The JC letters page, 1st June 2018

Anthony Melnikoff JP, Yehudis Fletcher, Neville Goldschneider, Howard Brecker and Mike & Judy Baum share their views with JC readers

June 01, 2017 15:25

Charedi blinkers

Using a nom-de-plume because “writing for the JC is not part of [his kollel’s] curriculum”, “Leibel Black” (JC, May 25) extols the merits of Charedi schools as being the “true model of British values. “The fact that these very same schools educate some of the most law-abiding citizens of the UK is ignored. The fact that these children are being educated in schools where violence and drug use are unknown is ignored. The fact that these children are happy and well taken care of is ignored”. Really?

I retired recently as a magistrate, sitting as Bench Chairman in both the Criminal and Family Courts — the latter dealing primarily with children at risk —  and on appeals in the Crown Court. I also received specialist training to chair domestic abuse cases. 

Nowadays, I volunteer at a weekly “drop-in centre” for abuse victims run by the London Borough of Barnet and do periodic work for a number of abuse charities, including Jewish Women’s Aid (JWA).

There is no evidence that such abuse is any more prevalent among the Charedi community than in any other section of UK society. But there is evidence it is no less prevalent.

The difference is that such cases are often “swept under the carpet”, with victims reluctant to come forward for fear of being ostracised and, in many cases, cut off from their own community. The first abuse case I handled after my appointment was one such. 

A recent report by JWA estimated that one in four women in the Jewish community suffer domestic abuse — using the legal definition of such abuse as including not just physical, but also mental, emotional, verbal, psychological, sexual, as well as coercive and controlling behaviour. This spread evenly across all sections of the community, including Charedi.

For this reason, JWA employs specialist counsellors from within the Charedi community to help such victims, though one such counsellor I spoke to a few years ago quit after being threatened with physical violence.

However, there is now evidence, from the increased number of victims visiting both JWA and my own drop-in centre, that perhaps those victims are becoming less reluctant to admit to and seek help for the abuse they receive.

In December 2015, a conference took place in Jerusalem, attended by over 1,000 Strictly Orthodox Jews from around the world, “to tackle some of their communities’ darkest taboos: sexual abuse and domestic violence”. One delegate, Dayan Avrohom Union from the Rabbinical Council of California, admitted that, “Yeshiva didn’t prepare us for this”.

But it does not end there, and despite Mr “Black’s” assertions, there is evidence of both drug abuse — mostly crack cocaine —  as well as addictive gambling among sectors of Charedi youth, some of this leading to criminal activity. In a case in which I myself was involved, which was reported in the national press and the JC, three Charedi youths admitted breaking into a synagogue and stealing car keys, selling the car to help towards paying off gambling debts.

A few months later, one of them was back in court accused of breaking into a school and stealing several laptops for the same purpose.

Testimonies I read talked of “the sheer monotony of (their) lives, the endless rules, restrictions, and prohibitions”, that led them on to this path. A Manchester Charedi rabbi, who did not wish to be named, admitted this was a growing problem but that his fellow rabbis “had no awareness of the problems, and did not speak out about it”. Sadly, too, for every youth wishing to purchase one of these “products”, there is another member of the community willing and able to supply it.

Perhaps if Mr “Black” took time out from his kollel to observe the world in which he grew up, he may conclude it is not such a role model after all.

Anthony Melnikoff JP


“Leibel Black” says that Ofsted are ignoring the fact that children in Charedi schools are well taken care of and that the Charedi community is law-abiding.

When I was 15, I was sexually abused by Todros Grynhaus. Grynhaus was a known sex offender yet he managed to secure a series of teaching posts at Charedi schools. Each time his crimes grew too ugly to ignore, he was moved on to another school.

He was also allowed to open and run a residential summer camp.

Leading educators, dayanim and rabbanim in the UK, Israel and Lakewood, NJ, were consulted along the way. They knew what he was doing and made the decision not to report him.

Moreover, when it came to his arrest and subsequent trial, only two rabbis — Rabbi S F Zimmerman and Rabbi G Miller — co-operated with the prosecution. Several gave evidence defending him and more than one lied under oath.

It is fair to say that the children taught by Grynhaus were not well taken care of and neither he nor the rabbis who protected him were law-abiding.

Unfortunately, Grynhaus is not unique, and the protection he received is so common it is what people in the Charedi community expect.

Ofsted is not blind to any of this.

