The JC

Letters to the editor, March 29 2024

The board, Purim and Israel


JERUSALEM - MARCH 25: People participate in the annual Purim Parade on Shushan Purim on March 25, 2024 in Jerusalem. For the first time in 42 years the Purim Parade is being held in Jerusalem. Despite calls to cancel The Parade due to the ongoing Israel- Hamas war some families of hostages are participating in the parade itself, with the first group marching consisting of a “bring them home now’ sign and yellow ribbon. The parade consists of 30 floats and seven stages along the one-kilometer route through Jerusalem. (Photo by Alexi J. Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

March 27, 2024 13:34

Marie van der Zyl and Michael Wegier claim that had Gary Mond, elected senior vice President, not resigned, “he would have been a serious contender for the presidency now” (This is the point of the Board of Deputies in 2024, 22 March).

Gary Mond didn’t stand a chance of remaining because, inter alia, he was against the two state solution, the Board’s stated position, and was predictably frozen out at the first opportunity, forced to resign under a contrived pretext to which he could not agree and still retain credibility.

They say that the Board “does not have space for people expressing the view that ‘all civilisation is at war with Islam’” - omitting context - but coyly omit to say that it does have space for the notorious “Kaddish for Hamas” deputies, for whom Ms van der Zyl “demanded respect” at her first plenary, as reported at the time, failing to appreciate the difference between a belief system, Islam, and Hamas, a depraved, proscribed terror entity.

The difference between the NJA, a fledgling group, and the Board of Deputies is that the former doesn’t receive a fair chunk of communal funds via synagogal levies, under the pretext that it represents the broad swathe of Anglo Jewry, unlike the latter, which does nothing of the kind.

And why does the Board have a position on the political route Israel should take, given that the Board’s constitution calls for it to support Israel’s security, welfare and standing, instead of positing that it knows better than Israel’s democratically elected government what is good for it?

Warren S Grossman

Leytonstone, London

The President and CEO of the Board of Deputies offer a “snapshot” of what it has been doing since October 7, as well as its “regular work”, such as combatting antisemitism in schools and universities and holding meetings with government and prominent world leaders.
Somehow its actual results in achieving these worthy goals, seem to be in inverse proportion to the degree of activity expended.
In recent months, for example, it was CAA that organised the huge march against antisemitism in November, gave expert opinion to a law tribunal which struck off a solicitor for his antisemitic tweets, was instrumental in preventing councils from engaging in BDS, and UK Lawyers for Israel that forced Tower Hamlets to remove the intimidating Palestinian flags from their council buildings…organisations that receive no communal funding as does the Board.
At the same time, the Board over many years has not managed to stop the hateful “Apartheid Week” on British campuses, where the situation has become intolerable for Jewish students on many of them.
Nor has its lobbying of ministers managed to stop the Saturday “hate” marches, which have been banned in France and Germany.
Marie van der Zyl’s many high profile foreign jaunts to meet political leaders, such as to the UN Secretary General, are poor value for money, given their actual achievements.
It is no wonder that Douglas Murray, in a tweet some years ago, opined that it is hard to put into words the degree of contempt in which Anglo Jewry holds the Board of Deputies of British Jews.
Dovid Rosenthhal
London NW4 

I am fed up with the leadership tango between the Board Of Deputies and the National Jewish Assembly.

I want to feel, in these very disconcerting times, that the whole Jewish community in this country is being effectively represented to the media, to government and to other faith groups.

I want that representation to be transparent and co-ordinated.

I want to have faith in it.

Rather than some competitive dance, it should be a circle dance, with all the relevant parties, including the Jewish Leadership Council and the Chief Rabbi’s office, and the appropriate Reform, Masorti, Charedi etc reps.

I care not if they have different constituencies, constitutions or funders.

They have to work together and be seen to be working together.

I care not if this is seen as a gross over-simplification.

It’s bad enough that Israel’s own PR is such a mess - let us at least get our representational act together.

Lewis Herlitz

Leigh on Sea

Many of your readers may not be aware that the king featured in the Megilla, namely Xerxes, who is known in the Megilla as Ahaseuerus, was the fourth king after Cyrus in the time of the rule of the Persian (Achmaenid) dynasty. According to biblical tradition, Cyrus, the first Achmeanid kings, had earlier allowed a group of Jews to return with Ezra from their Babylonian exile to Jerusalem, in 538 BCE (probably not from any sense of altruism but in order to bolster an outpost of his empire). This means that probably a good proportion of educated and nationalistic Jews left Persia in 538, so that their number was much depleted in 486 BCE when Xerxes began to rule.

