Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum

‘Antisemitism’ and the Liberal Media: The Long View

Posted by Admin on October 1, 2011

A necessary corrective to the furore associated with the publication of Tom Shields’ now infamous article.

Julia Neuberger: Rocking the Boat of Jewish Sensibilities

On 27th May 1986, the distinguished journalist Hugo Young wrote an article for the Guardian — one of his regular columns — entitled ‘When Mrs Thatcher sings of Jerusalem’. It was at the time of the Prime Minister’s visit to Israel, and argued that her trip was more to do with her personal feelings, her admiration for Jews, Judaism and Jewish values, than with Britain’s interests abroad.

That Tuesday morning, I had 28 telephone calls before eight a.m. They came from liberal, intellectual, semi-aware Jews. Some were members of my synagogue. More were members of no synagogue and no Jewish institution. They were ‘culturally’ Jewish, they argued (a recipe for belief in chicken soup and bagels), but aware at any moment of the faintest tinge of anti-Semitism. And Hugo Young, to their mind, had been deeply anti-Semitic in this article. After all, he had equated ‘ambition, purposefulness, material success and self-help towards self-advancement’ with the Jewish ideal. He had used the Chief Rabbi’s criticism of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on the inner cities as an instance of how the leading British Jew was ‘one of us’, one of the breed of new Tories ‘disconnected from Anglicanism’, who supported economic policies that leading ‘Christian churchmen have denounced’.

It was not a very flattering portrait of Judaism that Hugo Young painted. Even so, the vitriol of the attacks on him was incredible — he received many private letters, from friends, acquaintances and total strangers. Those letters regarded his piece as insulting to Judaism and offensive to themselves as left-of-centre Jews. The kinder ones suggested that they had not expected him, of all people, to have anything to do with this kind of thing. The less extreme letters claimed to be saddened by the piece. There were more aggressive letters which argued that Hugo Young’s piece was the veiled anti-Semitism of a middle-class liberal, infinitely nastier than the obvious anti-Semitism of right-wing thugs. And one person, a Rabbi Lewis of London, N.16, wrote to the Press Council with a formal complaint, in which he spoke of ‘deliberate and ugly generalised statements of an anti-Semitic character’, and argued that ‘the article as a whole is anti-Semitic in tone, offering an updated version of the old canard of the international Jewish conspiracy’.

That complaint was ultimately not pursued. But meanwhile the Guardian had published two letters, one from Colin Shindler, editor of the Jewish Quarterly, and one from myself. Both of us took Hugo Young to task for his caricaturing of Jews. Both of us reacted strongly. To my mind, in retrospect, we reacted too strongly, confusing generalisations as a result of insufficient sensitisation to Jewish worries with blatant anti-Semitism. [Emphasis added] I say much of this to my shame, for I fell into a trap. I flared up at Hugo Young on the telephone, partly out of irritation at my massively interrupted family breakfast, but more out of anger at what he had written, out of fury at his characterisation of Judaism in that way, his despising of so many values of modern Conservatism which he derived from a generalised and inadequate picture of Judaism. Briefly, I thought of Hugo Young as an anti-Semite — a man who could legitimately argue that ‘some of my best friends are Jews’ (some of them are mine, too), but whose perception of Jews and Judaism was distinctly unfavourable and tinged with a despising mockery. I use this example advisedly — of myself — because I look back at it with regret. Hugo Young is not an anti-Semite. He was wrong — and far too selective in his sources — in his analysis of Judaism. He oversimplified. I think even his conclusions were wrong. But that does not make him an anti-Semite, conscious or unconscious.

Yet it was all too easy to fall into the trap. His caricaturing of Judaism as ‘ambition, purposefulness, material success and self-help towards self-advancement’ read all too easily as ‘pushy’, ‘arrogantly single-minded’, worshipping ‘the golden calf of international materialism’ as Colin Shindler described it in his subsequent letter to the Guardian. The antennae react instantly. And when one asks oneself why, it always, in some curious way, comes back to Israel. For it is in regard to Israel and her policies that liberal middle-class intellectuals find themselves most vulnerable, most confused. Hugo Young was writing about Mrs Thatcher’s visit to Israel. He was describing her ‘Jewish vote’ in Finchley. (A questionable entity, though the large number of Finchley voters who are Jewish make it necessary for Mrs Thatcher to be familiar with things Jewish). He was suggesting that Mrs Thatcher visited Israel out of her link with Jews, rather than out of Britain’s best interests. Whether he was right or not is irrelevant. What is indisputable is that he was arguing the case for a sectional interest.

