From the Press
This page is for news items from the press that members think would be of general interest to Kingston IFF web site readers. Items for inclusion should be emailed to the WebMaster, Anthony Freedman who retains editorial control over what appears.
Liberals in reshuffle - From the Jewish Chronicle 11 November 2010
Rabbi Danny Rich has been awarded a new five year contract as the chief executive of Liberal Judaism.
Leaders of the movement have also reorganised the management team at the Montagu Centre, its central London HQ, in order to allow Rabbi Rich - who took office in 2005 - more time for writing and public speaking.
Lucian Hudson, Liberal Judaism chairman, said: "Danny Rich is an exceptional leader who is held in high regard and with much affection. We are delighted to renew his contract."
Shelley Shocolinksy-Dwyer steps up to become operations director, while Rabbi Rich's former PA Yael Shotts returns from maternity leave to be services manager.
Mr Hudson envisaged Rabbi Rich having a "more outward role, including overseeing our expanding links with Israel".
Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi says in The Times (3 Feb. 2010) "The Pope is right about the threat to freedom"
We may not agree with the Vatican line on homosexuality. But the State is trampling on our rights as individuals
There are times when human rights become human wrongs. This happens when rights become more than a defence of human dignity, which is their proper sphere, and become instead a political ideology, relentlessly trampling down everything in their path. This is happening increasingly in Britain, and it is why the Pope’s protest against the Equality Bill, whether we agree with it or not, should be taken seriously.
Let me make it clear that I believe homosexuals have rights that need defending. Like Jews, they have been a persecuted minority for far too long. They too, like Jews, were victims of the Holocaust. They have a case that should be heard.
I believe, too, that religious beliefs have no privileged status in a democratic society. Religions should have influence, not power. I do not believe that the religious convictions of some should be imposed on all by force of law. In a free society, the religious voice should persuade, not compel.
We all have an interest in freedom, the freedom to act differently from others. Indeed, at the core of human rights is a religious proposition: that we are all, regardless of colour, creed or culture, in the image of God. That religious vision burned brightly in the minds of those such as John Locke, who first formulated the idea of rights in the 17th century.
It was integral to the American Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal [and] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” John F. Kennedy made a similar statement in his great inaugural address: “The rights of Man come not from the generosity of the State, but from the hand of God.”
That is why using the ideology of human rights to assault religion risks undermining the very foundation of human rights themselves. When a Christian airport worker is banned from wearing a cross, when a nurse is sacked after a role-play exercise in which he suggested that patients pray, when Roman Catholic adoption agencies are forced to close because they do not place children for adoption with same-sex couples and when a Jewish school is told that its religious admissions policy is, not in intent but in effect, racist, we are in dangerous territory indeed.
My argument has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with liberty. One of the great defenders of liberty, Friedrich Hayek, drew a distinction between the English and French approaches to freedom. The English approach was gradual, evolutionary, mindful of history and respectful of tradition. The French approach was perfectionist, philosophical, even messianic in a secular way.
For the French revolutionaries there is an ideal template of society that can be realised by the application of politics to all spheres of life. Liberty is to be achieved by a vast extension of the powers of the State. If necessary, Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, we must “force men to be free”. The English, by contrast, knew “How small of all that human hearts endure/ That part which laws or kings can cause or cure”. They knew that we must always be on guard against what John Stuart Mill called the tyranny of the majority.
This led to two quite different concepts of human rights. The English version saw rights as defining the space in which governments may not intervene. In the social contract, we hand over some of our liberties to government for the sake of law and order and defence against foreign powers. But there are certain rights — such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — that are inalienable, meaning that we do not and cannot sign them away. They define an area of freedom by setting limits to the power of the State.
The French approach was to see rights as an ideal description of humanity that it is the task of politics to enforce. Politics is about the transformation of society by the force of law. English liberty sets limits to the State. French liberty is imposed by the State. That is the difference.
Alexis de Tocqueville, a Frenchman impressed by American democracy, said that in America (and England), religion and liberty are friends; in France they were enemies. He was writing in 1832, but what he said still holds true today. Religion in Britain is part of the ecology of freedom because it supports families, communities, charities, voluntary associations, active citizenship and concern for the common good.
It is a key contributor to civil society, which is what holds us together without the coercive power of law. Without it we will depend entirely on the State, and when that happens we risk what J. L. Talmon called totalitarian democracy, which is what revolutionary France eventually became.
Hayek, writing in 1959, prophetically saw that the French tradition was everywhere displacing the English one. In some of its provisions, that is where the Equality Bill seems to be heading. Its intentions are noble, but this is not the British way.
When Christians, Jews and others feel that the ideology of human rights is threatening their freedoms of association and religious practice, a tension is set in motion that is not healthy for society, freedom or Britain. Rather than regard the Pope’s remarks as an inappropriate intervention, we should use them to launch an honest debate on where to draw the line between our freedom as individuals and our freedom as members of communities of faith. One should not be purchased at the cost of the other.
