Mar 2007 Journal

Letters to the Editor

Faith Schools: for and against

Sir - I heartily deplore the divisive effect on society of single-faith schools. I do not discount the excellent academic education many such schools provide. However, academic excellence alone in the early formative years cannot produce a 'rounded' person and, to the contrary, produces many narrow-minded and bigoted people. Studying, playing, discussing and debating together with peers of different faiths is, in my opinion, more important and more 'educational'. Without this 'breadth' of education, our young are ill-prepared for the reality of adult life.

Furthermore, I consider that the only hope of a future for the human race lies in people learning at school through dialogue with their peers of different cultures. There is, currently, a dangerous level of violence between peoples of different cultures/religions. Violence inevitably generates resentment and breeds more violence. Only understanding and dialogue can hope to mend such rifts.

Religious organisations could, and should, take responsibility for religious education out of the schools system. Giving up Jewish schools - difficult as that would undoubtedly be - would certainly be a good investment for the future as long as all single-faith schools vanished. So, thank you Peter Phillips for opening up this emotionally charged topic.
Ruth Barnett, Clinical Director, Raphael Jewish Counselling Service, London NW6

Sir - Peter Phillips cites his educational experience at a 'non-faith' school. But was it really a 'non-faith' school? Of course not - it was a Christian school. However, he was happy with that situation.

My experience was quite the opposite. As a young child evacuated to a small village during the war, I attended the local primary school. While I was treated sympathetically as a Jewish refugee from Nazism, this did not prevent me from having to learn the New Testament or from attending hymn-singing assemblies. The situation was the same at all the village schools I attended during the war and my friends assured me that I would go to hell if I didn't believe in Jesus.

My relief when, after the war and on our return to London, my parents enrolled me in a Jewish school was immeasurable. Now, I was spared from hymn and carol-singing and, instead of having to refuse to act in the nativity play, I could participate in the Purim play and go to Chanukah parties.

It is not simply a matter of Jewish education: it is also a question of self-respect.
Thea Valman

Sir - When the late Chief Rabbi Jakobovits was inducted in 1967 the tenor of his address was 'Education, education, education'. Similar to Tony Blair's aim some years later. Rabbi Jakobovits wanted to prevent the disappearance of Anglo-Jewry, which was rapidly declining due to assimilation and, in particular, intermarriage. The only way to prevent this was to open more Jewish faith schools and, in a way, he was successful. It is only through education in Jewish schools that our children can imbibe the values of our faith: the home together with the synagogue is insufficient.

All my four children went to Jewish schools and Jewish youth clubs. Perhaps the schools and clubs did the job too well and they all went to Israel.

Peter Phillips describes himself as a racial Jew. The whole idea is foreign to Jewish thought. The Nazis defined us as a race but we prefer our definition from the Bible: 'A Kingdom of Priests and a wholly nation' (Exodus 19:6).

Jews are a tiny minority here. Consequently, assimilation is a real probability. Peter Phillips was presumably born in Germany and had such a strong feeling of identity that he joined the Jewish Society at Oxford and married a nice Jewish girl. But what about his children and grandchildren? How can such a sense be instilled in them if not by education? Just being able to read Hebrew is hardly sufficient. What about being familiar with the Hebrew language, the Bible and its development such as the Talmud, Jewish history and Jewish philosophy? This can only be taught in Jewish schools together with secular subjects.

Jewish schools need not be divisive: extra-curricular activities can make pupils aware of other faiths. Statistics show that the rate of intermarriage among those who went to Jewish schools is much lower than among those who went to ordinary schools and had little or no Jewish education.
Max Sulzbacher, London NW11

Israel Bashing Correspondence

Sir - As a fairly recent member of the AJR, I was dismayed to find again a collection of Israel-bashing correspondence in your otherwise excellent journal. I would have expected better of what is, after all, a periodical encompassing Kindertransport and Holocaust survivors.

Peter Zander's vitriolic attack is particularly distasteful. He smugly declares that he has no need for a third nationality - pray God that his grandchildren won't need it one day. Or let him tell it to those who found a safe haven in a Jewish homeland when they had nowhere else to go. Actually, Israel is far better off without the likes of him, who finds it necessary to go to Berlin of all places - to the very heart of the people who threw him out - to malign his fellow Jews.

Hitler did not, at first, intend to annihilate the Jews - he simply wanted them out. However, after the fiasco of the Evian and Bermuda conferences, when it became clear that no country wanted them, it gave Hitler carte blanche to go ahead with the 'Final Solution'. He said at one of his famed 'table talks' that the world would be grateful to him for ridding Europe of its Jews. Had there been a Jewish state just a few years earlier, there would have been no Holocaust.
Rubin Katz, London NW11

BBC Bias Challenge

Sir - Re Inge Trott's challenge with regard to BBC bias (February), I am constantly bombarded by the BBC with information about the sufferings of the Palestinians. No doubt they suffer for various reasons, but not all the sufferings are caused by the Israel/Palestinian conflict. But the BBC rarely devotes time to what goes on in regions of Israel affected by Palestinian mortars. Only once do I remember hearing 'From Our Own Correspondent' describing the result of Palestinian bombs fired from Gaza on the homes and schools of Israeli citizens. One particular correspondent who always presented events from the Palestinian side was Orla Guerin.
Alex Lawrence, Marlow

Are Jews a Race?

