The JC letters page, 23rd February

Charles Heller, Frank Adam, Russell Ballen, Alan Grahame, Simon Caplan, Michael Fishman, David Russell, Aaron Bass, David Cohen, and Dr Shoshana Z. Weider share their views with JC readers

February 23, 2017 16:25

Judaism and evolution

The perennial issue of Judaism versus evolution is back in the news. My revered teacher Rav Aryeh Carmell z’tsl, an unimpeachable figure of Orthodox learning throughout the Jewish world, and an honoured guest in every chasidic shtibl in Stamford Hill, once said to me: “To reject evolution is contrary to common sense.”

Every student of biology can see that evolution has occurred; the only opponents of evolution are those that never studied it. There are Rabbinic sources that support evolution; opponents base their ideas on particular misreadings of ideas about the Jews as a separate race. There are two harmful effects of rejecting evolution: ignorance of biological and geological processes will lead to irreversible damage to our planet; and it is a hillul Hashem which makes the Jewish religion look stupid.

Charles Heller, 
Toronto, Ontario

Thanks to Dr Alan Shaw of Hasmonean (JC, February 16), for making the point that Jewish schools and teachers are not isolated from society at large. However, Northern Ireland is a dreadful  example of how faith schools can exacerbate social divisions and France of how a rebellious minority can sabotage the Republic of equal opportunities and status for all through a common meritocratic curriculum. 

It is poetic that on the article’s parallel page were Charedi problems with scientific observation of geology and biology so similar to the Papacy objecting to Galileo’s telescope work.  Fortunately most clerics have since found the courage to accept that the fact that Moses did not have the scientific knowledge we have, does not interfere with the truth of his human observations and moral rulings.  

Charedim, Salafis and Christian fundamentalists pushing Creationism accept evolution when they obey medical instruction to take an entire course of antibiotics.

Could they accept that to deprive children of basic science in a society dependent on engineering and pubic health is as much a sin as to deprive them of basic morality — but the two do not invalidate each other.   

Frank Adam, 
Prestwich M25

Greenstein expulsion

You reported that Jewish anti-Zionist activist Tony Greenstein has been expelled from the Labour Party after a disciplinary hearing found he had breached the party’s rules on three charges.

Compare and contrast that with the action taken against Ken Livingstone. A disciplinary panel similarly upheld three charges of breaching party rules but he was only suspended for a further year, a ban that ends in a couple of months. 

A further example of Corbyn’s “new kind of politics” or more likely the traditional “old pals’ act”?

Russell Ballen, 
Ilford, Essex.

Newmark cover-up

As bad as the allegations about this BMW-loving socialist are, the most appalling aspect of the disgraceful cover-up by the JLC is that Newmark came close to unseating Mike Freer in the recent general election.  Mr Freer is a staunch supporter of Israel and relentless fighter against antisemitism. It beggars belief that those in the know would countenance the possibility that Newmark, an apologist for Corbyn, could be allowed to get anywhere near a seat in Parliament.  The antisemites would be having a field day had Newmark, heaven forfend, actually been elected and then exposed.   

Alan Grahame, 
London NW4

We have not in many years seen the likes of the extraordinary JC coverage of the Jeremy Newmark affair.

The saga is shocking to say the least, but perhaps what is of more concern is the cover-up of the whole affair, the length of time over which it was hidden from the community at large, and the complicity in that cover–up by some of UK Jewry’s most respected senior leaders.

It is difficult to anticipate how this whole saga will play out, but those involved in the cover-up must now stand-up and take ownership of their complicity in the withholding of the allegations concerning Mr Newmark from the whole of the Jewish community. 

Simon Caplan, 
Herts WD7

If Geoffrey Alderman’s return is indicative of a “crisis”, then I must take today’s edition more seriously!

The marriage between the JLC and the British Board of Deputies has long been on the table, but then some couples are very happy to live apart and and happily co-operate over the children. An Oxfam crisis, it isn’t, and since there is an ongoing inquiry, the less comment the better.

Both the JLC  and the elected Board of Deputies have a job to do, and as far as I know, have yet to tread on one another’s toes. Both are recognised  by government and both sit at high table . To call the JLC “moneyed machers with ambition” is near to insulting. Most of the members have achieved their ambition long ago, but are willing to give their valuable time and money to the community, for which they should be thanked.

There is growing political antisemitism, however it  is dressed up. Let not the JC waste pages of speculation on its “alleged” scoop and lose sight of the far more important wider picture.

Michael Fishman, 
London NW11

Any article regarding the Jeremy Newmark story that includes the phrases “like Kids Company” and “like the unfolding Oxfam scandal” as Ben Crowne’s did last week is at best clumsy. 

Newmark’s alleged  approach to expenses and the response by the JLC’s then trustees are quite simply not in the same moral or legal universe as the multimillion pound mismanagement of Kids Company or the sexual abuse of children by Oxfam aid workers. 

To link these issues does no favours to the credibility of the author or this newspaper.

David Russell, 
London NW11

Edgware living

I have lived in Edgware for the past four years. In that time seven new shuls have opened, a new kosher supermarket, two new kosher butchers (rumours of another on the way) and a new kosher bakery. The two strictly Orthodox Jewish schools are turning people away and every school holiday there are between five and 10 new families moving to the area. While house prices have gone up, it is still far cheaper than areas like Golders Green and Hendon, and many are seeing it as a real alternative. 

Far from “journeying into challenging times” it is full steam ahead for a young growing community.

Aaron Bass
Edgware, HA8

Hecht tribute

I was incredibly saddened to read of Ernest Hecht OBE’s passing.

I had the privilege of working for Mr Hecht at Souvenir Press, albeit for only a few weeks as a temp in my student days. Gerald Jacobs’s online account (Remembering Ernest Hecht, last of his kind) of Mr Hecht’s office, enthusiasm for life, and love of Arsenal transported me directly back to those days sitting in the narrow space outside of Mr Hecht’s office on Great Russell Street. The first question Mr Hecht ever asked me was what team my father supported — admittedly quite sexist in his (false) assumption that I didn’t care for football myself. He was only slightly disgusted when I answered “Spurs”.

Those few weeks spent untangling his scribbles and managing his correspondence, were not just a way to earn a few extra pennies to fund my shoe-buying habit.

They ended up being formative as I pondered my future career path. I have always — and will always — be an insatiable bookworm, but seeing the inner workings of a tiny publishing house, and witnessing Mr Hecht’s long-lasting love for the industry, made me consider publishing, or “wordsmithing” of some variety — as a real option. Fast-forward almost 15 years, and here I am making a living from writing. I always thought I’d offer Mr Hecht the opportunity to publish my first book. It’s entirely my fault that that manuscript does not yet exist, and that we never got the chance to collaborate in that way.

When it was time for me to finish my all-too-brief time with him at the Press, he gifted me one of their books — Aaron Lansky’s Outwitting History, about the phenomenal endeavours to save Yiddish literature. There’s more than a passing resemblance between that story of the Yiddish Book Center and that of Mr Hecht’s life, metamorphosing from a Kindertransport refugee to the founder and managing director of another book empire. I still treasure that gift.

Dr Shoshana Z. Weider

Double celebration

Next Thursday will be a double celebration for Welsh Jews. For the first time since 1953, Purim falls on St David’s Day.

As every Welshman knows, it was also in 1953 that Wales last beat the New Zealand All Blacks. Surely no coincidence.

Purim sameach and dydd gwyl dewi hapus  

David Cohen, 
London NW3

February 23, 2017 16:25

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive