The JC letters page, 6th July 2018

Melvyn Lipitch, Dr Yaron Sternberg, Michael Freedland, Joel Berman, Stuart Goodman and prof David R Katz share their views with JC readers

July 05, 2018 12:58

Correction is incorrect

Jeremy Beecham (Letters, June 29) writes that Melanie Phillips is flawed in her assertion that Israel’s existence is owed, together with Jerusalem and the West Bank, to the Balfour Declaration.

But she is correct. Israel’s rights to the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea were established in law in 1922 when the Mandate for Palestine, incorporating the Balfour Declaration, was issued by the League Of Nations.

The United Nations General Assembly vote for the partition of Palestine — Resolution 181 in 1947 — was non-binding and had no legal force. The Arabs rejected the motion, rendering it null and void.

Had the Arabs accepted the resolution it could have passed to the Security Council with the possibility of implementing it into a treaty.

The General Assembly’s powers do not extend to law-making; this resolution was simply a recommendation.  

The United Nations did not create Israel in 1947; its rights to the land were inherited from the 1922 mandate and are still extant.

Melvyn Lipitch


The state land of Western Palestine (west to the Jordan) is a land where international law calls for the encouragement of dense Jewish settlement.

This is based not on the Balfour Declaration but on the “Palestine Trusteeship” issued  unanimously  in 1922 by the League of Nations (all 52  member states).

This right is still valid today. The fact that “the UK renounced the Mandate”, as Lord Beecham puts it, does not detract from the present validity of this right.

Indeed, as for any trust, the renunciation (or change) of a trustee leaves the rights of the beneficiary of the trust intact. Here the beneficiary is the Jewish people.

All the great authorities of of international law, such as professors Eugene Rostow, Julius Stone, Steven Schwebbel, Hirsh and Elihu Lautepacht, agree on this.

Dr Yaron Sternberg


Ignorant Dweck critics

Shame on the S and P ayatollahs (Dweck’s Pepys diary row, JC, June 29).  Have they not got over their inferiority complex that the Ashkanazi charedim seem to them to have all the  answers?

Making Rabbi Joseph Dweck their constant target betrays as much ignorance of the real world as it does of hallachah. 

Do they not know that Jewish teachings constantly call for respect for Torah scholars, let alone the references to the sin of humiliation?

What else could you call the way they treat their superb senior rabbi? 

He is a man of great learning who was a perfect pastoral leader in New York and has continued that role in London.  In addition, he is personable, shows great dignity and is a good preacher. 

That he quoted a Samuel Peyps comment about Simchat Torah that added a nugget about the diarist’s weakness for women to whom he was not married did not constitute approval, simply saying something about the man who couldn’t grasp the significance of that festival.

One shouldn’t be surprised if Rabbi Dweck decides to pack his bags and find somewhere that values the glory he should be allowed to bestow on what for the moment is his kehillah.

Michael Freedland


Walking on by

One recent Shabbat, my wife started to walk to Edgware United synagogue (I had left earlier). Unfortunately she tripped and fell.

Whilst lying on the pavement, a Jewish man (black suit, black hat, white shirt and flowing tallis) passed by. He stepped into the road to avoid her and walked on.  He did not even stop to ask if she was in pain. 

A very kind non-Jewish man stopped his car and offered assistance.  Thank God, my wife was able to get up on her own, retrieved her hat and managed to walk on to shul.

Is this acceptable Orthodox behaviour?  Is this the Jewish ethic?

Name and Address supplied

Israel Tour is for all

In response to your comment piece, No Israel Tour for my girl… (JC, June 22) we at UJIA totally sympathise with the sentiments of the mother.

Yes, being Jewish and paying all the extras is tough. Simply put, it’s getting harder and harder for families to keep up with all the “voluntary” school fees, shul membership, simcha costs, camps, summer tour, gap year and university fees!

We don’t judge you at all — every parent knows what’s best for their child and their family and no-one should feel pressured or “judged” into participating in Israel Tour.

UJIA gives bursaries of over £200,000 per year to our community’s kids and future leaders. And yes, we recognise a wide spectrum of applicant including the “squeezed middle”. So much so that we may be offering interest free loans from next year in order to help those that do earn well but, as your writer says, “don’t have a spare £4,000 tucked away for Israel Tour” (watch this space). And for those families fortunate enough to be able to pay for tour and all the other trimmings of Jewish life, we encourage you to consider allocating some of your charitable giving to our bursary fund so we can assist as many in the community as possible to have the amazing, once in a lifetime experience.

From Israel Tour, many of our youth springboard towards gap year hadracha, become madrichim themselves for those just a few years younger than them and some become youth movement mazkirim.

This educational and leadership journey is the foundation of the next generation of British Jewry. From all across the religious and political spectrum, we have a wonderful array of young talent feeding into the Jewish community.

Joel Berman

Chief Operating Officer UJIA

Don’t forget Plymouth!

Your article on historic synagogues in which to wed (Perfect places for chupas but beware snags, JC, June 29), did not mention Plymouth, consecrated in 1762. 

This historic Grade 2* listed building, the oldest Ashkenazi synagogue in the UK, was complimented for its upkeep by the Chief Rabbi on his visit last month.  It, too, is available for weddings and batmitzvahs!

Stuart Goodman

Brentwood, Essex

Britain is best for brit

I trust that your report about new Board of Deputies (BOD) /Jewish Policy Research (JPR) data describing the evolving demography of British Jews (Birth rate boom, JC, June 22) will prompt much constructive reflection about future communal priorities.

As Milah UK  co-chair, defending brit milah in the UK, and helping other Jewish communities to do similar work, I believe this report underlines the centrality of brit milah — not only to our tradition but also to how we measure ourselves.

Birth rate data is dependent on brit milah rates. The number of girls born is extrapolated from that information.

If we probe further, brit milah is itself dependent on people rarely acknowledged and recognised. Mohelim perform this mitzvah within our community almost 2,000 times a year. They are the hidden cohort, generating raw data on which we all rely.

The two British organisations contributing data — the Association of Reform and Liberal Mohelim, and the Initiation Society — are composed of people starting from the premise to do their best. In addition they not only perform brit milah but also record and report what they have done.

Between 2013 and 2019 much of the increase in brit milah has taken place under the Initiation Society. In recent years the Society has undergone transformational modernisation, to ensure that all their mohelim follow carefully considered guidelines.

Brit milah as practiced in the UK is today the best organised such system worldwide, and the audit reflected in the BOD/JPR report will provide the UK Jewish community with data that illustrates how rare any adverse complications are.

Rabbis and their communities across the entire denominational spectrum should engage with suitably accredited mohelim to perform the mitzvah, and should avoid mohelim who are not.

Prof David R Katz



July 05, 2018 12:58

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