[Section omitted from original article]

There is one thing I forgot to mention. It is extraordinarily infectious as an attitude. When I look back at my reaction to Hugo Young’s article, I see how pervasive a force it is. For I do not share its premises, nor its techniques. And yet I too complained, shouted ‘Anti-Semitism’, as if that were a rational argument . . . Yet that we can all be affected I am now convinced, for our sensitivities are often a more powerful force than our intellects and powers of reason, however considerable. [Emphasis added]

First published in Index on Censorship, January 1987 (Volume 16, No.1), pp.2, 12-13.

73 Responses to “‘Antisemitism’ and the Liberal Media: The Long View”

  1. Samson Clare said

    “A necessary corrective to the furore associated with the publication of Tom Shields’ now infamous article.”

    Against my better instincts and the advice of my nurse I cannot let the above sentence pass without comment, as it obviously would do if ignored by myself as it will be by the community who continue to give this forum short shrift.
    Leaving aside the fact that you have had to delve back into the archives as far back as 1986 to make your point, you still feel able to use the above words to show your disdain for us who created that furore. To supply a `necessary corrective` implies that you consider one appropriate. How presumptious of you and your team who only closed the previous thread issue about Shields because nobody other than myself read it. To correct something is to improve it and only GJEF could suggest that a blatantly antisemitic column and the predictably huge outcry against it could require correcting. It never even occurred to you that the furore you mention was absolutely justified and essential ?
    No, you continue your pathetic attempts to undermine anything the Jewish community does that fails to meet with your approval…even digging out an article commenting on a column in The Guardian (no surprise there) written by a journalist who passed on years ago. Even Mr.Young may have been amused that a 25 year old scribbling has found new life.

    The issue here is not Rabbi Neuberger`s reaction to Young, the issue here is why you persist in this lonely campaign. What are your motives in posting opinions and copies when the only responses are from yourselves ? You are fooling nobody and this further attempt to divert attention from the fact that the rag and its journalist offended all Jews who read it except yourselves (and YES I do speak for all who read it and well you know it) is pathetic in the extreme.
    Let`s see if Neuberger`s words stimulate the debate you so obviously desire..or will the only responses be the usual attacks on me and the Walter Mitty replies from your cohorts.

    I think we all know the answer don`t we ?

  2. Stanley said

    How do you know samson that you speak for all who read it? I read it and don’t share your views and you certainly have no right to claim you speak for me. I speak for myself sir. GJEf do not speak for me either but unlike you they don’t claim to represent me.

    Anyway Neuberger’s article is really interesting and perhaps just perhaps there are lessons to be learned today in Glasgow from what she wrote. Most pertinent was her conclusion that her initial response was knee jerk but time gave her more perspective.

  3. Me Too said

    “Rocking the Boat of Jewish Sensibilities”

    Good article and very thought provoking. This was the most interesting article I have read in recent weeks about Jewish issues in Glasgow.

  4. glasgowpunter said

    Rabbi Neuberger’s article, whilst interesting, was written nearly 25 years ago, People’s attitudes and opinions change, sometimes on a daily basis never mind 25 years!!

    Has the Administrator contacted Baroness Neuberger to see if she is still of the same opinion in today’s world? I would find it more constructive if the Administrator advises Baroness Neuberger that they have used her article “as a necessary corrective” in relation to the Shields article and the outrage it caused. Personally, I have spoken to about 25 members of the Jewish community and not a single one has taken the Administrator’s view.

    I suggeest the Administrator also sends the Tom Shields’ article to Baroness Neuberger, advising her that the vast majority of Jewry reside in Giffnock and Newton Mearns, together with the innuendo re Hutchie school etc etc.

