Who Speaks on Behalf of British Jewry?
Posted by Admin on February 8, 2007
The question of “Who speaks on behalf of British Jewry” came to the fore this week when a group of prominent British Jews declared their independence from the Jewish establishment.
The group, Independent Jewish Voices, published an open letter in the Guardian, which raised questions about the legitimacy and authority of those organisations which claim to represent the interests of the Jewish Community:
We are a group of Jews in Britain from diverse backgrounds, occupations and affiliations who have in common a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole. We further believe that individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty.
In an accompanying article, one of the group’s founders, Dr Brian Klug, set out the case for a more open debate within the Jewish Community:
If there is one thing on which Jews can agree, it is this: it’s good to argue. Jewish culture has thrived on argument – frank, sincere disagreement – ever since Moses disputed with God. But today an oppressive and unhealthy atmosphere is leading many Jews to feel uncertain about speaking out on Israel and Zionism. People are anxious about contravening an unwritten law on what you can and cannot discuss, may or may not assert . . . We are not setting ourselves up as an alternative to the Board of Deputies or any other body. But we challenge the standard concept of “the Jewish community” as a collective entity for which the board is the secular voice and the chief rabbi the religious voice. This system was developed in another era – though it is being used today as a template for other minorities. It pictures “the Jewish community” as a single bloc that, whatever its internal complexity, presents a common face to the outside world via its ambassadors.
We welcome your comments on this issue. (Please note that the discussion forum on Jewish education has now been closed).