The JC

Letters to the editor, September 29 2023

Beigels, Israel and a new essay prize


2NADNME London, UK - February 09, 2023: Name sign on the facade of Beigel Bake bakery shop in Brick Lane. Brick Lane is the heart of the Londons Bangladeshi-S

September 28, 2023 12:41

A deep beigel hole

I agree with everything Josh Glancy writes about the beigel/bagel pronunciation debate (The way people say ‘beigel’ says a hole lot about their family, September 22). And I disagree with everything as well. Jews can do that.

I was born in Hackney (beigel) to East End parents (beigel) and grew up in Ilford (beigel) supporting Spurs (as beigel as can be).

Then I moved to Hampstead Garden Suburb (bagel), polished up my vowels, went looking for all the ‘h’s I dropped in my formative years so that I could converse with the indigenous of NW11 and during that sometimes painful process, I started buying bagels. Which were much more expensive than beigels, that’s for sure.

The cultural differences between the alternative pronunciations would appear to stem not from whether you started in the East End but more from when your family left there. Or whether you’re prepared to admit they were ever there in the first place (St Johns Wood).

So Josh Glancy, a privileged (bagel), Hampstead Garden Suburb (bagel) boy, who supports Manchester United (Eccles cake), has dug himself a hole into which he should now stop digging.

Andy ben Moshe
London NW11

Mechitzah madness

The news from Tel Aviv regarding the outrage by Orthodox groups about the “mixed” gathering to pray over Yom Kippur is just one symptom of the arcane and totally unnecessary mechitzah — the enforced division between men and women in Orthodox settings (Fights break out in Tel Aviv over gender segregated Yom Kippur service, September 26).

I loved being in shul over Yom tov. The United Synagogue is my spiritual home but this year I became far more uncomfortable with the fact that women and girls are relegated to passive onlookers, whilst men are gifted with full engagement and involvement.


The separation is predicated on spurious halachic reasoning and dates back to an “incident” in Temple times. The fact that families cannot sit together is one irksome symptom of this “rule” — but far more depressing is the relegation of women to bystanders.

Maybe a gradual move is required, with woman opening and closing the Ark or giving reflections on the weekly Torah reading, and perhaps chanting the Haftorah, for instance. And of course counting women as contributing to a minyan.

I really relish egalitarianism reaching into the Modern Orthodox world, just as it has in Masorti settings, and look forward to a more open and accessible shul that retains tradition and heritage but also looks to the future — a future without walls.

Laurie Rosenberg
Woodford Green, Essex

Lower case, upper case

Israel W Charny and Rabbi Avidan Freedman claim that the Jewish people have no monopoly on the terms “Holocaust” and “genocide”, but I have never heard of any Jewish appropriation of “genocide’”(Holocausts, plural, Letters, September 22).

The authors rightly state that “genocide” was coined to refer to the Turkish massacre of the Armenians, but it is now used for any attempt at mass-murder based on ethnic identity. As for “holocaust”, it originated from ancient Greek; uncapitalised, it means “wholly burnt”, originally referring to sacrificial religious rites.  But with the first letter capitalised, it has one meaning only — the “final solution” propounded by the German government, in which the victims’ bodies were destroyed by burning. Being anti-semantic, I prefer accepted usage to dictionary definitions — even the Dictionary of Genocide, as cited by the authors.  If you mention that someone perished in the Holocaust, how many people will ask, “Which one?”. What the letter appears to do is encourage the universalisation of the Holocaust by applying the term to any mistreatment of any body of people. The authors then excoriate the Conference of European Rabbis for planning an event in Baku, but to claim that it would provide “a stamp of approval to drown out the cries of the victims” is bordering on self-delusion;  if the President of Azerbaijan cared about their stamp of approval, then they should pass a resolution of disapproval and bring the present war to an end, thereby exercising more political power than any rabbinical convocation outside Israel.  Whatever the case, given the Azerbaijanis’ appalling treatment of the Armenian community, the authors of the letter are right to say that the conference should be held elsewhere.

