Is it really a sin to be his son?

November 24, 2016 23:22

On Thursday December 3, Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in the High Court in London, delivered a ground-breaking judgment in a case brought against Home Secretary Theresa May by the wife of Egyptian-born Hany Youssef and their two children.

Yousef has been described as an Islamist extremist linked to al-Qaeda. This may well be true. But his wife and children - who have lived in the UK for 20 years and who have enjoyed "indefinite leave to remain" since 2009 - are of good character. Nonetheless, in an ill-considered attempt to "deter potential extremists," Mrs May denied their applications for British citizenship, a course of action rightly described by the family's barrister as having "no place in a liberal democracy." Why? Because, he argued, it is wrong to penalise a family for "the sins of the father". Mr Justice Ouseley agreed. "There is real unfairness, on the face of it (he ruled), in refusing naturalisation to someone who qualifies in all other respects, in order to provide a general deterrent to others, over whom the applicant has no control."

Mr Justice Ouseley has over the years earned a reputation as a fearsome hammerer of those in high places who think that, because they are in positions of power (to which they may indeed have been elected), they can more or less do what they like. But, in upholding the maxim that children cannot be punished for the sins of the father he was in fact applying a precept that flows directly from the Hebrew Bible.

For do we not read, in the Book of Ezekiel (chapter 18, verse 20), "a son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and a father shall not bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself"? Mr Justice Ouseley evidently knows the truth of this teaching. And so - no doubt reluctantly - does Mrs Theresa May. But, as for the honorary officer of the Borehamwood & Elstree (B&E) United Synagogue, I'm not at all sure.

The B&E story so far is that Dan Jacobs, a former member of the B&E synagogue and former secretary of the B&E eruv trust, is now enjoying the hospitality of Her Majesty's Prison Wormwood Scrubs , having earlier this year been sentenced to a well-deserved term of imprisonment on account of multiple frauds that he perpetrated to feed his gambling addiction. The major victims of these frauds were members of his immediate family; but it has also been alleged that he stole money (subsequently somehow repaid) from the eruv trust.

What has happened to the boy's father is irrelevant

Jacobs's culpability is, if anything, made worse by the fact that he is a former yeshiva student. What he did was not only illegal. It was morally reprehensible.

But the sins of the father must not be visited upon the son. In a few months, one of Jacobs's sons will reach the age of barmitzvah. The synagogue authorities have apparently decided the ceremony will not take place within the main synagogue but must instead be consigned to the room used for a youth minyan. The breathtaking excuse that the authorities have come up with is that the main synagogue has already been booked for a batmitzvah.

This is a ridiculous argument. In the first place, I have to point out that, in an Orthodox synagogue, a young lady celebrating her batmitzvah is not permitted to be called to the Reading of the Torah. The young lady in question could have her celebration and the Jacobs's son could still be given Maftir and read the Haftorah.

And in the second - and at the risk (I fear) of offending the feminists among you - I also have to point out that a barmitzvah takes precedence over a batmitzvah.

One voice that has been strangely silent thus far is that of the B&E rabbi, Chaim Kanterovitz. The JC has reported that Rabbi Kanterovitz and his wife have visited Mrs Jacobs "to discuss the situation." What "situation" is there to discuss? A young man is reaching his barmitzvah age. There is absolutely no reason why this celebration cannot take place in the main synagogue over which Rabbi Kanterovitz presides. The circumstances in which the young man's father finds himself are - as the prophet Ezekiel teaches us - totally irrelevant.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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