    I look forward to reading her views on the article, whatever they may be. Perhaps you should invite her to come to Glasgow and arrange a community meeting?

  5. Stanley said

    Glasgow Punter has undertaken his own opinion poll of attitudes within the community to The Herald article.
    I would not have thought this has any independent validation at all.
    If you read the introduction carefully, what the administrator actually wrote was that Neuberger’s article should be read in response to the furore that resulted from Tom Shields’ article. not what Shields wrote. No opinion was expressed on that.

    Therefore, Neuberger’s words should be read in that context – it is a more distanced and nuanced consideration that explains why initial reactions are sometimes ill considered and even wrong.

    Glasgow Punter should start to pay more attention in the future and get some help with English comprehension.

  6. The Voice of Reason said

    Shields wrote a very poor column. His first major mistake is that he obviously has little knowledge of the area because there are no road blocks in Gaza. He meant the West Bank. The 250 people who agree with me to continue the silly claims that others have made on here that all their mates agree with what they are saying have pointed out to me though that its playing with words to say that Gaza is not under occupation. Internally Israel might not be in control but the whole place is one big prison.

    That fact is probably what Shields meant to say but maybe didn’t have the ability or knowledge to express himself more clearly. The Jewish community – excluding the 250 who agree with me – are indifferentto the plight of these people. In simple terms many of us probably believe it is either their own fault or there are other problems more worthy of our attention. Just as it doesn’t touch the people of Tel Aviv it doesn’t strike a chord with the Jewish Community of Glasgow.

    It would undoubtedly be better if we did speak out about the plight of Palestinians but there is as much chance of that happening as there is of me going to the moon for lunch. However if we were looking after our own interests as a Jewish community we would make a very clear distinction between what the Israeli Government does and what we support. That would be in our own best interests and then Shiels could not infer that we blindly support Israeli actions – which most of us do.

    Before I sign off I think we should tell Ephraim Borowski where to go. His absurd claim that Shields is inciting violence against us is way over the top. It is the rantings of an individual who wants to take us to a place where not may of us want to go. Ephraim Borowski has no mandate to represent us on anything. He is a Director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities but never has to seek reelection or get approval from the community for anything. He only has to impress a few members of his committee who he has personally brought on board.

    I would never ask Ephraim Borowski, Leah Granet or Edward Isaacs to represent me to anyone on anything. I don’t think like them, nor do my 250 supporters, and nor do the overwhelming majority of our community. They are as relevant to our community as a misinformed journalist.

  7. Samson Clare said

    …and the 250 `supporters` names are…..?

    Nice round number but you fool nobody…the mythical 250 I`d wager contain not more than half a dozen who are of the Jewish faith even if they existed.
    The Jewish faith..remember who that consists of do you ?

    I GUARANTEE that 99.9% of us deplore Shields..his rag..and also the only Jewish website to support his words.

    `Voice of reason` ?? You`re having a laugh and I really ought to stop reading, but like X Factor there is something exceedingly compulsive about seeing supposedly mature people making complete fools of themselves, not least by pretending they/he are different individuals.

  8. The Voice of Reason said

    Samson, you are thick. I used the number 250 to demonstrate the absurdity of claiming a level of support based on ficticious supporters. It proves nothing.

    You didn’t get it daftie

  9. Samson Clare said

    Irony in here ? you wouldn`t know irony if it appeared in a Tom Shields column.
    Your sense of humour or sarcasm is missing from the rest of your post I wonder why ?
    You mock my assertion of widespread support for my views…you ignore Glasgowpunter`s similar claims yet have the gall to criticise him and I because we differ from you.
    If you like…send a letter to the Jewish Telegraph and see the response you receive…only that may alert you to the real world when you receive the derision you deserve..
    As for ‘Stanley’ and ‘Me Too’ what a coincidence that they both found the article “interesting”…what an intellectual coup by them…the most appropriate word they(you) could find in the dictionary was it ?

    Have you taken Glasgowpunter`s advice yet to send your motheaten article to Rabbi Neuberger yet ?
    If not why not ?
    You are very good at using other writers` words…why don`t you change the record and attempt at least composing something worthwhile yourself ?
    Listen..don`t mock me nor Glasgowpunter either…if we disappear this place will be as empty as a GJEF meeting supporting the Palestinians.