The letter continues with a patronising homily, exhorting us, as Jews, to remember that we were slaves in Egypt and to “ensure that others do not suffer similarly”.  Again, they are quite right but I was sure that I had heard that before somewhere else and then I remembered that we have an annual festival called Pesach that provides a far more eloquent rendition of that message. In order to see this in practice, I suggest the authors come to Britain to see the wonderful charitable work we do to support not only our own communities but others in need.  Closer to home, I would remind them of Israel’s constant readiness to support victims of disasters and adversity in those nations that would accept their aid. The letter ends with a warning that “raising one’s voice on the side of the oppressor is a desecration of Jewish values”. They are presumably accusing the Conference of European Rabbis of doing this. In which case, I look forward to a recording or transcript of their collective raised voices praising Azerbaijan or its president rather than the Almighty.

Herbert Goldberg.
Pinner, Middx

Household name

Alun David’s review of The Maniac, a book by Benjamin Labatut about the life and work of the Hungarian Jewish genius, John von Neumann, dismisses it as a clichéed piece of work, in both thought and style (Huge ideas spread too thin, September 22).

He does not mention a book on the same subject, The Man from the Future, recently written by Ananyo Bhattacharya, a science writer with a physics degree, and as such, better qualified than Labatut.

Von Neumann was known as the genius’s genius, and considered one of the most influential scientists to have ever lived.

His work, more than anyone else, shaped much of today’s technology, from digital computers and nanotechnology to game theory, smartphones and much else.

He should be a household name but surprisingly is not and so both books are welcome.

The scientific contributions of Jews in the first part of the twentieth century is a story worth telling, because they changed the world of science beyond recognition, as well as Nazi persecution ending German dominance of mathematics and physics because of the Jewish exodus of scientists.

The US, previously a science backwater, became, and remains, the world leader as a direct result.

Warren S Grossman
Leytonstone, London

School courage

I was still living in England when the late Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits brought two experienced religious American educators to survey Jewish education, and I remember one of them, Rabbi Simcha Teitelbaum, saying, “The future Jewish community cannot afford ignorant Jews”.

Karen Glaser’s article is very sad (My girl was targeted at school…by the teachers, September 22).

She seems for a long time to have tried to persist with the public school model for her children until the virulently ignorant anti-Jewish, anti-Israeli attitudes of heavily politicised teachers belatedly convinced her that the Jewish school system is necessary for Jewish children.

From the moment our children were old enough for school they went to Jewish schools in Toronto, from elementary to grade 12.

The UK has been very fortunate to have had subsided Jewish education that has enabled a large proportion of eligible children to attend a Jewish school.

In the US and Canada parents have to pay huge amounts of money for Jewish schools, yet no concerned parent today lets their children go to a public school in either country, and today leading figures in the North American Jewish community are even cautioning parents against letting their children go to North American universities — even some where Jews were very successful in the past and that have been heavily endowed with Jewish money.

But the anti-Jewish, anti-Israel attitudes that are very rarely kept in check by the administrators who should be seeing that young Jews are protected are rampant on campuses.

Ms Glaser has had the courage to acknowledge that she made a dreadful mistake, and her story should serve as a very strong warning to other parents of young children.

Dr Joseph Berger
Netanya, Israel

A different league

V As a Chelsea supporter, I read with pride the article, Lord Finkelstein hails ‘exciting’ Jewish Chelsea supporters group (22 September).   Kol Hakovod to all involved in setting up Chelsea Football Club’s Jewish Supporters Group. 

As stated in the article, Arsenal FC and Watford FC have both recently set up groups of their own to bring together Jewish supporters.  Perhaps, some sort of Levelling Up here is timely, whereby football clubs in other parts of the country do likewise!  These three are all London clubs.

Based upon results to date, Chelsea may not win this season’s Premier League title, but they are surely among the leaders in combating antisemitism.

Stephen Miller
Stanmore, Middlesex

Essay time

The friends of the late Robert Silver, are pleased to announce the 2024 Robert Silver Essay Prize for an essay on a subject related to the impact of British Jewry on 20th century Britain.

The aim of the prize is to attract submissions from undergraduate and postgraduate students, young academics, journalists, and writers. Applicants should be a UK citizen or registered for an undergraduate/postgraduate programme within a UK university.

Essays should be no more than 8000 words. In addition, submissions should include a summary version of 500 words. The winner will receive a £1000 prize funded by Robert’s friends and family. A further sum will be paid on publication of a shorter version of the essay by the Jewish Chronicle.

We intend to publish a collection of the winning essays in 2026 in Robert’s memory.

The deadline for submissions is April 23 2024. The winner will be announced before the end of the 2023-24 academic year.

Submissions should be e-mailed to

David Herman

September 28, 2023 12:41

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