JC Reporter

The JC Letters Page, 12th February 2021

JC readers share their views

January 15, 2021 17:10

It's about religion

David Baddiel completely dismisses the notion of religion as part of Jewish identity in his new book, Jews Don’t Count.  As he puts it, Hitler didn’t stop to ask people if they kept Kosher or went to synagogue before sending them to the gas chambers.

This narrow and indeed alien concept of how Jews define their Jewishness is born out of Baddiel’s very particular experiences of being the butt of antisemitic abuse on Twitter and in the stands at his beloved Stamford Bridge.  But this is completely to misunderstand self-identity for the majority of Jewish people.

Anyone who has had to complete an Equal Opportunities Monitoring form understands the distinction between ethnicity and religion.  Jews are the least ethnic of people. If Baddiel was to travel to any centre in the world where Jews are concentrated he would understand this.  The nation of Israel is itself a cosmopolitan melting pot with scores of ethnicities.

Being on the progressive wing of Judaism, Baddiel will know that more people than ever who were not born to Judaism are making a conscious choice to identify themselves as Jews, certainly for reasons to do with allegiance, but primarily because they subscribe to Judaism’s religious and cultural values.

 Baddiel is an intelligent man who believes that many people who are not out-and-out antisemites nevertheless have a blind spot when it comes to Jews.  Why then does he have a blind spot when it comes to the categorisation of Jews?  

He falls into the same trap as many pseudo-intellectuals by choosing the ground Hitler and his ideological forebears established for Jews as a race.  From here it was a short, catastrophic step to demonise Jews as “Untermenschen”.

David Baddiel’s sub-plot is that religion doesn’t count.  In this he is gravely mistaken.  As the late Rabbi Lord Sacks used to say, “Non-Jews respect Jews who respect their Judaism”.

David Levenson
Stanmore HA7

I refer to the announcement that Norwood Ravenswood will be shutting a number of their shops (Norwood is shutting up shops, February 5) and will be reviewing the benefit of the remainder.

Even before Covid, their return has been minimal. Covid has just made things worse. The main beneficiaries of charity shops are the people purchasing their wares.

Most charity shops have outlived their usefulness. Norwood should be applauded for recognising this.

David Green
London NW11

Questioning intent 

I do not think that Mr Kraus (Letters, 29 January) understands the meaning of chillul Hashem. I read his letter with despair.

The JC is published once a week, but every other newspaper here in England and around the world published this particular news item for a number of days. Every radio station delivered this bulletin on the hour, and every TV station did the same. This is where chillul Hashem was caused in the wider world, and I was ashamed.

And if this would have been neatly swept under the carpet, as Mr Kraus would have preferred, would it have miraculously stopped our funerals?

Malkie Benmayer

London NW4

If, as your reviewer states, the film Dara of Jasenovac “often descends into nationalistic and often anti-Croat fervor”, this is all the more inappropriate when it was not just ethnic Serbs, Jews and Roma people who were killed at Jasenovac by the justly notorious Ustase regime, but also many anti-fascist Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

Richard Briand 
Leek, Staffs

Learning properly

Simon Rocker’s review of Anthony Seldon’s suggestions for a Fourth Educational Revolution (Let’s kiss goodbye to exams, February 5) is a breath of spring.  

One immediate recoup would be to use years 6 to 11 for learning instead of rehearsing exams.  Another would be to let those who wish to, and can pass what is now GCSE Maths and English, go to apprenticeships and sandwich courses sooner.  

Some cautions. Continuous assessment is still an exam.  When erstwhile pupils grumbled “Why exams?” my reply was, “Because otherwise the whom you know crowd would scoop everything.”   

AI computers might make “blended learning”  and multiple choice questionnaires easier to administer but the Covid lockdowns have made plain that children need laptops or tablets from the start as much as earlier generations were given free copybooks and textbooks.  

Computers can be paid for now out of savings on printing worksheets over twelve years schooling and college.

Creativity is not just literary, visual arts and music. There is room for far more lab and workshop time and the discovery anecdotes and biographies of scientists and engineers.  Emotional development is a function of domestic stability so perhaps we could all be thankful people marry and parent on average a decade later than fifty years ago. 

Frank Adam


January 15, 2021 17:10

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