  10. The Democratic Republic of Fantasyland ( Scottish Council of Jewish Communities) said

    What a farce.

    Borowski is elected by no one. He has never been elected and as long as he remains the Director of SCOJEC he will never have to put himself up for election.

    He invites different people to serve on the Board of his organisation – the prerequisite for being involved is you have to accept that Borowski is the main guy and he makes the main decisions. Before anyone can become too powerful their elected term of office ends and they move on. Borowski remains always as the constant power.

    Borowski then goes to local and Central Government and assorted public figures and explains he is the Director of the Body that represents Scotland’s Jewish Community.
    He claims they have a legitimate mandate and spreads the fiction that they are genuinely representative.

    Its fantastic. Never elected and never having to be answerable to the community he thinks he represents but in situ for as long as he wants. His organisation has never taken any issue to the wider Jewish community but claims a democratic mandate because one or two individuals sit with him and are given the opportunity to meet a Government Minister occasionally. That opportunity is only given when Borowski is present to ensure there are no slip ups.

    If you read about this kind of model for democratic legitimacy in some Banana Republic you would shake your head with derision.Yet this is the model that the Jewish community uses to persuade Government, the Police, MPs, MSPs, Media etc that their arguments and opinions have some kind of validity and they represent us all.

    It is a con.

  11. Samson Clare said

    …yet you are restricted by your lack of ambition to do anything about it bar posting in a forum that almost nobody reads let alone agrees with.

    Fantasyland indeed…and don`t change the subject, it is barely a week old.

  12. Paul said

    This is getting better.

    I agree that Samson is thick “Voice of Reason”
    I agree that Borowski cannot legitimately claim to represent anyone and the contribution from the “Democratic Republic of Fantasyland was superb”

    If you are so interested in asking Neuberger to comment on her article Samson then I suggest you get off your lazy backside and get in touch with her yourself.

    Something tells me that the reason you and your friends hate this blog so much Samson is because it is the only, and I mean only, dissenting or alternative voice left in this community.

    You don’t need to agree with everything or even anything that’s written here but at least you can read opinions which are different. Anyone that suggests reading or writing to the Jewish Telegraph is quite simply barmy as that paper is a comic.
    Samson, my 350 friends all agree with me.

  13. Samson Clare said

    Read slowly ‘Paul’ take it all in and try to understand.

    Borowski whom you dislike intensely (we get that) is off topic…you introduced the thread…it is not relevant to the issue therefore you must keep your prejudices to yourself..until you can contain them no more and then you can get them all off your chest yet again. Please don`t forget the burial society and all other aspects of Glasgow Jewish society that you object to for your utterly juvenile reasons.
    You suggest I contact Rabbi Neuberger, I may do just that..but I truly expect she has enough trivia to deal with on a daily basis without informing her of some lunatic quoting her from quarter of a century ago….it would have been more pertinent why your forum didn`t ask her permission to reproduce her words in defence of an antisemitic column written for an antisemitic newspaper.
    I don`t hate this blog as such..I simply object to the views expressed ad nauseum without any justification. Ok you have your views on Israel, on this that and the other..including I may remind readers the “bigotry” of our beloved Maccabi (no I didn`t make that up)…you are fully entitled to make fools of yourselves in your own blog after all. But don`t classify your nonsense as `alternative`as if you are on some sort of crusade here. You are simply `anti`..something quite different.
    By your logic we should all read everything that is contrary to accepted opinions simply because it is not the mass view…and by that logic (taken to its extreme admittedly) we should all carry a copy of Mein Kampf on our that correct or would even this forum draw a line at that ?
    The standard of writing in this blog is quite dreadful and any points that you may make that could be considered useful are drowned in the blog`s mediocrity.

