The JC letters page, 11th May 2018

Melvyn Lipitch, Frank Baigel, Martin D. Stern, Andrew Berkinshaw-Smith, Ruth Bayard, Brian Sacks, Renee Bravo, Charles Heller, Dr Habtnesh Ezra, and Robert Markless share their views with JC readers

May 11, 2017 15:25

State’s start-up

Jonathan Freedland (A rushed day of dreams when Israel was born, JC, May 4) writes that, on May 12 1948, the people’s administration voted by a majority of two in favour of declaring statehood.

However, there is no documentary evidence in the protocols of the meeting, of this vote ever taking place. This was later confirmed in a letter Ben-Gurion wrote to Mordecai Naor, from Sde Boker November 20, 1968 in which Ben Gurion stated he had no recollection of this vote.

The vote that did take place was whether to specify defined borders of the new state in the declaration, and to this proposal, the cabinet voted against.

Melvyn Lipitch


I have for many years followed the writings and broadcasts of both Michael and Jonathan Freedland, father and son, who were featured together in your issue of May 4.

However, I must take exception to Jonathan Freedland’s possibly throwaway comment that the declaration of the state of Israel on May 14 1948 was “for Palestinians, a day of dispossession, the catastrophic moment when the land they regarded as home was lost”.

As is well known, if the Arabs in Palestine had accepted — as the Jews in Palestine did — the UN November 1947 plan for two states, they could both now be celebrating independence in the same way that India and Pakistan marked their 70 years of independence last year.

I was alive and lucid  in 1947-48 and well recall the optimistic hope that two states would prevail.

Frank Baigel

Prestwich, Manchester

Equality not uniformity

It was heartening to read (JC, May 4) that Lord Justice Singh and Mrs Justice Whipple, in their judicial review of the North London Coroner Mary Hassell’s policies, were unremitting in their criticism of her refusal to make allowances for religious reasons to expedite the release of the deceased. They described  such refusal as which they described as “unlawful, irrational… discriminatory” and “incapable of rational justification”.

What was perhaps more important was their comment that: “What on its face looks like a general policy which applies to everyone equally may in fact have an unequal impact on a minority.  In other words, to treat everyone in the same way is not necessarily to treat them equally.  Uniformity is not the same thing as equality.”

This contrasted with the report (JC, May 4) that Bury and Whitefield Jewish School in Manchester, which was ranked outstanding in its previous full inspection in 2007, has been downgraded to a school that “requires improvement” because it is “not actively promoting the teaching of what is meant by cross gender and transgender… same-sex parents, and gay/bisexual parents”.

As the judges in the Hassell case put it: “the hallmarks of a democratic society are pluralism, tolerance and broad-mindedness”, not the doctrinaire “major concern to Ofsted” that primary school children be made intimately aware of LGBT issues.

Their comments might be used by as a precedent for the governors to seek a similar judicial review of Ofsted’s decision to prioritise these over academic excellence and pupils’ good behaviour.

Martin D. Stern


Not quite enough

As a community we have been campaigning that “enough is enough” and I was present in Parliament Square on March 26 this year.  However, we do not seem to have taken the message to heart with regard to our own community and all those in the wider community, like many Christians and Muslims, who oppose anti-Semitism.

On June 10 in Central London the annual provocation of the Hezbollah Al Quds march is due to take place. If we can muster nearly 2,000 people to protest that “enough is enough” with under two days’ notice, surely with several weeks to go we can organise a counter-protest of tens of thousands on a par with Cable Street?  Perhaps the Board of Deputies would like to organise this?

It is no longer enough for us to write to our MP and to Sajid Javed as Home Secretary (although I have done both). We must be prepared to back our words with action and show that it is not just the Jewish community who oppose antisemitism but also Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and many others of no faith. 

On March 26, I was delighted to meet both the chairman of the trustees of Christian Friends of Israel and the director of the Council of Christians and Jews.  I shall be writing to leaders of these and other organisations (like the Archbishop of Canterbury) to urge them to participate in a large-scale demonstration against antisemitism on June 10 in London. I urge others to speak with their non-Jewish friends and encourage them to join us.  Let us demonstrate once and for all that there are more who support good than support evil in this country.

Andrew Berkinshaw-Smith

Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Norwood in Redbridge

I was dismayed to read about the closure of Norwood’s Redbridge centre (JC, May 4) and did not feel any sense of relief at the so-called “win- win” described by Elaine Kerr, chief executive, after the closure was delayed from June until September. As former director of London Services for the charity, I was privileged to work alongside local families and championing groups such as Parry to build a thriving support to families in the Redbridge area.