Lord Sacks is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Survivor's Story: Martin Bennett
Martin Bennett, 84, attributes his survival in Auschwitz to his older brother who told him to lie about his age and skills.
Born in 1925 in Izbica Kujawska in Poland, Mr Bennett left his parents and eight siblings when the Nazis invaded in 1939, being sent to the Posnan forced labour camp. He was told that he would be able to work and earn money to send back to his family, so he was happy to go. It was only on arrival that the grim reality dawned.
He was 15 when deported to Auschwitz: “They told us we’d be going to a more modern place but when the train went through the gates, we realised what it really was.” But he was reunited with his older brother Tovia, whose life-saving advice was to say he was older and that he was a cabinet maker. “My brother was my angel. Many times I wanted to give up. We were hungry and cold the whole time but we managed to survive together.”
After the war Mr Bennett learned that the rest of his family had not survived — his parents were killed in Chelmno.
He came to England in November 1947, working as a tailor and latterly running a clothes shop. His brother moved to Israel. Married to Priscilla for 57 years, Mr Bennett is today a great-grandfather living in Surrey who gives talks at schools.
“I was only 14 when I was sent to a labour camp and now I speak to 14-year-olds. I worry that this should never happen to future generations.That’s the reason I recall my personal tragedy. I don’t want to speak of myself as a hero. I speak for the six million who cannot.”
From Kingston Guardian 15 January 2009
This Holocaust Memorial Day, Kingston will have its annual civic commemoration in Memorial Gardens, Church Street, on January 25. The organiser of the event is Edith Jayne. A keen campaigner, she started the Memorial Day Commemoration four years ago and is as keen as ever to get local residents to attend the proceedings this year. She spoke to Marie-Therese Dobbin about the event’s importance
How many people are you expecting to turn up to the event?
Well, last year we had about 75. It depends on the weather but we’re hoping
for a minimum of about 100. It’s been a lot better publicised this year. It starts
at 2.30pm followed by speakers, displays and light refreshments at the Guildhall (Queen Anne Suite) at 3pm.
There are quite a few prestigious names speaking on the day. Was it hard to get these people involved?
Not at all, everyone was happy to help. The Mayor attends and we invite other councillors, Kingston officials, members of the business community, the uniformed organisations, schools, faith leaders and others. Our speakers on the day also include Philip Spencer, dean and course director for human rights and genocide studies at
Kingston University, Reverend Malachie Munyaneza, a Rwandan survivor, and Rebeca Mear from Refugee Action Kingston.
What is the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day 2009?
Holocaust Memorial Day 2009 challenges us all to stand up to hatred. It urges all of us to look at our behaviour towards others; to understand how hate is directed against different minorities in Britain today; to explore how each of us can help make our communities stronger and safer.
What is your aim for this year’s proceedings?
Holocaust Memorial Day 2009 is an opportunity to forge links across all the diverse
strands of local community lives, to build understanding and to unite in a common
cause. Yes, we are commemorating the holocaust but today it also incorporates the
genocides since then, such as Darfur, and we must raise awareness of these as well.
On President Barak Obama meeting Tony Blair (from BBC news website 5/2/09):
"...During his speech, Mr Blair joked about the differences between faith and politics in the US and the UK. He told the audience of the "complete consternation" when, as PM, he wanted to end an address to the country with "God bless the British people".
"The system was aghast ... As I sat trying to defend my words, a senior civil servant said with utter disdain, 'Really prime minister, this is not America you know'," he recalled.
Tony Blair ended his keynote speech: "By the way, God bless you all." '
Rwandan orphans get a little piece of Israel
From The Jewish Chronicle Anshel Pfeffer December 11, 2008
A group of orphans from the 1994 Rwandan genocide are to begin new lives at a special youth village run by Israeli-trained staff and financed by Jewish-American donations through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.The Agahozo (“dry their tears”) Shalom village will not open officially until next June, but the first group of 125 children are to move in next week.The village, which will eventually house 500 young people, was the brainchild of New York lawyer Anne Heyman-Merrin. Inspired by the story of Paul Rusesabagina, the hero of the film Hotel Rwanda, she decided to do something for the 1.2 million orphans of the genocide, who make up 15 per cent of Rwanda’s population. Ms Heyman-Merrin drew on the Israeli experience of absorbing the orphans of the Holocaust in youth villages.“On December 15 we are welcoming the first 125 orphans to their new home,” said Ms Heyman-Merrin, who is now in Rwanda. “Not all of phase one is built, but we are able to move in to allow the children time to settle into their new home and to get to know those who will be living with and caring for them.”Initially, the staff, who have been trained at Yemin Orde, the village on which Agahozo Shalom is based, will be from the Israeli-Ethiopian community. They will then train local staff.Yemin Orde, near Haifa, was established in 1953 for Holocaust orphans and has since evolved into a centre specialising in youths who have suffered trauma.As well as a residential area, the village, a 143 acres complex near Lake Mugesera in Eastern Rwanda, will include a high school, from which some 120 students will graduate every year. Also planned are an IT centre and programmes for forestry and agriculture.