Sir - Many of your readers seem to agonise over the question whether the Jews are a race. Whenever I receive a hospital submission form, I am asked about my racial details. I simply tick the box 'White European' and leave it at that.
Jack Lee, London N11


Sir - In his recent article (December), Anthony Grenville refers to Theresienstadt as a ghetto and suggests that a distinction needs to be made between this and a concentration camp. This suggestion is misleading.

In ghettos families would live together in private homes, prepare their own food, and be free to leave the ghetto each day. None of this was the case in Theresienstadt. The inmates were prisoners, sleeping in barrack rooms on bunks, several dozen people to a room; food, which typically consisted of soup made of potato peelings plus a ration of bread, was prepared in camp kitchens. There was malnutrition, forced labour and severe punishment, only the most extreme of which took place in the Kleine Festung, and constant fear of deportation lists for Auschwitz.

The error concerning the nature of Theresienstadt seems to arise from the Nazi film and the Red Cross inspection of 1943. These were pieces of misinformation and it should be remembered that film sets can be constructed to show what the makers want to show. As for the famous Red Cross inspection, it too was a complete fraud. At the age of eight, I was one of a line of children presented to the inspectors (who were from the German Red Cross, not the Swiss). The officer in charge of us told us that if spoken to during the inspection we should call him uncle and say we had sardines for lunch. The one statement was as false as the other. Various 'facilities', one of which was a children's playground, were constructed for the inspectors to see and were immediately dismantled after the inspection and never used.

It was not at all my intention to distinguish between Terezin and a concentration camp. I wanted to distinguish between the Small Fortress, which was a prison, and the main body of Terezin, which was part of the town of that name, sealed off as a ghetto by the Nazis and now inhabited again by townspeople. I do not know what else one can call this but a ' ghetto'. All the publicity material available at Terezin refers to it as such: the pamphlet published by the Terezin Memorial is headed 'Terezin Ghetto', the museum is called the 'Ghetto Museum', and so on. Incidentally, it is completely erroneous to suggest that Jews in Nazi ghettos were free to leave them every night, as anyone who is the least bit familiar with conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto, for example, will know (Anthony Grenville).
G. J. Tyrrell

Frightening Vision of Future Britain

Sir - I was pleased to see Ronald Channing's apt reference to the book Londonistan (January). I assumed the political correctness brigade would, sooner or later, exert pressure to ban it from further printing, like Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses. I have always admired Melanie Phillip's outspoken articles in the press and her visions of a future Britain are truly frightening - particularly as far as Britain's Jewry is concerned. Melanie Phillips is no Jeremiah but a realist and the present status-quo attitude by past and present governments reeks of appeasement.
Anthony Goldsmith, Wembley, Middx

Disgraceful Rock Opera

Sir - 'The show has great panache', writes Gloria Tessler in her review (December 2006) of Caroline, Or Change at the Lyttleton Theatre. She must have seen a completely different production to the one I endured. I found it a very nasty, antisemitic work with no artistic value whatsoever.

This disgraceful rock opera was performed on the afternoon I attended to an audience comprising many young Afro-Caribbean schoolchildren. When Caroline, the 'star' of this piece, the Afro-American servant, tells the young Jewish boy 'When you die you will go to hell!', there was enthusiastic clapping from some of this young audience.

Should the Board of Deputies not be protecting our small community from this, particularly at a time of growing antisemitic incidents?
M. Ladenheim, Surbiton, Surrey

Hands-on Lady

Sir - My mother was a resident at Heinrich Stahl House while Dorli Neale (Profile, January) was matron and I would like to pay tribute to the wonderful qualities she brought to the job. Warm, understanding and always available, she kept a motherly eye on all residents, not least in the dining room. The term 'hands-on' might have been invented for her.
Stella Curzon, Ruislip, Middx

AJR Like a Mother

Sir - I have been a member since 1947 and find all the services - cultural and otherwise - invaluable to me. AJR is like a mother who watches over us. Thanks for all the wonderful work you are doing.
Mrs C. Haar, London NW8

Entertainment at its Best

Sir - I am a member of the local AJR group and I am writing to commend you on the speakers we have had recently. Our most recent speaker was George Layton. He was brilliant. He read an excerpt from his book The Trick and Other Stories, which to me was entertainment at its best.

Other speakers who come to mind are Lynn Fisler, a healer, and Katharina Hübschmann from the Wiener Library. Thank you again for sending us such interesting speakers. Keep up the good work.
David Kutner, Westcliff-on-Sea