of exaggerating antisemitism.
CAA performs a valuable and thankless task for our community which Johnson may now have scuppered by handing antisemites a “get out of jail” card. Will he wait until the first prosecutions and fail, or will he undo some of the damage he has done and apologise?
Danielle Green, Manchester M26
Earlier this year, it was reported that bail conditions had been imposed on an antisemite awaiting trial as she had been posting information on social media about the families of the CAA’s leaders.
Though the CAA seems to keep all but a few of its volunteers’ names a secret, every time they appear in the media, they receive a torrent of abuse targeting them and their families. This is something I see from the safety of my screen.
It is outrageous for Simon Johnson of the Jewish Leadership Council to claim that the CAA’s leaders seek attention by exaggerating antisemitism. Only a masochist would desire the kind of attention that they get. If Mr Johnson cannot see that, then perhaps this will persuade him: since he issued his attack on the CAA’s volunteers, social media has been awash with notorious antisemites agreeing with him. The CAA is right to demand that Mr Johnson should apologise or resign.
Ruth Moss, Barnet EN5
Melanie Phillips (Sept 1) claims Trump didn’t draw an equivalence between the far left and the far right. But nobody claims he did.
Most people, except Melanie it seems, are outraged that Trump drew an equivalence between, on the one hand, Nazis shouting “Jews will not replace us” and surrounding a synagogue; and on the other, anti-Nazis who defended the synagogue from the armed Nazis. One of the brave anti-Nazi protestors was murdered. For shame.
Dan Susman, London NW5
Your otherwise excellent article about the murder of Sarah Halimi (August 24) states: “In February 2017, the alleged molestation by police officers of a French citizen of African descent was used as a pretext for demonstrations, riots and looting.”
The subject “Theo” required surgery for severe intestinal injury, video footage was viewed by millions and four police officers were charged with offences of violence.It was disappointing to read such dismissive tones about this, and the many who protested lawfully about it. Especially in an article concerned with the downplaying of another horrific incident.
J Levy, London NW11
On August 10, I sent a letter to David Lan, the Artistic Director of the Young Vic, in which I wrote the following:
“The Gaza Strip was never given to the Palestinians when it was part of Egypt, any more than Jordan gave the West Bank to them…
“In 2003, disengagement was proposed by the Israeli Government and enacted in 2005 under the premiership of the arch-Satan Ariel Sharon.
“According to the co-founder and current Peace Now activist Amos Oz, since then the response from Gaza has been about 10,000 rockets fired from there at Israel before it was invaded.“I am sure you were aware of these facts before deciding which plays to present, but audiences for Rachel Corrie may well not be.
“I hope you will therefore print large posters to be displayed both outside and within the theatre informing your audiences accordingly.
“I should be grateful if you would let me know whether or not you propose to do so.”
I have received no reply.
Ardon Lyon, London NW3
I was delighted to read the story in your paper last week about the wonderful interfaith project that Norwood is supporting, alongside London Buddhist Centre, Spitalfields Crypt Trust and Islamic Relief. It is very special and meaningful to see charities from different faiths come together in the spirit of unity, collaboration and friendship to raise much needed funds for these worthwhile causes.
It is so important for our community to reach outwards to our neighbours and friends from other faiths to show that, despite our differences, we recognise our shared humanity. I hope that Norwood’s example is one that many others in our community seek to emulate.
Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy (OBE) S&P Sephardi Community, London W9