The JC

The JC Letters Page, 15th January 2021

JC readers share their views

January 15, 2021 17:10

Join the modern world

I am disappointed with the present day halachic reasons in regard to mid-week minionim. I understand about Shabbat, not using electricity, but during the week this does not apply.

I have joined my shul’s mid-week services. As my household is shielded I could not attend even when the shul was open. But I am annoyed that in this modern day that meeting this way does not constitute a minion.

I have seven Yarzeit a year (and this does not include in-laws, grandparents etc). I find not being able to say Kaddish sad and hurtful.
It makes you wonder when the religious authorities will come into the modern world. No wonder people who are not frum are getting further away from going to shul.

Ivor Lethbridge
Ilford IG5  

Having watched far too many Zoom funerals of dearly departed friends, I find myself at a loss to understand why the United Synagogue have been so slow and unimaginative in adapting to the changing circumstances.

Surely it would not be unreasonable to train a member of the burial staff to be a Zoom moderator, supplied with appropriate equipment, rather than rely on already distressed family members.

Could not the funeral service also be adjusted, possibly to take place closer to the place of internment, in order to avoid the lacuna between the two parts of the service?

Many institutions, both lay and religious, have adapted their procedures during the pandemic to serve their clients better. 
Surely it is time for the United Synagogue to do the same for theirs, affording them some dignity, as they depart this world. 

Martin Kaye
London N2

Shuls and divisions 

Like my colleague, Rabbi Jonathan Romain (Synagogues should not just be for those who are religious, 8 January), I also serve a community that is developing its building.

Unlike the project in Maidenhead, though, our plans include not less but more prayer space, better to accommodate diverse minyanim on Shabbat and festivals.  

If we were able to expand our main prayer space — often standing room only in normal times - we would do this too.
While Rabbi Romain is right to emphasise the importance of other aspects of synagogue life - the learning, social action and communal activities that members should expect from a multi-faceted community centre — this need not be at the expense of prayer.
When we are intentional in creating meaningful, joyful, innovative services and open about the theological challenges that we all face, we find that there is still real appetite for communal prayer.

Rabbi Josh Levy 
Principal Rabbi, Alyth
London NW11

It is encouraging to read more opinions urging a re-think of  long-standing synagogal structures which continue to unnecessarily factionalise and, by extension, weaken  Anglo-Jewry. 

In my own family, we start from the simple premise that we are all proud, identifying Jews notwithstanding that we belong to three different denominations within practicing Judaism. Unsurprisingly, we meet often (not so much at present) and are buoyed by those life-enhancing familial qualities in which we Jews take such pride. Where and how we pray does not, nor ever will, come into the equation. The rest is commentary. And so it should be within Anglo-Jewry as a whole. 

It must surely be time for our shul buildings, many vastly under-used, to be places where every and any Jew can meet other Jews for recreation, education, cultural activity and, very importantly, socialising. I have not, of course, forgotten prayer, without which the very foundations of the community’s structure would be totally undermined.  The latter will cater for those who want prayer and all that is associated with it, whilst the rest will enjoy the huge benefits of an all-embracing Jewish community life from which no one need be excluded. Utopian? I think not.  A practical and restorative approach to early 21st century Jewish community wellbeing? I think yes.

This debate must continue.

Michael Lazarus.
Northaw EN6 

To Jew hate or not? 

While I understand John Nathan’s endorsement of Michael Morpurgo’s decision to omit The Merchant of Venice from Tales from Shakespeare, his forthcoming children’s book (Morpurgo is right to ‘cancel’ the Merchant January 8), I would take a more nuanced approach to the play. 

“The Jew”, during the prevailing climate of the time, was seen as a pariah figure, undeserving of any understanding as to motive or character.

In Shylock’s powerful, redemptive speech: “Hath not a Jew eyes/hath not a Jew hands — If you prick us/do/we not bleed?” Shakespeare invites us to open our eyes and look at the hate figure that society itself has created.  Far from being an antisemitic play I would argue that Shakespeare cleverly forces Shylock to enact what society ultimately expects of him.

Gloria Tessler
London NW4

Do not target the Jews

Like Rodney Curtis ( Converting Jews, 8 January ) I am a theologian from Oxford. Like the Jewish community, I strongly object to there being Christian missionary organisations which target Jews for conversion.

If anyone wants to find out about the Christian Gospel it is easily done. Christianity is not an esoteric cult hiding it’s teachings from public view. The news about Jesus can be found in books, online and in public preaching. There is, therefore, no need to target any group for conversion.

As for Mr Curtis’s claim that Jews are being excluded from the Gospel, I would point out that the Jewish people were in a covenantal relationship with God before Christians ever appeared on the scene. That Divine covenant with the Jews has not been broken and will not be broken. God does not renege on His promises. “Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.” (Isaiah Chapter 45 verse 17).

Revd. Roger Clarke
Edinburgh EH7

A lot of hot air 

At the same moment I read about Piers Morgan (Piers Morgan repeats claim that Israel ‘not giving’ jabs to Palestinians, 8 January) I saw that an Israeli firm, Watergen, helps provide Gaza with clean water by extracting it from the air. 

Its CEO Mikhail Mirilashvili said: “Our goal was that everyone on Earth could be supplied with drinkable water… it was immediately clear that we had to help our neighbours first”. After capturing humidity, the machine condenses it into water and then filters it into instantly drinkable water. When the air’s humidity level is above 65%, Watergen’s machines can produce about 5,000 litres of drinking water per day. An additional 1,000 litres can be produced when the humidity level exceeds 90%. 

I do wonder whether the Good Morning Britain presenter is full of hot air.

Ronel Lehmann
London EC3

An open mind is best

One interesting sideline to the controversy aired in your letters page about Ambassador Hotovely’s views on the Palestinians is Alex Brummer’s change of heart. Once a JC columnist, he wrote “..... much of the British media has bought into the narrative of “Nakba” or catastrophe — the idea that Israel’s creation was at the expense of the Palestinians” (11 July 2008). 

Open mindedness is always welcome especially when respected historians examining primary sources, particularly Benny Morris, have gradually added to the weight of evidence underpinning a more nuanced view of the foundation of the State of Israel. Acknowledging complex evidence lends credibility to anyone defending the state of Israel. 

Professor Morris himself moved many years ago from another direction, from left to centre, as he delved deeper into the archives.

Steven Fogel
London NW11 


January 15, 2021 17:10

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive