April 20: Tough choice for British Jews

The role of British chief rabbi is almost mission- impossible.

Tough choice for British Jews
Sir, – The role of British chief rabbi (“With Jonathan Sacks retiring, British Jews mixed on relevancy of chief rabbi,” April 18) is almost mission- impossible.
Nobody knows for certain what to expect of the incumbent. The job specification, taken down and polished between incumbencies, is precise on some aspects and silent on others. Every holder of the office has molded it anew. In some ways this brought benefit to the man and the community, in others it was a drawback because there were challenges that were not properly faced and priorities that got too little attention.
Prof. Robert Gordis called the priest a religious professional and the prophet an amateur with a passionate love of God, His word and His people. British Jewry has to decide what it wants – a priest who keeps the wheels oiled or a prophet who asks about the future. Both require scholarship, stamina and skill. An exceptional leader on both fronts is unlikely.
A priestly figure might be easier to find. The question is whether the community can in addition find and cope with a prophet. A free-wheeler with a prophetic voice might not be financially beholden to the community, but he will come at the price of freedom of the pulpit.
The writer is rabbi emeritus of Sydney’s Great Synagogue
Aliya and converts
Sir, – The sick game played by the Ministry of Interior regarding converts coming on aliya (“If the Jews came out of Egypt today, many would be denied entry to the Land of Israel,” Comment & Features, April 18) is part and parcel of the general malaise whereby our religious standards are hijacked by haredi (ultra- Orthodox) interests.
The Interior Ministry is a haredi fiefdom whose political agenda is threefold: first, to milk as much money as possible out of the Israeli taxpayer in order to fund willfully unemployed haredi men; second, to show moderate Zionist rabbis who’s boss; and third (for Shas in particular), to enjoy power for power’s sake in order to redress past insults, real or imagined. What better way than by consigning the innocent to an endless, faceless bureaucracy! Blame, however, cannot be placed at the feet of the ultra-Orthodox alone. Prostitution is a two-player business. Our secular parties deliberately pander to these minority special interests in order to maintain their own appearance of power.
Electoral reform would eliminate this problem.
But then, direct elections would also eliminate the roster of mediocrities and apparatchiks whose backsides are now glued to their ministerial chairs.
J.J. GROSS Jerusalem
Appropriate dress
Sir, – Good for the prison authorities for making former president Moshe Katsav wear the regular prisoner’s orange jumpsuit from now on (“Katsav ordered to wear prison uniform when seeing visitors,” April 17).
Just because he’s a former president is no reason for him to be allowed to wear just an orange Prisons Service jacket over his regular clothing. He should be treated like any other prisoner who is serving time for a rape conviction.
If he doesn’t want to receive visitors in the orange jumpsuit, then so be it.
He received no visitors from December to the end of January because he wouldn’t wear the jumpsuit. He can now just continue not to receive them, if that’s what he wants.
Katsav should not be treated differently than other prisoners. He was convicted of a very serious charge and should be handled accordingly.