The JC Letters Page May 26 2017

Andrea Kelmanson,Lee Barnett, Ruth Rothenberg, Naomi Stadlen, Jon Barron, Ruth Cohen and Raphael Levy share their thoughts with JC readers

May 26, 2017 15:16

How to be properly charitable

So refreshing to read Ben Crowne’s response to the seriously ill-informed opinions of both the new and previous Chairs of the Jewish Leadership Council, Jonathan Goldstein and Sir Mick Davies, that the UK Jewish community has “far too many charities”. Their quintessentially “successful businessman” understanding is both inadequate and wrong-headed, and reveals a serious misunderstanding of the essential nature, role and overall societal function of charities.

Democracies value their civil societies and invite every citizen to take action if they see wrongs they wish to put right, or if they wish to demonstrate how doing things differently and “flying higher” can make a real difference. Just try to find evidence of civil society in non-democratic regimes if proof is needed. 

At their hearts, all charities are the expression of passion and a belief that things should and could be better. 

Of course it is absolutely true that the challenge of generating adequate funds to enable all of our charities to survive and thrive is massive; and it is certainly the case that Jewish voluntary organisations, just like their counterparts in the wider community, have to be bitingly honest about themselves in relation to their “sister” charities; and of course they need to be hugely creative if they are to survive, let alone thrive.

However, no effective response will emerge from the Jewish voluntary sector if it continues to be admonished to “get smaller” in order to enable the community to fund it into the future. That, surely, is putting the cart before horse. The passionate spirit at the hearts of our many charities doesn’t pause to ask if the community can afford to support it, before it gets established; nor should it.

Andrea Kelmanson,
Herts EN6

An MP’s duties

Shimon Cohen (May 12) asks Jeremy Newmark to remember that he is “supposed to be trying to represent his constituents.”  Mr Cohen appears to suggest that an MP’s job is to substitute his constituents’ views for his own. 

The reverse is true. Edmund Burke said that when it came to elected representatives, “your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

For all that I disagree with Mr Newmark, and would not vote for him, I side with Burke in regards to his duties .

Lee Barnett, 
London NW8

Missing out in 1936

David Aaronovitch might be interested to add another piece of information to his research into the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Hitler was well aware that he might be forced to allow German-Jewish sportsmen to participate in the Games and prepared for the possibility. A secret training camp for Jewish athletes was set up at Ettlingen near the Black Forest.

Among the handful who trained there was Paul Yogi Mayer, later a well-known youth leader in London, first in the Jewish community as leader of the Primrose Club for young Holocaust survivors (“The Boys”), followed by the Brady Boys’ Club in the East End, and then more widely as youth officer for Islington Council. 

Yogi, who died in 2011 aged 98, trained under official secrecy for the pentathlon but, thanks largely to Avery Brundage, his services were not called upon. He did, however, report on the Games but then fled Germany with his wife and baby son in 1938. Nearly 70 years later, in 2004, he published his own work on Jews in sport: Jews and the Olympic Games: Sport – A Springboard for Minorities.  

Ruth Rothenberg, 
London NW3

She was unique

Thank you for devoting three pages to Tess Simpson.

But the overall impression is unjust. Why open the account with a failure which wasn’t her fault? It continues with descriptions of those she saved, so that she, deeply modest in life, is overshadowed even here. And when her contributions are described, they are put down with the comment: “The banality of goodness.”

Banality? It’s a variant of Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”. If banal, her goodness would be trivial and commonplace. But she was unique. I last talked to her in the Cosmo at Swiss Cottage when she was nearly 90. She was passionate, vivacious, with an astonishing, precise memory, and concerned, not with the past, but with current atrocities. 

Tess was my father’s friend (Hans Jacoby), and knew me from birth. I owe it to her to write to you. 

Naomi Stadlen née Jacoby, 
London N22

Just reward

I refer to the article headed Roller-Coaster JFS Studies by Simon Rocker.

The trip Mr Rocker is referring to is simply a form of reward to the boys and girls at the school for regularly attending minyanim and usually takes place midweek on Lag B’Omer. 

I know from my own boys’ experience this has done them no harm, in fact it has “enriched” their Jewishness. Speaking from experience, perhaps certain synagogues might wish to follow the JFS lead on rewarding those who attend minyanim!

Jon Barron, 
London N13

In defence of JFS

I wanted to write a response to a letter in the JC about JFS.

I have to admit, I was one of those parents who has been extremely concerned about the school and my children’s education over the past five years. 

But, I can honestly say, I was hugely and mightily impressed, following a one-to-one meeting that my son and I had last week.
JFS really want all of the students to do well and are totally committed to helping students in whatever way they can.

They told me that if they do not provide individual students with the right help and resources to achieve their full potential, then they as a school will have failed their students.

So as a parent with two children currently at JFS, I  feel really reassured.  

Ruth Cohen,
London N2

Not at fault

I read Shlomo Roiter-Jesner’s article (Cambridge Jewish Society let us down over antisemitism complaint) with interest. I was a member of the JSoc Leadership that, it is alleged, offered no support in response to this incident but I write, I should emphasise, in a personal capacity. 

I can assure you that Cambridge Jsoc took the incident seriously. What might be confusing Mr Roiter-Jesner is the fact that, in the national press, he then accused Christ’s College of attempting to cover up the incident.

This was a serious (and baseless) accusation that hurt his cause. A number of students and the Jsoc leadership at the time took the decision that such an accusation was damaging, needless and false. The victim of antisemitism is obviously to be believed. The individual who accuses an institution (which has already made provisions for its Jewish students) of a cover-up is not afforded the same right. 

It is a shame that the JC decided to further this individual’s publicity stunt. Your readers should be reassured that there is a vibrant and flourishing Jewish community at Cambridge that will do its utmost for its members. I will be sad to leave it at the end of this year.

Raphael Levy
Cambridge, CB3


May 26, 2017 15:16

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