Chief Rabbi addresses Lambeth Conference
Almost all of Britain’s social problems are caused by a loss of religion, the Chief Rabbi told Anglican bishops last night.
Societies without religion disintegrated and people succumbed to depression, stress, eating disorders and alcohol and drug abuse, Sir Jonathan Sacks told 650 bishops and their spouses in Canterbury.
The Times 29/7/08 http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article4419717.ece
19 July, 2008
7 July survivor begins 200 mile trek.
Gill Hicks, who lost her legs in the 7 July bombings has started a 200 mile (321km) walk from Leeds to London as part of a campaign to unite communities. Co-founder of the Walk Talk event, Gill Hicks said inspiration for the challenge came from the way people helped her when she was injured. "This is all borne out of the idea of having faith and belief in humanity."
BBC News/ England/ West Yorkshire/ 7/7 survivor begins 200-mile trek.
Sharia law comments
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice strongly backed Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, over his suggestion earlier this year that aspects of sharia should be adopted. He said that he would be willing to countenance aspects of sharia law as long as they did not conflict with the existing laws of England and Wales, or lead to the imposition of severe physical punishments. "It was not very radical to advocate embracing sharia law in the context of family disputes, for example, and our system already goes a long way towards accommodating the archbishop's suggestion. It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law." He added that it was difficult to have a sensible discussion about sharia law in the UK because the issue is "like a red rag" in the public's mind.
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and other newspapers, 4 July.
Moral, But No Compass
The government is ‘planning blind and failing parts of civil society' when it comes to faith communities in general and aspects of charity law and social policy in particular, concludes a report by the Von Hugel Institute, St Edmund's College, Cambridge University. Commissioned by the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, Bishop for Urban Life and Faith, the report was received today by the Archbishops' Council of the Church of England. "We encountered on the part of Government a significant lack of understanding of, or interest in, the Church of England's current or potential contribution in the public sphere. Indeed we were told that Government had consciously decided to focus its evidence gathering almost exclusively on minority religions".
Faithbook on Facebook aims to get believers talking
Faithbook is the brainchild of the Movement for Reform Judaism (MRJ), and has been launched on Facebook as an area to promote networking and understanding across different faiths. It uses images, videos and content from a range of sacred texts alongside commentary from nine major faiths. Simon Cohen, its director, says the site is for everyone. "This is about sparking debate, not owning debate."
The Guardian (3 June), The Times (3 June), Church of England Newspaper (6 June)
30 May, Tony Blair Faith Foundation launched.
Tony Blair launched his Faith Foundation with a call for the creation of a new coalition to harness the moral leadership of people of faith to do good and to show the relevance of faith to the challenges of the modern world. The goals of the foundation are to promote respect and understanding between the major religions, to make the case for faith as a force for good, and to encourage inter-faith initiatives to tackle global poverty and conflict.
Decline of Christian values ‘is destroying Britishness'.
The Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali claims that the social and sexual revolution that began in the 1960's led to a catastrophic decline in the influence of Christianity throughout society, which church leaders failed to halt. He argues that the decline in the prevalence of Christian values in contemporary society is destroying Britishness and has created a moral vacuum that is being filled by radical Islam.
The Daily Telegraph, 29 May (and other newspapers that day).
Cardinal urges Muslim leaders to oppose violent jihad
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Pope's principal adviser on Islam, said that while the majority of Muslim clerics condemned acts of terrorism, they needed to be more vocal about jihad, especially because of its frequent appearances in the Qur'an. Speaking at a lecture given in London he called for Muslim leaders to become more outspoken about violence in the name of religion.
The Guardian, 29 May
Cardinal says Britain must not be a ‘God-free' zone
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales said he was unhappy about attempts to "eliminate the Christian voice" from the public forum. Speaking in a lecture at Westminster Cathedral, he urged Catholics to prevent the country from becoming a "world devoid of religious faith" through a deeper engagement with God by praying, studying and performing charitable acts.
The Guardian, Friday May 9, 2008. Riazat Butt, Religious affairs correspondent.
22 April, 2008 BBC Website.
The Quilliam Foundation
The Quilliam Foundation is a recently launched think tank, one of a number of attempts in recent years to counter al-Qaeda's world view. Its leading lights are Ed Husain, author of The Islamist, and Maajid Nawaz. They say that Islam in its purest universal form, as the last message of God to mankind, sits perfectly well in modern multicultural societies, provided that Muslims find the right way to express their faith. http://www.quilliamfoundation.org