I understand the instinct is to shy away from discussing anything to do with sex and relationships in school environments but the Charedi community must begin to value safety over innocence.

Yehudis Fletcher

Contact address supplied

I grew up Charedi and gay. When I was 17, I told my parents. They told me I was mistaken. I told my rabbi. He told me that same-sex attraction is normal and it goes away when you get married.

A year later, a marriage was arranged for me. I have a large family now and these children were born out of struggle and dysfunction instead of love and commitment.

Ofsted is arguing for people like me to have the tools and resources we need in our youth, before marriages are arranged for us and a spouse and then children end up suffering, too.

Name and address supplied

We help Swan sufferers

The article (JC, May 25) about the Myers and Beaton families and their children who live with syndromes without a name (SWAN) really struck a chord with all of us at Camp Simcha.

Danielle Myers’s comments particularly resonated with us when she referred to the family never going on holiday, that she and her husband never have time to spend together, and the effect on their daughter Scarlett of her brother Dylan’s illness.

Camp Simcha understands how serious childhood illness affects the whole family and limits the quality time they can spend together.

Accordingly, many of our services have been carefully designed to make a difference in this area. For example, our family retreats are special residential breaks offering a rare chance for the whole family to relax and enjoy some time and wonderful activities together, with all their medical needs catered for.

We also know that siblings can be the forgotten sufferers when a child is ill. Our highly trained volunteer “Big Brothers” and “Big Sisters” support not just the seriously ill children but their siblings, too, visiting weekly and bringing fun and treats throughout the year — as well as joining them on retreats. They give parents a break and give the children wonderful experiences so that today’s treat becomes more important than tomorrow’s treatment.

As a result of the article, we have reached out to both families via the JC and we hope to be able to support them in the same way we make a difference to more than 1,000 family members, just like the Myers and Beaton families, throughout the UK.

We’re proud to be here for families dealing with all kinds of serious illness including rare genetic illnesses, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and more than 50 other conditions.

If you know of any children who could benefit from our support, please contact me in the strictest of confidence at or on 020 8202 9297.

Neville Goldschneider

Chief executive, Camp Simcha

All Aboard

With regard to Brian Sacks’s letter (Not all on board, JC, May 11), I would like to reaffirm the importance of All Aboard to our community.

But, first, I need to explain the specific situation in relation to charitable expenditure over the past couple of years.

The charity shop sector has been going through a very difficult few years and in order to revive our fortunes we embarked on a major restructuring programme to reduce costs, wastage etc. I am happy to report this is now complete.

As we embarked upon this project, we informed all our beneficiaries as to what was occurring and explained that the outcome would be a few “lean” years, followed by, we hoped, improved contributions in the future. It is these years that are reflected in the most recent accounts, coupled with a downturn in charity-shop purchases across the sector as a whole.

Notwithstanding, we have, sooner than expected, returned to profitability and in 2017 we made distributions to 38 charities and we will be making more distributions during 2018.

There is also something else that Mr Sacks should take into account before damning an organisation that has over the past 31 years contributed in excess of £3m to charity. That is the role of a charity shop in a community. Were it not to exist there would be reduced local employment, reduced volunteering and reduced contributions of usable goods to charities (such as the books we supply to Langdon) . Our 200-plus volunteers include young adults and, apart from doing good deeds, they receive valuable work experience.

All Aboard is an integral part of our community’s fabric. It supports so many people, in so many ways. It would be to the detriment and not the benefit of the community if it were to close down and we have no intention of doing so.

Howard Brecker 

Chair, All Aboard Charity Shops

Very flat Platinum

We were really looking forward to Israel’s Platinum anniversary celebration at the Albert Hall last week, and were determined to enjoy ourselves.

Sadly, the organisers did their best to dash our hopes.

The concert started with two women wrestling each other, dressed in a grunge version of sackcloth and ashes.

The first half ended with 20 men and women in the same outfits trying to kill each other against a background wall of sound.

It suggested a re-enactment of the turmoil at the border between Israel and Gaza. No ruach, no colour, no flags, no joy and no sense that this was meant to be a simcha.

The Rt Hon David Lidington MP, speaking on behalf of the Government, was the only uplifting part of the programme.

We sneaked out at the interval, following the Prince of Wales’s initiative. Funnily enough, there was no anti-Israel rent-a-mob in sight — who needed them when this “celebration” had done their job already?

What a missed opportunity!

Mike & Judy Baum

London, NW11

June 01, 2017 15:25

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