The JC Letters Page July 14 2017

S Solomon,  Mycal Miller, Frank Adam, Kenneth Morrison, Caroline Boobis and Ruth Ben-Or share their views with JC readers

July 14, 2017 16:06

Does your dog have a soul?

In your Rabbi, I have a problem on July 7, at the conclusion of his reply about dealing with the death of a dog, Rabbi Romain suggested reading Kaddish. What a disgraceful thing to say.

If it was a light hearted thought, it was terrible, and so disrespectful to the Kaddish, which is a very important prayer. No wonder that the Non Orthodox are being barred from the Western Wall (the holiest of Jewish places). 

As it happens I usually read Rabbi Brawer’s reply for an authentic religious reply, and Rabbi Romain’s for a laugh. To be quite honest, you should devote that whole page to orthodox matters only, and not mix and match, please.

S Solomon, 
London NW4 

For people who believe in the soul, it makes no sense to suppose that only humans have them, not other animals. Rabbi Brawer bases his answer on the views of the Sages, but with all due respect, how could they know?

I suspect the denial of animals having souls is largely due to a need to assuage a feeling of guilt for those who eat them.

We know, genetically speaking, we humans are very closely related to apes. If humans have souls, why not chimpanzees? If chimps, why not cats and dogs? They say the eyes are the windows to the soul. Look and see!

Mycal Miller, 
London NW2

What are benefits?

Apart from burial rights and rites which will be more for the family than myself, what would I get from a synagogue membership apart from more “School Assembly” passivity? 

Could the United Synagogue take a leaf out of Limmud? Trim repetitions to create the time; issue a list of questions on Parasha of the week to prime discussion or even copies of a modern text treating a similar moral problem; and organise more than prayer or Talmud sessions.   

Limmud took off like a forest fire because of the choice and variety of history, music, art and much else including some esoteric science sessions, besides religious texts.   Culture is a lot wider than the religious literature.  Study something in English and it promotes an interest in the original Hebrew, because of the translation problems which also extend to the technical context of the time.

Meanwhile I shall stick to Limmud, Zionists and visits to my family in Israel. 

Frank Adam, 
Prestwich, M25 

Headlined predictably is the continuing drop in ‘orthodox middle’ Shul numbers, 20 per cent in 25 years. The United Synagogue needs to wake up but will it?

The reason for the decline may be not linked to any movement away from organised religion or towards the growing Charedi community.

It may be the alienation and poor welcome that United Synagogue shuls present to the very large and often keen Jewish community who are not ‘happily married with children’.

Also headlined last week were the two US presidential candidates, both of whose appeal to voters is apparently the length of their marriages, the names of their wives and the number of their children. In the same issue we read of the failure of the US to even begin to support a rabbi who dared to speak up for a marginalised group of the Jewish community.

There is an enormous potential membership for the US amongst those who are single parent families or by themselves. The overwhelming evidence is that they are ignored or marginalised by the US and particularly in US shuls.

US presidential candidates, Rabbis and the sixty-four US congregations need urgently to change their approach if they do not want to be part of a membership reduction of a further 20 per cent or more in the next 25 years.

Kenneth Morrison, 
London NW2

It seems prescient that your headline article highlighting the collapse of the orthodox ‘middle’, shared newspaper space with the unedifying spat surrounding Rabbi Dweck’s shiur on homosexuality. 

Hasn’t anyone in authority joined the dots, and worked out that many of the most integrated (aka, ‘middle’) British Jews can no longer relate to an institution that resolutely refuses to evolve?

And that, like the dinosaurs, if it won’t evolve, it is in danger of disappearing altogether...

Caroline Boobis, 
Newcastle upon Tyne, NE3

Your article on the demise of the mainstream shuls occludes the real and tangible growth in unaffiliated chevurah groups, the stiebl factor.

We live in a pop-up society where long-term commitment is being replaced by ephemeral places of engagement. Like-minded families, or groups of individuals, gather together to “do their own thing” Jewishly, free from the constraints of the Shul and able to do things that may have been rendered impossible due to the intransigence of Rabbinic leadership.

So family minyanim thrive, pushing boundaries and doing things “differently”, and re-defining egalitarianism and pluralism 

The challenge is for the mainstream leadership to embrace these stiebls and chevurah groups and ensure their future, and most importantly be counted as full members of the community.

Laurie Rosenberg, 
Woodford Green, IG8

Safe havens

“If being a safe haven for world Jewry is not enough” in response to Mr Lipitch last week, would Jews who chose to become Jewish under Reform or Conservative auspices be considered candidates for a safe haven? If one is going to tastelessly exploit the threat of “another Holocaust” in order to encourage aliyah and/or donations,  which I do not, it is worth considering the way in which successive governments, tied to the Stygian coat-tails of ultra-Orthodox parties treat those who already made aliyah.  For those who plan to do so, this is a case for electoral reform, for those who plan to stay here, a good case against it.

Ruth Ben-Or, 
Harrow, HA8

Visitation rights

Reading the article on the front page of last week’s JC “Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to make first visit to Shoah camp”,  I noted that this was at the request of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).  The FCO said that they will also meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

I understand that the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin earlier this year, invited the Queen to make an official Royal visit to Israel.  So how come the FCO has not requested that Her Majesty (or any senior member of the Royal Family), accept and make a first such visit there?  

Your item “Royal visit still in the balance” (JC, June 30) alluded to the likelihood of this never happening!

It’s 100 years since the Balfour Declaration and nearly 70 years since the modern State of Israel was established – what is the FCO waiting for?  

Stephen Miller, 
Borehamwood, Herts, WD6

July 14, 2017 16:06

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