    Finally you call the Jewish Telegraph “a comic”…why ? Because it does not print or concur with your views ? Would you expect to hear the news from Israel on Al Jazeera ?
    I guarantee that the paper`s site gets more hits weekly than your pitiful sham of a blog gets in a year.
    I know that `Paul` is another nom de plume for one man…you cannot avoid your writing style as much as you try. You deceive nobody and that is what I and others `hate` about this blog, the seeding and the dishonest illusion being offered that it is an active forum with various assorted views..EXCEPT all your names agree with your every word !

    However I am grateful to it for one has allowed me to continue posting and thus expose the idiocy and surreal nonsense posted here under the guise of being Glaswegian, Jewish and funniest of all `Educational`

    If you believe that you really have to get out more….

  14. Paul said

    Boring Samson, very boring.
    I have sod all to do with GJEF – I don’t care who or what they are.
    If you don’t think the Jewish Telegraph is a comic I fear for your future. The journalistic style is rubbish, the content is more often than not drivel and the English used is
    bad. Who cares if the Telegraph gets a million hits on their website. The Sun gets more and we all know about what News International were about, don’t we?
    How do you know that those that run this blog didn’t ask Neuberger or whether they even had to? The truth is you don’t.
    Everything you come up with is a wild guess and you hate the fact that you have no evidence for any of your mad rantings.

  15. Thought for the Day by a Famous Rabbi said

    The Glasgow Jewish Community could learn from these famous words written by Rabbi Israel Salanter

    A Rabbi whose community does not disagree with him is not really a Rabbi and a Rabbi who fears his community is not really a man.

    Those who are prepared to think deeply will understand the relevance to Glasgow

  16. Democratic Republic of Fantasyland (scottish Council of Jewish Communities said

    Another chair person of Scojec departs in circumstances all too familiar. Paul Spicker has gone. In all probability the excuse given will be that work commitments have had to take priority or he wants to spend more time with his family.

    Borowski can’t seem to hold on to his chairpeople for very long. What comes to mind is that yet another person has thrown in the towel after working with Borowski.

    Scojec’s AGM was not that long ago so Spicker has departed fast.

  17. Ex Jewish Student said

    What’s the surprise? Spicker is only following a long list of people who can’t work with Ephraim Borowski.

    I am old enough to remember when he was forced out of the Chaplaincy Board. What’s more interesting than why Spicker has gone is why Borowski has kissed and made up with Chaplaincy.

    It will end in tears. Sometimes some people never learn.

    Au Revoir

  18. No one likes him ( hardly a surprise) said

    The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, described the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, as a “liar” in a private exchange with Barack Obama at last week’s G20 summit in Cannes that was inadvertently broadcast to journalists.

    “I cannot stand him. He’s a liar,” Sarkozy told Obama. The US president responded by saying: “You’re fed up with him? I have to deal with him every day.”

  19. No one likes them either ( Giffnock Shul) said

    The powers at Newton Mearns Shul have lost the ability to reason. What do they have in common with the intolerance, divisiveness and fundamentalism that embodies those that run Giffnock Shul? The Giffnock Executive – Nigel Allon, Jeffrey Gladstone, and Ephraim Borowski are only interested in this merger because their Shul is loosing lots of members who don’t think its worth paying their annual subscriptions any more. Anyone who knows these individuals will appreciate that they are not really interested in a merger but rather in a takeover. They are playing a long game – temporary concessions that will in time ensure the survival of Giffnock fundamentalism.

    Please wake up Newton Mearns Shul before you trade your heritage and history and get nothing in return.
    What kind of Judaism do you want?

  20. Its simple said

    Five Bellies has got it all worked out. Merging with Newton Mearns doubles the numbers of the Giffnock Shul Pub and offers twice as many members for his Shul Darts Team.

    A likely merger with Parklands Country Club is next on the Giffnock Agenda.

  21. The Bookie said

    What will the new Shul be called?

    My bet is that Giffnock will vote for either the Red Lion or the Black Horse

  22. J495G said

    The new shul will be called The Osprey

  23. J495G said

    I think I feel another Trust coming on with all this shul שִׁידּוּךְ‎, in glasgow there more trusts than people who go to shul!

    More ‘jobs’ for the boys… is usual.

    There will be the same faces on these Trusts controlling everything in the community , even if other people would have wanted to be a Trustee they would be out gunned by the continual appointing of cronies Jeffrey 5 bellies, Ephraim, Larry, Adam to these Trusts.

