The JC Letters Page, 28th June 2019

Rabbi Jeremy Conway, Jonathan turner, David Ashton, Renee Bravo and Anthony Melnikoff JP share their views with JC re

June 27, 2019 10:18

KLBD will help you

Last week’s leader on the Liverpool and Manchester Kashrut scandal (A basic need, June 21) concluded with the striking line: “Few things are more basic or important than the ability to keep kosher.” This is a sentiment with which we would wholeheartedly agree.

This tragic episode highlights the critical need for a professional system of inspection and supervision to ensure Kosher products are what they claim to be.

Under the Kosher London Beth Din, caterers and establishments are required to have an approved Kashrut operative on site at all times. Many establishments have cameras linked to the Beth Din as well.

Such supervision is intrusive as well as expensive but is welcomed by most Kosher consumers who appreciate the assurance that comes with a reliable hechsher.

Kosher consumers are encouraged to ask for the shomer and enquire about the Kashrut controls on site, so that restaurateurs and Kosher business owners are aware that their investment in Kashrut is worthwhile and appreciated by their customers.

Thanks to the KLBD’s ‘Is it kosher?’ app, website and Facebook page, the increased number of supermarkets stocking Kosher products and the general expansion of Kosher facilities, Kashrut is in many ways easier to observe than ever before. Our Really Jewish Food Guide lists thousands of Kosher products readily available in shops across the UK. Keeping Kosher in smaller communities can be challenging but KLBD will do everything it can to support Kosher consumers and facilitate Kashrut observance across the country.

Rabbi Jeremy Conway,
Director, KLBD

You were told in 2016

Professor David Feldman belatedly recognises the relevance of John Hobson to antisemitism in the Labour Party today (The historical left really was ‘for the many, not the Jew’, June 24). 

It is a shame that he ignored my submission, making precisely this point, to the 2016 Chakrabarti Inquiry, of which he was the vice chair. 

My submission, consisting of an extract from Paul Johnson’s A History of the Jews can be read in Whitewashed: Anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, edited by Judith Ornstein.

Jonathan Turner
UK Lawyers for Israel

Who wants him?

While acknowledging Karl Marx’s flawed analyses and prophetic failures (Top Marx for the money insights, June 21) David Edmonds rescues some of his nevertheless debatable thoughts on alienation and commodification — phenomena also decried, then and later, by right-wing romantics and reactionaries, and which would hardly vanish under technological communism. 

The irony is that Marx largely blamed Jews for the fact that “money has pretty much penetrated every other domain”. Despite verbal hair-splitting and ideological casuistry by his defenders, that is implied throughout his important essay On the Jewish Question, especially considered together with other comments on “schmutzig-judischen” [Gesamtausgabe, Part I, vol.5, p.533].  

I spare readers, if not the Equality and Human Rights Commission — and conceivably Scotland Yard — from other relevant passages from his writings but note that they were far worse than subsequent effusions from John Hobson on South Africa or Jeremy Corbyn on the West Bank.

To be sure, many Jews, as a result of the diasporic predicament and persecution, were drawn to his ‘social messianism’ during three decades of the last century, notoriously from the Lenin Boys in Hungary to the Soviet Spies in Canada. Yet some of the ablest critics of Marxism have been of Jewish heritage (eg Bober, Federn, Von Mises, Schwarzschild, Popper, Rothbard).

The revival of class war is dangerous if global capitalism threatens another crisis

Why claim Marx as a Jew at all, even alongside other apostates like Spinoza, Freud or Einstein?  Although his erudite compilation of other people’s ideas is supposedly a Talmudic trait inherited from rabbinical ancestors, he was raised as a Christian and became hostile to religion in general and Judaism in particular. 

His influence has been colossal but not entirely benign. Look elsewhere than that irascible and furuncular revolutionary for community heroes.

David Ashton
Sheringham, NR26 

Jacob and Esau contd...

I was sad to see a person of such erudition as Flora Frank unable to distinguish between Torah and Midrash (Letters, June 21). Nowhere in Torah does it say, or even suggest, that Leah was due to marry Esau.

Midrash is defined as fairy-tale-like stories going behind the text to give us a greater insight. I love Midrash. I write them myself.  Some of the subjects I have tackled are: Why did Lot’s wife look back? How did Pharoah’s daughter feel about the baby she rescued turning out to be her father’s enemy? What did King David say to Avishag, the 16-year-old girl who was put into his bed to keep him warm?

As for the example of Esau saying of his brother, “I’ll kill him” — how often, in a moment of anger, does one brother say of another, “I’ll kill him”. But when they meet years later, Esau shows no animosity, only a desire for reconciliation.

Mrs Frank refers to “authentic commentators”. By whose authority are they authentic? Only other rabbis who feel as they do. Not historians. 

I have been reading some of these “authentic” commentators. If one of them were to tell me that an apple falls from a tree because of the force of gravity, I might find it hard to believe him.

Renee Bravo, 
London E18

In his book on religious extremism Not in God’s Name, Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks draws attention to the concept of dualism.  Essentially this divides the world into two types of people: those who represent absolute good and those who represent absolute evil. 

Absolute good is defined as those who are like us — the same religion, race, ethnicity, political views etc. Absolute evil is defined as those not like us and can include not only those of different or indeed no religion but those of the same religion who practise it in a different way.  Rabbi Sacks then examines the incidence of sibling rivalry with which Bereshit is replete.  Regarding Esau and Jacob, he dismisses absolutely the dualist idea, prevalent in many commentaries, that Jacob represents absolute good and is the one blessed by God, while Esau represents evil and is effectively cursed by Him.  The conclusion he comes to is that they simply are different and therefore deserve different blessings. 

Esau is a man of action, one who lives in the material world but actually gets out and does a day’s work. Indeed, it is his labours in the field, rather than those of the more spiritual Jacob, which ensure the family have food on the table (including potage) and a roof over their heads. 

Esau also loves and respects his father — in fact Rabbi Sacks makes the point that the respect he gives Isaac is unparalleled anywhere else in the Torah. 

Esau’s blessing is therefore wealth and land and to be the father of a nation. Jacob’s, on the other hand, is to be one of the patriarchs of the Jewish nation. 

Rabbi Sacks also makes the point that ultimately Esau and Jacob part as friends, or at least not as enemies, and that Esau has forgiven Jacob for any harm he believes the latter has done him in the past.

However, because we are taught Jacob is the hero of the story, and to justify his actions, rabbis traditionally have devised a dualist scenario in which Jacob is all good and Esau all bad. 

Perhaps if more religious leaders availed themselves of Rabbi Sacks’ interpretion the world might be a safer, more tolerant, less divisive place.

Anthony Melnikoff JP
Barnet EN5

June 27, 2019 10:18

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