This was of course many years ago when the community was still largely based in the Redbridge area and local authority funding was not in the dire state it is now. I understand that Norwood, alongside other Jewish charities is operating within very challenging financial times but question how this decision was made.

Are the charity’s trustees not aware that the community has now largely moved out of Redbridge into other areas of Essex and there is the growing Charedi community settling in Canvey island.

What analysis of need has been undertaken of people with disability and their families  living in Essex? The proposed council’s short breaks service will also be under pressure meet the needs of local families who rely on the charity’s support. It is also concerning that families were not told about this closure until recently when the charity bowed under pressure and extended their services for a few more months. Why were they not consulted about the proposed closure?

This is not a good way of involving service users and families and it is this particular issue that saddens me the most. Norwood must learn how to communicate better with all its stakeholders- not just North-West London donors and trustees. It feels like a backward step. If Norwood is to survive, it will have to learn how to do its business in a more respectful, professional manner. 

Ruth Bayard

Brentwood, Essex

Not all on board

I have in recent months made several donations of unwanted goods to a local charity shop, and as such have studied the effectiveness of charity shops in general, via the Charity Commission website. The past three years’ accounts of All Aboard Charity Shops Ltd show a fairly consistent income between £2.14 million and £2.32 million. The “Cost of raising funds” has also been consistently between £2.11 million and £2.27 million. However, “Expenditure on charitable activities” has dropped from £160,000 in 2014 to £12,085 in £2015 to £3,175 in 2016.

What this means is that anyone donating goods that sell for £100 can expect virtually every penny of it going towards “cost of raising funds” — including the salaries of the 66 employees. Less than 15 pence of the £100 will go towards charitable activities, and this of course is only made possible through the unpaid services of the team of 220 All Aboard volunteers.

If All Aboard did not exist, it is fair to assume that donations that they now receive would find their way to more efficient charity shop chains. For the benefit of the charity sector as a whole, should not All Aboard close down?

Brian Sacks

London N3

From tiny seeds…

Some years ago, Project Seed appeared — a programme of study for lay people. For six weeks, every Shabbat, the rabbi in my synagogue proudly announced that “Seed was coming to Ilford”.  On the appointed day, I bought a large note-book, and went to the synagogue excited by the new project.

I was met by a very apologetic rabbi with the words, “I’m sorry, Renee, but it is only for men”. I replied: “Then, why, in the six weeks that you made the announcement, you did not once say that it is only for men.”  He said, “I did not think that any woman would be interested.”

So you can imagine how pleased I was to read of the Talmud Study Day for women. When I started on my campaign to get women interested in the synagogue and the synagogue interested in women, I was told, “You are wasting your time. You won’t change anything”.

How wrong they were.

Renee Bravo

London, E18

Healed by Bernstein

You published a picture of Leonard Bernstein touring Europe in 1948 (Lennie — greatest of them all?’ JC April 27). John Freund, a survivor of Auschwitz, returned to Prague before being brought to London with the group known as “The Boys”, and later settled in Toronto.  In his memoirs, he wrote: “I lived as a 15-year-old orphan in Prague. I attempted to rebuild my shattered life.Music was a major factor in helping me back… The whole city talked about that tall, handsome American, Leonard Bernstein, a proud Jew… All the radios carried the concert. To me and other survivors, this type of event brought inspiration and hope for the Jewish people.  We were not completely lost.”

Charles Heller

Toronto, Canada

Ethiopian memory

Please join us this Sunday in remembering our Ethiopian Jewish heroes  in their sacrifice of their lives for Judaism.                         

Over 4,000 Ethiopian Jews lost their lives in trying to make their dream of Aliyah to Jerusalem.  They died en route and in refugee camps in Sudan. 

Their sacrifices, suffering and pain, as well as the indignities they went through, especially the women, during their exhausting long journey through the desert and waiting in refugee camps will never be forgotten. Even with the passage of time we may never really come to fully know and to truly appreciate what they endured for Kiddush Hashem.

Their memory will be observed throughout Israel on May 13.  Please join Ethiopian Jewry in remembering this loss of precious Jewish life in your prayers and thoughts on the upcoming Sunday.

Dr Habtnesh Ezra

President, Ethiopian Jewry


Leeds Reunion

Later this year I am organising a 50th Anniversary Reunion for alumni of Leeds University Hillel House, specifically for those of us who were resident during the year 1968-69 (see photo attached). The reunion will be at Leeds Hillel in October.

We have managed to account for all but three of us and I would like your readers help in tracking down Philip Rosen, Morris Newman and Dave Gold. If anyone has any information regarding any of the three please contact me on

Robert Markless

Kingston Surrey

May 11, 2017 15:25

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