Yet, in spite of this depletion of probably the cream of the Jewish population in Babylon in the time of Xerxes, the story of the Megilla is placed in his time. In other words,according to the Megilla, it doesn't matter about the number or type of Jews who exist in a certain area, there are always people who want them dead.

Dr Nina Collins

The University of Leeds

Arriving at Ben Gurion airport and walking down the ramp towards passport control, I was very moved to see the pictures and posters of the 134 hostages who have been held for six months in captivity by Hamas. Some of the pictures had messages added by family and friends with the length of time in captivity gradually amended as the weeks pass by.

Tel Aviv is much quieter than previously, with less people and traffic. Posters of the hostages with the caption, BringThemHomeNow are everywhere, and around the fountains in Dizengoff square there are blind-folded teddy bears painted with red streaks to represent the children who were taken hostage. I went to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and outside in the square, (now called Hostage Square) stretches the empty Shabbat table, set with plates, wine glasses and chairs. As it was just before Purim, many school children were offering hamantashen and sweets to visitors and stall holders, who were raising money for the hostages by selling sweatshirts and bracelets.

I went into the gallery and asked where the Impressionist art was. They told me that the exhibition was closed because of the war. I asked why and they explained that the gallery couldn't get insurance for the art work which was now stored below ground.

Although the mood was sombre, there were many small children with their teachers in Purim costume dancing on the Tayelet near the beach, and lots of shops selling Purim costumes, gregors and of course hamantashen were everywhere.

Returning to the UK, it is hard to hear the increasingly vehement calls for a cease fire without the corresponding demand for the immediate release of the hostages and the surrender of Hamas.

Kay Bagon

Radlett, Herts

My lovely Iranian neighbour arrived with a gift of traditional Persian pastries. I was happy to reciprocate with hamantashen.

Turns out that the old Persian New Year and the present Iranian National Holiday this year coincide with Purim.

We shared our stories. How is that for togetherness?

Ruth Lewis

Potters Bar EN6

Being a bit of a bibliophile, I am running out of shelf space, and so piles are appearing on tables and sideboards much to the annoyance of the boss. Now as any lover of the printed word will tell you, your cherished volumes become a part of what you are, and like pets and departed loved ones, parting becomes something of a trauma. Making the decision of what ones to donate to the local charity shop, or gingerly hand over to a family member is stressful. That is until i was told that the Black Country museum in Dudley put out a SOS for older books to enhance their new attraction.

It just so happened that I had squirrelled away some volumes from the 30s and 40s, books that once belonged to family members when they were children.

My family don't want them and their kids certainly don't, so I came to the conclusion that the museum was the best place for them, where they will be read and enjoyed by a bigger and more appreciative audience.

I also had an 1889 girls yearly compendium. This book with its photos and hand drawings depicting the history of the times, and illustrations enhancing the narratives, makes fascinating reading. At the museum the very helpful staff were hard at it sorting the donated books, and hopefully by September, when it opens, the new attraction with its extensive library will expand the hidden secrets of a time long past and almost forgotten. It should open the eyes of the pampered silicon chip generation to the world of steam powered machinery, gas lighting, cobbled roads and hard graft, and the amazing history of the men and women, who lived in atrocious conditions, and laboured long hard and tirelessly, for little reward, and died young - the very backbone of the Black Country.

Tony Levy

Wednesfield West Midlands

We hope you all enjoyed our Purim shpiel/shtick as much as we did.

The concept of this campaign stemmed from our exploration into creating a kosher for Passover Scotch whisky. After thorough investigation and research, we concluded: it's simply impossible to produce such a whisky. The ‘halachot’ of Scotch are stringent, so even a non-grain-based alcohol cannot be called "whisky" if produced in Scotland.

We’ll have to pray that Moshiach is a Scotch drinker, perhaps then we will find the solution! Until then, we're tirelessly working to bring you new and exciting – never-before-seen – whiskies to be enjoyed the rest of the year!

Saul Taylor and Danny Saltman

DS Tayman

Last week’s front page article stated that MCB head Zara Mohammed formerly worked at Mend (Muslim Engagement and Development). This was incorrect and the article has been amended online, with apologies to Mohammed.

March 27, 2024 13:34

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