    Clarkston now have a new trust, now, with the usual faces despite the fact they were associated with an existing trust QPCT.

    It just beggars believe….

    …….a dwindling so called ‘orthodox jewish’ community with even more cash available and none of it going to help real causes, that actually make a difference in people’s lives ,such as Jewish Care or Cosgrove Care

  24. Giffnock Marketing Department said

    We think that we should make it quite clear that Giffnock Synagogue would never rename our Shul in such a tacky and disrespectful way as described in posts recently.

    Our approach will be much more sophisticated than that. We are currently involved in protracted negotiations with Distilleries, (our 1st Choice) breweries and other suppliers of alcohol over the naming rights for our new Synagogue. We believe that this might bring in a bucketful of cash that would ensure the survival of an Orthodox Synagogue for a few more years. Our initial market research has encouraged us to proceed with this approach as the name “Johnny Walker Giffnock House of Prayer” or
    Giffnock Famous Grouse Hebrew Congregation has a nice ring to it and seems to bring a smile to our congregants faces. We would encourage all companies interested in finding out more about the costs involved to approach our executive.

    We have to tell you that we did have a lengthy discussion to decide whether naming rights was appropriate marketing for a Synagogue. We are encouraged by precedent because when our previous chairman, now secretary, decided to sell our roof space to a mobile phone company not many bothered that this was a potential health risk – especially to children – and detrimental to our good name in the wider community. It would appear that most people could not care less but we do emphasise that there is no truth whatsoever in the rumour spread on this scurrilous blog that we will be renamed as a pub.

    We will though also be investigating shirt sponsorship. This could be highly lucrative. For a wheelbarrow of readies we believe we could persuade the Rabbi and Honarary Officers to conduct services with either Budweiser or Beefeaters written in large white lettering on their fronts and backs. The Management Board would we are sure readily agree to such sponsorship. The Rabbi might need some encouragement.

    We will keep in touch as developments proceed but please be encouraged that we will give our full attention to these areas of revenue in the weeks ahead.

    Giffnock Marketing Department.

  25. the understudy said

    Will Nigel & Brian slugg it out for the top job of chair?

    How will Nigel’s ‘Peace Now in Israel’ Policy sit with the N/Mearns community

    Will Jeffrey 5 Bellies get to sit with his mate Brian links in Newton Mearns shul?

    Will Maccabi become a shul again for friday & saturday services…will they be ask to pay £165.00 per hour for hiring the venue?

    Can Giffnock Shull not get a better sponsorship deal with a single malt whicky supplier?

  26. Curious said

    Why would Maccabi become a Shul again. I thought the idea was to reduce the number of Shuls not create another?

  27. Nigel's Friend said

    The Understudy writes in blog no 25 the biggest load of claptrap seen on this blog for quite some time and that is certainly saying something when I look at the drivel that has been written.

    Nigel Allon is a remarkable man. He has obviously realised that his Peace Now Days are long gone and are a source of embarassment to him. He cannot believe that that he was a puppet of Goldberg and was prepared to publicly lambast Israeli Governments and interfere in domestic Israeli politics. He has now turned his attention to doing something positive for his community and is leading Giffnock Synagogue superbly. He has realised that some of his previous enemies are his true soul mates. Nigel Allon used to have an image of being a left winger. He also had the image of being a radical and someone prepared to speak out. Not the man I know. He is a man of consensus and respectability. When this community needs real inspiring leadership Nigel Allon is the man they will turn to.

    P.S. I could not give one iota about who Jeffrey 5 Bellies wants to sit beside in Newton Mearns Shul as long as it isn’t me.

  28. the understudy said

    If Nigel was a puppet of Goldberg previously…… is he not a puppet of the Giffnock shul Taliban/ Borowski now?

  29. Zionist Old Timer said

    It was written yesterday that Nigel Allon “is a remarkable man – a man of consensus and respectability”

    Would the author of that piece care to comment on the actions of Mr Allon a number of years ago when as chairperson of the Glasgow Zionist Organisation, then the mainstream Zionist organisation within Glasgow Jewry, he arranged for Peace Now to hijack it.

