July 8, 2017: Comes as a shock

We always thought that the Jews of Britain formed a well structured community. Now we see that it’s mostly a façade.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Comes as a shock
Your report that synagogue membership in Britain is declining and that centrist Orthodoxy is barely holding its own while ultra-Orthodoxy is growing (“UK synagogue membership at all-time low,” July 6) comes as a shock to Anglo-Jewry’s admirers in Israel and all over the world.
We always thought that the Jews of Britain formed a well structured community in which the chief rabbi presided over a pleasant family in which everyone enjoyed shul-going and synagogue gossip. Now we see that it’s mostly a façade, and that the community is weakening, not just because of antisemitism, but also due to internal disintegration.
It’s good that strict Orthodoxy is growing, but what’s happening with the center? It’s not too late for the chief rabbinate and centrist Orthodoxy to recapture some dynamism – but the challenge can’t be left too long.
The author is rabbi emeritus of the Great Synagogue in Sydney.
True justification
With regard to “Dueling homage paid to Holocaust, Palestinian victims” (July 5), the constant justification of Israeli statehood as a result of the Holocaust is the worst possible justification.
The UN voted for partition and then recognized the State of Israel. Jews accepted the decisions of the UN while the Arabs did not.
A newly declared Israel defended itself not from forces residing within its borders, but from hordes of foreigners who wished not to incorporate Jews into their communities, but to annihilate them. Israel defended itself again numerous times, again from forces outside its borders.
Even if one does not accept the historical connection of Jews (and therefore Israel) to the land, the bloodshed in holding it is all the justification needed.
Beit Shemesh
The Modi visit
Caroline B. Glick clearly delineates Israel’s past, present and future standing in light of the historic visit by India’s prime minister (“Modi and Israel’s coming of age,” Our World, July 4).
Our destiny, as always, is in our hands. As we have a lot to offer developing countries, this must not be stymied by constantly linking our future prospects solely to peace negotiations between us and the Palestinians.
Should the Palestinians truly wish to seek peace, they must realize that the next move has to be theirs. If not, they risk once again a lost opportunity that might be a long time returning.
Tel Aviv
Kudos to Isi Leibler, not only for his fascinating “A memoir – background to Indian prime minister’s visit” (Candidly Speaking, July 4), but also – and mainly – for his brave words of strong diplomacy to former Indian prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.
Israel must learn from such acts. We can’t kowtow to our friends. We must tell it like it is.
Thanks, Mr. Leibler.
Kotel, conversions
Yaakov Katz (“Change only comes through education, not boycotts,” Analysis, July 4) misses the main point of the current crisis with American Jewry.
The crisis is primarily the result of a defective system in which the largest party, the Likud, received less than a quarter of the votes cast in the last Knesset election. This forced Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu to form a coalition with small parties, including the ultra-Orthodox, who threaten to bring down the government if any change is made to their control of religion.
Only electoral reform to a constituency system in which an MK is directly answerable to his or her constituents, and not to not party hacks, can resolve the problem, irrespective of education or boycotts.
It’s not that the Israeli Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox are more clever, better or godlier – they simply have the political clout and, consequently, can decide for all of us about all things Jewish. Sad and bad for a lot of us Israeli citizens.
Even though couched in theological terms, the Western Wall issue is much more about culture than religion.
Israelis, not unlike Jews in the UK, might be nominally Orthodox, but they are often irreligious, whereas Conservative and Reform Jews, especially in America, tend to be intensely religious, practicing their faith with genuine belief and devotion.
Admittedly, that’s a sweeping generalization, but it helps explain the indifference of the Israeli public and the uninformed vehemence of those who are more comfortable and familiar with the traditional norms of their ancestors.
Another factor is that the Kotel, unlike the Temple Mount above it, is a site that’s historical, not religious, and revering its stones has an element of superstition, even paganism.
Certainly, the self-appointed rabbi of the Western Wall has no legal authority to determine how it is regarded.
Politics, as far as I remember, is about who has the upper hand. US president Lyndon Johnson many years ago called this kind of jockeying for power “arm twisting.” Nice euphemism.
But the plain word is “extortion.”
“If you don’t do as I say, I will cut off your funds.” “If you don’t do as I say, I will cause your government to fall.”
Things are pretty ugly. What we need is a leader of stature to take us out of this morass.
But here’s the worst. In “They love Israel. Does Israel love them?” (Observations, June 30), Dov Lipman tries to prove that American youths, brought to Israel for a few weeks by MASA or Birthright, love us, where in fact these young people have about as much love for us as a shipboard romance from the last century. They go home and forget about their infatuation with us because there is no long-term commitment.
Lipman owes a huge apology to those of us who are committed Jews for his breathtaking question: “Does your average Israeli show the kind of love for Israel that these kids do?” Is he kidding? The average Israeli sends his or her boys to the army for three years and worries about them day and night.
Love? Commitment? Endless! The average Israeli is full of commitment to this land. We love and encourage our dear soldiers, our sons and grandsons, to serve in the army and do the dangerous things they need to do to keep the rest of us safe. When they are done, we encourage them to continue to do reserve duty, even when they have little babies at home who will miss them.
“People who love Israel deeply.”
Hmmm. Let’s see them – in the old American tradition – put their money where their mouth is and show the same commitment we show every day by living here. Meanwhile, I’m waiting for an apology from Lipman for insulting all of us “average Israelis.”
Petah Tikva
I am Orthodox. When we came here on a visit in 1980, and then came here to live in 1984, we used to go to the Kotel. Nobody asked if we were Orthodox or Reform. I went to the side for the women, and my husband to the side for the men.
Everybody prayed in his or her way, and there was a respectful silence.
What is happening lately upsets me more than I can say.
Being divided has always been truly bad for us. Now that we have, with God’s help, built up this beautiful country, let us be united.
Petah Tikva