The JC Letters Page, 1st February 2019

Richard Jaffa, Lara Balsam, Gordon Kay, Dr Edie Friedman, Mark Boyle, David Ashton, Lyn Julius and Dr Stanley Jacobs share their views with JC readers

January 31, 2019 11:34

Soas must be curtailed

If the School of Oriental and African Studies, (Soas tops university hate list, JC January 25) is so determined to ignore government guidance on invitations to hate speakers and refuses to engage with Prevent, surely pressure should be brought on them by a reduction, or complete cancellation, of all  the public funding they receive. 

Their extensive links with extremists question the very need for their existence as a place of higher education. If they continue to act in this manner they should  lose any charitable status and, ultimately, if they persist in thumbing their noses at those promoting tolerance, their charter should be cancelled and the students absorbed into another part of London University. 

Universities are places for vigorous debate and balanced discussion. Soas is hardly living up to that.

Richard Jaffa

Kashrut? Vegan do it

V In her piece, Goodbye to kosher butchers if we all go vegan (JC, January 25), Keren David worries that, without partaking in meat, dairy and egg products, Jews will lose some of their Jewish identity.

However, being a Jewish vegan can greatly enhance your Jewish identity, rather than lead you to disconnect from it. Meals during the chagim take on an extra level of spirituality in our house as we search to find ethical alternatives to fish heads, challah (typically made with eggs), and the Seder-night shank bone, which I replace with roasted beetroot that “bleeds”. And this has been validated by rabbis worldwide, and is certainly a conversation starter.

Under modern, industrialised conditions, animals are reared for the table, which clearly violates Jewish values. Many rabbis question whether much of our traditional diet can even be considered kosher.

Now is the time to embrace the growing demand for food products that align with our values. Who says it is goodbye to chopped liver and chicken soup? See for loads of vegan versions of these favourites.

Lara Balsam, 
Director, The Jewish Vegetarian Society

I found Keren David’s article very interesting. I am reminded of Rav Kook, the first Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel, coming to London in the early 1900s to preach the controversial idea that all Jews should be vegetarian on the basis that eating meat was only a concession from Hashem after the flood. 

The response from the kosher butchers of London somewhat curtailed his idea, but even as someone who doesn’t eat meat, I support the right for people to enjoy it and be able to get it easily. 

I therefore understand Keren’s dilemma; eating less kosher meat will affect demand. However, I also see the current prices, and indeed difficulties of getting kosher meat away from the Jewish heartlands. It seems that the kosher meat industry is very insular -- interested only in serving their established Orthodox communities at a cost to everyone else. 

I knew a kosher butcher very well who said to me it was overregulated, with too much overhead going to shomers’ fees, many of whom had large families to support. Is there a way to make kosher the responsibility of the whole community? Can it not be democratised while maintaining objective high standards? 

By contrast, when I was in the USA some years ago, I was amazed at the range of kosher food available in mainstream stores on standard shelves. I went to baseball in San Francisco and the hotdog on sale for all was the kosher Hebrew National. It seems the US kosher meat producers have learnt the one great rule of business: expand your market. 

Rather than living in fear that shechita might be under threat, we should be selling kosher meat and other produce much more widely as being more ethical and of high quality. Indeed, “kosher” is one of the most well-known Jewish words among non-Jews as a byword for being done properly. 

Bearing in mind that we should look at how the animals are treated pre-slaughter, let’s see some creativity from the kosher meat producers.

Gordon Kay

Not right on far right

Vernon Bogdanor’s dismissal of the far right on the basis that they pose a “minuscule antisemitic threat” (Corbyn threat is much greater than far right, JC, January 25) is very worrying.  His view is not shared by the government’s former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, who wrote in 2017 that the potentially lethal consequences of the far right should not be underestimated.  