    Not surprisingly GZO soon died and disappeared. Is the same fate awaiting Giffnock Shul?

  30. Nigel's Friend said

    Oh Give it a rest. It happened 30 years ago and Nigel has moved on and deep down probably knows that this was wrong.
    He is now involved in helping his Shul and supporting his Rabbi and Congregation.
    I repeat – he is a truly remarkable man

  31. Zionist Old Timer said

    Brilliant Nigel. Absolutely brilliant. Giffnock Synagogue is losing lots of members and since you came into office you have done nothing to even try and reverse this decline or attempt to offer your members better value for their subscription or a more exciting product.

    You now come to the Community and want them to thank you for your masterplan to merge two declining Synagogues into one. In the PR material that has gone out so far you have said absolutely nothing about how you will improve the product to attract more people or encourage them to want to attend any Synagogue.

    We await Sunday 8th January with great interest. We know you will run some services in Maccabi and we hear that you believe you will sell the current Giffnock building for a million plus. I’m a little sceptical about that. There are very few property transactions of that figure currently which bring in expected revenues.

    I agree with your friend that you are a remarkable man. I just differ in their interpretation of remarkable and my knowledge of your communal record points the evidence in favour of my judgement not theirs.

  32. RS said

    I dont think you can expect Nigel to attempt to resurrect or refresh a product that is well past it’s best before or use by date.

    He is a remarkable man

  33. Nigel's Friend said

    The truth of the matter is that it is irrelevant whether the product is past its sell by date. The reality is that in Glasgow Nigel has the strength to make difficult decisions which others would shy away from. If he has to close down Giffnock shul to save Orthodox Judaism in Glasgow he will do it. He is a true leader.

    The Ship might end up going down but rather than smack into the rocks Nigel is trying to steer a path that could actually save Judaism in this town.

  34. Zionist Old Timer said

    What’s his track record in delivering?
    We are now told that he might save Judaism in Glasgow. Once upon a time he told us that he would save Zionism too? At least then he had the courage to stand up and tell us that he was a passionate believer in the dangerous and foolhardy peace policies he advocated.
    It doesn’t have quite the same appeal to tell us that your new mission or crusade is to close down Synagogues.

  35. The lunacy of Scojec said

    This report on the Scojec website is further evidence of Ephraim Borowski’s campaign to try and convince everyone and anyone that antisemitism is a major problem in Scotland.

    Anyone can play with statistics to try and convince the authorities that Jewish people in Scotland are under threat when the reality is thankfully different.

    Borowski and his colleagues are on a dangerous crusade – a crusade that wants to draw attention to a problem that isn’t a big problem. Ephraim Borowski doesn’t go to football. He wouldn’t know if antisemitic chants were shouted in Scottish football and he wouldn’t know the context if they were. He wouldn’t know that there is as much anti Palestinian chants and this is a bizarre reflection of the Northern Ireland situation which alligned the PLO with the IRA and the Unionists with Israel.

    However, some people within Scojec should know better and they are as culpable as Borowski because they sit on their backsides and allow this dangerous scaremongering to continue.

    Ephraim Borowski is no asset

    “The shameful reality of religious hate crime”

    21 November 2011
    SCoJeC continually emphasises that Scotland is generally a welcoming and hospitable place for Jewish people to live – relative to England, there are fewer antisemitic incidents relative to the population, and in general they are less serious. However, recent research has suggested that this may be unduly complacent. In October, the Institute for Jewish Policy Research published a survey of Jewish students throughout the UK. Scotland was only singled out for one comment:
    “Regionally, respondents in Scotland are the most likely to report having experienced some form of antisemitism-over half (52%) have witnessed and/or been subjected to antisemitism. By contrast, a third (33%) of respondents studying in London has experienced antisemitism.”

