The JC Letters Page, 21st June 2019

Kay Bagon, Flora Frank, Maurice Herson, Lawri Hacker and Laurence Kingsley share their views with JC reader

June 20, 2019 10:01

It’s wrong to oppose the Judensau removal 

I disagree with the Jewish historians and educators in the UK who are against the removal of the 700-year old antisemitic carving, the Judensau, which etched into the facade of the Wittenburg Protestant church. 

The German Jewish community of a synagogue in Berlin are campaigning to get the carving removed, which they rightly consider to be an offence against modern German Jewry — but UK educators argue that it should be should be left as a testament to the antisemitic German past. 

While I agree that it is necessary to maintain and display the records of German antisemitism, this repugnant carving which depicts pure hatred of Jews should not be left on the walls of a place of worship.

Some years ago the Zemel Choir was invited to sing at a choral festival in Berlin to promote Jewish cultural renaissance. The event was sponsored by the German government to commemorate the Jewish composer, Louis Lewandowski.

One of the venues in which we gave a concert was the Martin Luther memorial Church in East Berlin, a church which was used for rallies by the Nazi party. We were astounded to see that the walls had stonework embellished with carvings of soldiers in Nazi uniform. Above us hung a chandelier in the shape of the iron cross. 

We were told that the floors had been embellished with swastikas, now removed. This poignant reminder of the past made us feel very uncomfortable.

In contrast, our final concert was held in the Rykestrasse synagogue. The Nazis had ordered the destruction of the interior of this synagogue and the burning of the Torah scrolls but because it is located inside of a block of residential buildings, the building had not been entirely destroyed but was used as a stable and warehouse.

In 2005 the synagogue was beautifully restored to its former glory and was re-dedicated in 2007. Singing in this venue was a heartening experience.

Kay Bagon
Radlett, Herts

Esau and Jacob, contd.

I respect Renee Bravo (Letters, June 14) but I disagree with her comments on the subject of Esau and Jacob.

The literal text of the Bible, whilst of utmost  importance, cannot be understood in isolation.   If this were so, for example, we would apply “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” literally. 

Renee takes Rabbi Taragin to task, strongly questioning his reference to Esau as “Jacob’s murderous brother.” Yet it is clearly stated: “Esau harboured hatred towards Jacob...’May the days of mourning for my Father draw near then I will kill my brother Jacob’” (Genesis 27:41).  

Esau would surely have killed Jacob had not Rebecca ordered Jacob to flee!

The word PaRDESs  (Orchard) — initials to describe four ways of understanding the Torah — is used in Biblical exegesis: P for Peshat, the literal/simple meaning;  R for Remez, hint/ allusion; D for D’rush, deep enquiry/investigation; S for Sod, secret/hidden mystical approach.   

Indeed we learn that there are “Shivim Panim” — 70 faces/facets to Torah study.

Renee mentions Jacob cheating  Esau of his birthright. Esau was not an intellectual as Renee states. We learn in fact that he was uncouth, as evidenced by his words regarding  the pottage “pour into me” (Genesis 25:30) — a word which does not appear elsewhere in the Bible, (Hapax Legomenon)  implying animal-like voracity.     

As for cheating,  the  text does state “...and Esau despised/spurned  his birthright” (Genesis 25:34).  It is important to note that the Birthright was not of a material but a spiritual nature.  

Again,  Jacob’s deception for his Father’s Blessing, at his mother’s instigation and insistence, needs detailed clarification, which unfortunately space does not allow.

Renee writes: “As a woman I would rather have Esau than Jacob”.  

This is not how Leah, Rachel’s sister,  felt.   According to commentators, the description “Leah’s eyes were weak” was due to the abundance of tears shed because she was originally destined to marry “the wicked” Esau, only averted by her constant prayers.

The  Torah was given to us about 3,500 years ago.   We constantly consult it, inspired by its ongoing dialogue. 

To retain the Torah’s eternal wisdom in a meaningful way, filling in the gaps so to speak, requires both a literal and deeper study of the text,  guided  by our authentic commentators.

Flora Frank
Edgware, Middx.  

Stop it with Corbyn

I have been becoming increasingly uneasy about and tired of the JC’s relentless hate campaign against Jeremy Corbyn. 

You hit a new low by gratuitously leveraging it into your leader (Penguin’s shame, June 14) about a book published by Penguin. 

This on the pretext of the context being the “normalisation of antisemitism under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership...”. Give us an occasional break from your obsession, please.

I would suggest that you would do better by occasionally mentioning the racism and religious intolerance elsewhere in our politics, rather than picking a partisan position against one party. 

Maurice Herson
Oxford OX3 

A friend and editor

I was so saddened to read the obituary (June 14) of my old friend and editor Gerald Isaaman.

I had the honour and privilege of being his deputy on the Ham and High from 1973-76 before I left to join the old Evening News.

But Gerald and I had a touchy, though very friendly, sort of relationship.

The famous and highly respected Ham and High was beloved by the literary and political high fliers who lived in Hampstead at the time and Gerald catered for them brilliantly. But the paper had been taken over by Home Counties Newspapers and I was drafted in as deputy editor to make it much newsier to appeal to a far wider readership etc.

Gerald fought me on every change I wanted to make in news content, feature ideas and design of the paper.

I believe he was only the fifth editor the paper had ever had in its long history and looking back I am sure he was probably right to try and preserve its unique identity. He was a lovely, highly intelligent guy with a sardonic sense of humour, rarely seen without his trademark panatella cigar in his mouth. A truly great journalist.

Lawrie Hacker

Next, please, a Muslim

All power to Beitar Jerusalem’s new owner, Moshe Hogeg, who has recently bought the football club and is determined to stamp out racism in the hitherto anti –Arab club (Beitar fans easy with new  player Mohamed — as he is a Christian, June 14).

Hopefully, when he has succeeded in doing so with his new devout Christian player, he will deliberately buy a Muslim player as well. 

Laurence Kingsley
Surbiton, Surrey

June 20, 2019 10:01

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