Communal Cohesion – More Vital Than Ever

Communal Cohesion – More Vital Than Ever by Judith Hayman

I believe that, like Israel, the ManchesterJewish community is dangerously divided. Does nobody question that our mainstream secondary school, King David High, has a separate Yavneh division?  ? Most religious experts agree that the fight for Jewish continuity is won in the home. The school makes only a marginal difference. I have not noticed any difference in intermarriage rates between those attending Jewish high schools and independent schools. In the past children of varying religious levels attended Jewish Day School (now Yesoiday HaTorah), Broughton Jewish Primary School, and KingDavidJuniorSchool. Intermarriage rates in those days were lower. I think we are paying a high price for trying to avert a spurious threat. Mixing with less religious children may make you more tolerant but it will not make you less religious if there is a strong Jewish home background.

Former Chief Rabbi Sacks made a plea for community cohesion as a parting shot. Chief Rabbi Mervis has stated this was his aim from the word go. When I spoke to Jewish Leadership Council CEO Jeremy Newmark recently he said this issue was high on their agenda too. People often ask: “What does the Manchester Jewish Representative Council actually do?” Well here is an opportunity for us to be ahead of the game and show London the way!

Former Chief Rabbi Sacks has noted that anti-Semitism rears its ugly head in 60-year cycles. Just across the Channel, French Jews are leaving for Israel in droves because of the dangers of anti-Semitism. It began in 1970 with the desecration of 35 Jewish graves by neo-Nazis in Carpentras. Since 2011 Marine Le Pen of the far right Front National has led the third largest political party in France. The slaughter of three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse last year was the most frightening manifestation of this neo-Nazi revival.

Only recently Poland, where the Auschwitz death camp stands as a testimony to the evils of intolerance, has banned shechita. Back at home Jenny Tonge may have been silenced by the Liberal Democrats for her anti-Israel stance but it is clear that others in the country’s third largest party share her views.

In this country the warning signs are there but we do not heed them. Why is it that only Jewish schools have security guards? Why is it that only Jews need CST-type cover when they attend meetings? Thankfully I have not seen guards outside Muslim, Hindu or Sikh places of worship or community centres. Sadly Jews are most united when there is a common threat. The threat is not as serious as in France yet, but I think we should be united NOW in case the situation deteriorates.

When Iran and Iraq were locked in combat, Israel felt safer. A divided enemy is safer than a united one. How Israel’s enemies in the Middle East must rejoice at the division between the Charedi and secular in Israel. Are we not fiddling while Rome burns? Instead of falling out over how kosher the eruv is, shouldn’t we be looking at what we have in common?

The Charedim now have their own Orthodox Jewish Foruml where they make decisions regarding their own community. They meet with Salford and Bury councils to apply for grants for their own community. Is it not strange that they are not applying for grants for the whole community? I would like to see the whole Jewish community speak to the wider community with one voice. A number of Rep Council members think along similar lines. A committee has been set up to seek rapprochement with the Charedi community. The members, other than me, are Jacky Buchsbaum, Sharon Bannister, Michael Rubinstein and Stephanie Klass.

After our group met with Rabbi Yehuda Brodie it was agreed that a few of us should attend a meeting of the Orthodox Jewish Forum. Let us hope that we can talk and build some bridges. It must be easier than bringing the Israelis and Palestinians round the same table!

Many people are convinced that such an initiative is doomed to failure. “The Charedim are in the ascendency and will not want to talk to you” is a common refrain. This is defeatist talk and let us hope that this long neglected process will finally be kick-started.

(This does not necessarily repreent the view of the Jewish Representative Council)