Neither is Professor Bogdanor’s analysis supported by the respected advocacy group Hope Not Hate. In their recent report, The State of Hate, 2018, they wrote that, while the far right is organisationally weaker than in the past, with far-right online hate and terrorism on the rise, Britain is facing an evolving threat to the social fabric of society. 

The report suggests that this ominous trend is likely to continue, driven on by a new and younger generation of far right activists. Professor Bogdanor would do well to study these reports.  And, as a community, we must find additional ways of working with other communities and organisations to find more effective ways of combating the far right — and indeed, hate from all quarters.

Dr Edie Friedman
Executive Director, The Jewish Council for Racial Equality

Expel this nonsense

Goats and monkeys! If I hear one more person, whether they be Jewish or anti-semite, bring up arrant nonsense about the 1290 Edict of Expulsion from England, I will personally beat them with a packet of Jacob’s Cream Crackers (the high fibre ones with reduced salt) until they learn the error of their ways.

Dr Anthony Joseph (Letters, January 18) is wrong. Oliver Cromwell didn’t revoke the Edict of Expulsion for the simple reason it had ceased to exist — like every other royal decree, it was de facto null and void the moment Cromwell abolished the monarchy for the Commonwealth republic.

Edward I expelled the Jews to erase all debts anyone in England had to them, so he could levy taxes to pay off his last, disastrous foreign war. 

That’s it. Forget the sauce, flake and sprinkles so often added to this distasteful business to make it any more deep-rooted than the actions of a gangster in ermine who left his son and grandson the matriarch of all messes to clean up nationally and internationally thereafter. 

Any Jew in London ought to make the pilgrimage to his tomb in Westminster Abbey to say “Good going, stupid!” 

As for Oswald Mosley’s silly interest, this was the man who had the Jewish boxer Kid Lewis as a parliamentary candidate in 1931 and as his chief bodyguard (the Biff Boys) until the lure of money from Hitler in 1934 had him disown his Jewish friends and supporters for short-term interest —and lost him every friend he ever had. 

The rest, as they say, is history.

Mark Boyle

London’s memorial

 Regarding Daniel Finkelstein’s argument about the proposed Holocaust memorial alongside Parliament (JC, January 25), no one can reasonably object to a publicly accessible centre recording the unique Nazi crimes, but if organised and regarded as specifically Jewish in history, and in predominant outlook and motivation, is it not likely to encourage antisemitism as well as reduce it?  This really needs careful thought.

Lord Finkelstein notes its purpose in promoting liberal democracy.  

In that case, should not all the other 20th-century genocides and political mass-murders be included, not least the enormous death-toll from Marxist-Leninist regimes, which also had their Jewish victims and ethnic aspects, as Lord Finkelstein can attest from his own paternal memory.

David Ashton

Where is Iraq’s apology?

Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27 coincided with the 50th anniversary of an event being commemorated in Sephardi communities around the world: 

Falsely accused of spying for Israel, nine Jews were hanged in Liberation Square in Baghdad. The day was declared a national holiday, and half-a-million Iraqis came to sing and dance under the corpses.

After 1969, more than 50 more innocent Jews were executed or died through torture in jail. Some 2,000 terrified survivors escaped through the Kurdish mountains.

In spite of the advent of “democracy”, the Iraqis have never acknowledged their responsibility for the suffering and forced exodus of 150,000 Jews, the country’s most ancient community. 

The government has never compensated them for confiscated property.

While the events of  January 27 1969 in Baghdad cannot remotely compare to the enormity of the Holocaust, the impulse for both was the same: man’s inhumanity to man. 

There the similarity ends. The Germans have done all they can to show contrition for the Holocaust. 

When will Iraq issue an apology to its Jews?

Lyn Julius
Harif — UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa

Foot note

I was astonished to see on last week’s Letters page the photo of a young Chasidic man crouched on a table full of food with his shoes on. 

Such bad hygiene should surely earn him a reprimand, if only from the Board of Shechita. 

Dr Stanley Jacobs 
London SW18

January 31, 2019 11:34

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