The JC Letters Page, 25th January 2019

Martin Rankoff, Philip Levy, Eileen Hauptman, David Levenson, J Kornberg, Barbara Sherling and Anthony Rudolf share their views with JC readers

January 24, 2019 09:55

History shows that land for peace doesn’t work

Ami Ayalon and co write (Why UK must not copy Trump embassy move, January 18): “Israel will be able to preserve its Jewish and democratic identity only if a Palestinian state is established alongside it”.

They don’t say how Israel, withdrawn to a width of nine miles at its most densely populated region, overlooked by the Judean hills, could be defended, given that its main arteries and sole international airport would be easy targets for terrorists, who would disrupt normal life in Israel. The Palestinians constitute part of the Arab nation, as they often remind us, and there are currently 22 sovereign Arab states and just one tiny Jewish state, so the “two states for two peoples” formula has been well satisfied on the Palestinian side.

The idea of giving over Jerusalem’s Arab neighbourhoods to a future Palestinian state is madness, given that all the Jewish holy places are in East Jerusalem, which was cleansed of all its Jews after 3,000 years continuous presence, when the Jordanians invaded and occupied it in 1948. West Jerusalem has no significance in Jewish history.

Israelis have learnt the hard way that giving up territory “for peace”, as in Gaza and South Lebanon, brings war instead.

Martin Rankoff 
(Deputy for Redbridge United Synagogue) 
Ilford, Essex

Where were the young?

Last Sunday, I attended the moving burial ceremony for the ashes of the six unknown victims at Bushey Cemetery. 

At a rough count, there were less than ten people under the age of about 20. I would say there were no more than a further dozen in their twenties/early thirties. This, out of a thousand people. 

I found this both surprising and worrying. 

This was a well-publicised event both in the Jewish and the general press.

Where were the schools? Immanuel College is less than a mile from Bushey Cemetery. What about JFS? 

These schools are sending their pupils on March For The Living but can they not get organised in time to ensure they are represented at a local ceremony as important as this? 

The government and the Royal Family both managed to send representatives. Our schools have missed a unique opportunity to engage their pupils in a real and meaningful way.

It does not bode well for the memory of the Shoah if our own children are not sufficiently engaged or motivated to choose to attend this  important event in our history. 

I am saddened and worried by this.

Philip Levy
Pinner, Middlesex

What is it that drives some to insist that their insatiable and obsessive needs must be accommodated? 

Some of those at Sunday’s burial thought it was their right to inflict mobile cameras on the survivors, the coffin and others. 

Morbidly and without any thought, they selfishly continued during the solemn, quiet service when the coffin was laid to rest, and during the shovelling of earth. 

I was shocked by the brazen lack of consideration to others. Had no one told them it was a funeral? 

Eileen Hauptman
London NW6

Charedi schools failure

I hesitate before taking issue with Rabbi Yoni Birnbaum, who is a true scholar. However, I cannot let pass his valorising of the Charedi schools system (Copy Charedi schools, don’t condemn them, January 18).

Rabbi Birnbaum suggests it is wrong to generalise about Charedi schools based upon “the small minority of schools which are unregistered”.  
But the problems go much wider and deeper than this.

I was a trustee of Stamford Hill’s Jewish housing association for 17 years. Nearly every Charedi communal representative who was willing to discuss their communities’ social and economic problems with me highlighted the same issue.

Young Charedi men receive an inadequate education to equip them for life. Typically, any secular education such as it is concludes when they are 14 or 15, after which the only learning in which they participate is in Yeshiva.  Young women have a better chance of receiving a decent education but this primarily reflects the expected role of women as breadwinners, home-makers and primary parenting while their husbands continue their learning.

I have no doubt that the single example, and it is an exceptional case, that Rabbi Birnbaum cites of a successful Charedi school where “nearly all the students go on to some form of further education” is an all-girls secondary school.

What he may regard as generalisation doesn’t mean the premise is untrue.  It is evident that this is a system from which, for boys in particular, there is no escape, unless they choose to opt out from their community entirely.  By then, it is too late to make up for the lost years of secular schooling. 

Recently, you reported that a group of Orthodox rabbis under the banner of Chinuch UK are setting up a working group to scrutinise Ofsted rulings on Charedi schools. Their grounds for doing so are based upon principles of religious freedom and tolerance.  

Behind this is a cynical attempt to preserve in aspic an education system that has contributed to the worsening socio-economic deprivation in Charedi communities, including many instances of family breakdown.

Rabbi Birnbaum, as an adherent of the Torah Im Derekh Eretz educational ethos, would surely acknowledge that changes are needed in the Charedi schools system to ensure that the fastest growing segment of Anglo-Jewry is sustainable going forward. 

David Levenson 
Stanmore, Middlesex

A re-renaissance

I am 90 years old.  The last time I knew of such general uncertainty was when I was eleven years old at the time of the Fall of France.  I clearly remember the headline “France Surrenders”. 

After nearly 80 years, we have another existential crisis. Both crises needed and need inspired and resourceful leadership.

It is generally agreed that the nub of the Brexit crisis turns on the so called “backstop”.

Henry VIII was facing an existential crisis 600 years ago. He had to divorce Queen Catherine in order to have an heir. He turned to the Pope for a divorce. The Papacy was corrupt and confrontational and in the hands of Queen Catherine’s family. King Henry, previously a devout Catholic, then turned to the Rabbis of Italy for a talmudic resolution to the problem. 

May I suggest that in the House of Lords there is a competent Talmudist in Lord Sacks. If his encyclopaedic knowledge can’t find a formula acceptable to all sides he could turn to the enormous talmudic resources in Israel and indeed in the US.

The Renaissance began in Italy energised by a combination of rediscovered Classical and Jewish thought.

Who knows, Brexit could usher in a re-Renaissance?

J Kornberg, 
London NW8

Try the Botanicals too!

It was interesting to read the interview with Shai Doron (Zoo politics can improve Jerusalem, January 18) but I am happy to say Jerusalem’s Zoo is not the only place in the city where residents of the three main pluralistic religions choose to come together!  

Not only does the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Givat Ram have a multi-religious workforce, but visitors from all faiths find peace and harmony in its beautiful green spaces.  

Signage at the Gardens appears in Ivrit, Arabic and English; there are educators who wear kippot and hijabs; people of all ages and abilities are involved in programmes which help to make Jerusalem a greener, better place to live.  Volunteers are currently working with over 200 kindergartens and institutions spread all over the city creating vegetable gardens to teach young children about nature and growing food.

Good luck to Shai Doron in his new role and let’s hope that the seeds of harmony will continue to flourish well into the future.

Barbara Sherling
Friends of Jerusalem Botanical Gardens 
Edgware, Middx 

Getting it right

I was grateful that you wrote about my cousin Jerzyk (Diary of suicide boy handed to Yad Vashem, January 18), but I should point out a few errors.  

You omit the fact that Jerzyk’s diary and his mother’s diary were written in Polish. 

Jerzyk is not only “believed” to be the only child suicide recorded in their archives. He is the only such child. 

The diary could be translated without my presenting the original to Yad Vashem. The two things are separate, although I am pleased that they coincide. 

You say the Gestapo “had not raided the house” when you should have written they “did not raid the house” —it was someone else and does not derogate from his heroism, as explained in my book. The original of Jerzyk’s diary was not found among his mother’s papers after she died. She gave it to me in Israel. 

Anthony Rudolf
North Finchley

January 24, 2019 09:55

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