The JC Letters Page March 24 2017

Paul Benardout, Neville Landau, Sylvia Gambin, Cecil Bloom, Hillier Wise, Geoffrey Pepper, and Rabbi Y Sufrin share their views with JC readers

March 24, 2017 16:51

An ‘embarrassing’, ‘naive’, ‘apologist’ defence of Donald Trump

Melanie Phillips (JC, March 17) begins her embarrassing defence of Donald Trump by accusing the media of “distortion, fabrication, selective reporting and character assassination” and ends it by citing “fake news” Oh dear, Melanie.

Trump’s effort to undercut the media (fake news), the judiciary (“so-called judges”) and the legislature (illegal executive orders), combined with his daily lies (this paper is not big enough), bigoted policies (Muslim ban, hombre paid-or wall), grotesque behaviour (where do I start — pussy grabbing, making fun of the disabled) and insane conspiracy theories  (Obama’s birth certificate, 5m illegal votes, GCHQ wiretapping) is “unpresidented”. 

But, as a Jew, you should feel it sending a shiver down your spine. We have seen it before. There is no bias when it comes to facts and there is no bias when it comes to human decency.  We, of all peoples, should be aware of the consequences when facts and human decency are twisted by those in power in order to implement their world view. 

Yet Melanie Phillips believes that this man will be the defender of our faith.  Given she has a public platform, her naivety is dangerous.
I have heard it said that many in the Republican party are overcome with Stockholm Syndrome. Please, Melanie, don’t let it cross the water. 
Paul Benardout
(via email)

Melanie Phillips will have sickened many with her apologist article on Donald Trump.

He aims to “make America great again”. 

Great, when it slammed the door in the faces of Jewish refugees from Europe who would end up in the Nazi gas-chambers? 

Great, when Jews would find themselves barred from many US golf clubs and even from staying in some hotels? 

Great, when Blacks were segregated and made to sit at the back in buses? 

People should be careful what they wish for.

Neville Landau.
London SW19


Happy schooldays

I have been following the ongoing story about establishing a new Jewish secondary school in NW London/Herts and find it puzzling that the existing schools are not sufficient.  I understand there has been an increase in the population in that area but I wouldn’t think they were all very Orthodox and in need of a specifically Jewish school.

When I was at secondary school back in the mid-1950s I went to a state school and the set-up there worked very well for us Jewish girls, (perhaps 25-30 in a school of 350 pupils). We had our own religious assembly every day presided over by Jewish sixth formers.  We also had access to kosher lunch, first at Woburn House and later at Poet’s Road shul in Stoke Newington. 

All girls were given a Bible when they started there and we were given our special Old Testament copy, which I still have to this day.  I did not come from a very observant family but some of the girls did and their families were perfectly happy with these arrangements.  It had the extra benefit of giving the senior girls who took our daily service, useful leadership skills.

Is the current generation of parents off-loading to the schools their duties to teach their children about the faith?  

We mustn’t forget that we live in a multi-faith society and need to interact successfully with others and not isolate our children.

Sylvia Gambin
London, N13

Hatikvah  melody  in and out of tune

Melvyn Lipitch (Letters March 17) is wrong in suggesting that the Hatikvah melody was composed by Smetana. The melody is actually a “wandering” one found in folk traditions throughout Europe, all or most of which have a common origin. It is now generally accepted that it was brought to Palestine by Shmuel Cohen who came from Moldavia. His brother had previously sent him Imber’s poem and when he settled in Rishon-le-Zion he set the poem to the tune of a Romanian song Carul cu Boi (Cart and Oxen) used to urge oxen during ploughing. 

Apart from coming from the same source, Smetana’s Ma Vlatava melody has something else in common with Hatikvah.  When Hatikvah was banned  from the radio during the Mandate period, the Smetana work was, whenever possible, played  instead by Jewish broadcasters.

Incidentally, Daniel Sugarman (JC March 10) is incorrect in saying that Hatikvah was officially adopted as the Zionist anthem at the 1897 Congress. It was at the 1933 Prague Congress.

Cecil Bloom
Leeds LS17

The Hatikvah and Smetana’s Vlatava melody goes back into the distant past.  Variations can be found from Eastern Europe to the Iberian peninsular.

While the popular Friday-night Yigdal is an example there are closer ones — the Sephardi setting  for the 117 Psalm in the Hallel and its twin in the achingly beautiful Catalan Song of the Birds, a song of peace that the cellist Casals played at the end of concerts.

Hillier B.A.Wise.
Wembley Park, Middlesex

Minyan assured down by the seaside

 I was sad to read (JC March 17) the headline and news  about the “Heartbreak as mourners unable to say kaddish” — although there are around 10,000 Jews living in Leeds!

Your research may tell you that it is a struggle in many Communities, even in North/North-west London. Yet here in Southend and Westcliff we have a minyan squad, dubbed “minyan minyanaires”, so we know we are able to arrange a minyan from a standing start within a maximum of 30 minutes of needing or asking whether it is for a minyan in shul or, if necessary, for a levoya.

We have an emergency, 100-phone-numbers bank which is a 3-tier emergency call-out system, a dedicated minyan call-out mobile line.
Aided by this call-out interaction and the fact that we have many young families from North London moving into our town, we know our minyan is safe.

Geoffrey Pepper, 
Leigh on Sea

Missing megillot

The debate goes on. To what extent does the JC represent Jewishness and Judaism? Allocating  the equivalent of just two pages out of 72 to reporting on Purim is a sad reflection of how the festival is considered no more than a fancy dress occasion.  

Despite your text, not one of the pictures captures a megilla reading.  

So where were the reports of unique events incorporating all the practices relating to the day?

Rabbi Y Sufrin
Chase Side
London N14 



March 24, 2017 16:51

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