    More recently, an analysis by the Scottish Government of prosecutions for religious hatred has attracted a lot of comment in the media because it found that 400 charges were for behaviour directed against Catholics, but only 253 against Protestants. By comparison, only 16 charges for antisemitism looks reassuring. However, that takes no account of the relative sizes of the communities. Using the published findings of the last census:

    size of community number of incidents ratio
    Church of Scotland 2,392,601
    1 in 9,457

    Roman Catholic 859,503
    1 in 2,149

    Muslim 42,264
    1 in 2,818

    Jewish 7,446
    1 in 465

    Even although these figures need to be qualified because what was recorded was not the religion of the victim but the religion against which hostility was manifested, so that the final column is not the likelihood of an individual having been a victim, it is nonetheless concerning that the disparities are so large. That is why the community does have an interest in the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill, currently before Parliament. The second part of the Bill directly addresses the kind of abusive phone messages and e-mails that communal organisations are subjected to. But the first part matters to us too, because antisemitic abuse often features at football matches that have no connection with the community.

    Minister for Community Safety, Roseanna Cunningham said: “These statistics show the shameful reality of religious hate crime in Scotland. We need a wholesale change of attitudes, and this new report provides a valuable insight into the nature and scale of religious hate crime across Scotland. Like racism, this kind of behaviour simply shouldn’t be happening in a modern Scotland but sadly, it seems there are still those who think hatred on the basis of religion is acceptable.”

    SCoJeC Director Ephraim Borowski said, “These official figures are a worrying snapshot of the scale of religious hatred in Scotland today. While the absolute number of incidents remains very low, the disproportionate ratio of antisemitic incidents must give cause for concern, and we therefore welcome the commitment of Government, Law Officers, and the police to tackle all religious hatred and not just the predominant sectarianism with the same vigour.

    At the same time, given that Jewish people represent less than 1% of the population of Scotland, it is likely that ignorance gives rise to suspicion and so fuels hatred, so that the support of successive Scottish Governments for our programmes to educate the wider community about Jews and Judaism is also a welcome positive contribution to promoting better relations between communities in one Scotland of many cultures.”

  36. Another Scottish Jew said

    Borowski invented his conclusions about antisemitism years ago and now uses any statistics he can get his hands on to distort the true reality that Jews can live and do live in Scotland very well.

    He is dangerous and like others I urge GJEF to hold him to account.

  37. Nigel's Friend said

    Ok hands up. This one I don’t get. I’ve defended Nigel for weeks but I have never understood how he appointed Eph Borowski as Secretary of Giffnock Shul. Nigel could have defined himself as everything Borowski wasn’t. He knew what Borowski was about and he had no time for it.
    Very strange indeed.
    Nigel can defend this one for himself because there is no way I could ever defend Borowski. That would be one step too far. Never ever.

  38. Another Friend of Nigel said

    Jesus. Borowski is one thing but imagine appointing Jeffrey Gladstone as treasurer.
    What was my friend Nigel thinking of?

    In life you are judged by the company you keep and Nigel has let himself down badly.

    He should sack both of them before they brings him down.

  39. Jenny the Journalist said

    Supposedly independent journalists should always remain independent. Seems Stephanie Brickman of the JC has given the game away that she was rooted in the establishment.

    PR and Media for Jewish Organisations – free workshop on Tuesday 13th December at 7.30 in the JCC

    Dear Friends,

    Stephanie Brickman, the JC’s present Scottish reporter will be leaving shortly to move abroad. She has considerable experience in public relations and has very kindly offered to put on a workshop for communal organisations that have to deal the media.
    The Representative Council, together with the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities are delighted to host this event.
    The workshop has been arranged for Tuesday 13th December

  40. J495G said

    Nice pics in the JT, Raymondo….are you in training for the Kollel or for Higher Calling………….. black kippa, black suit , white shirt……astere tie……

  41. Martin's not too Bright said

    Did anyone see Martin Bright’s article in this week’s JC about rising antisemitism in Scotland.

    Borowski’s fingerprints are all over it.

    What is their game?

  42. Martin's not too Bright said


  43. Morron Should be Sacked said

    What is it about Northern Region Chaplaincy Board that they continually get things badly wrong.

    The latest example quoted in the Jewish Telegraph – Paul Morron – at their AGM has to be one of the most stupid statements ever made at a meeting of NRCB

    “Paul Morron told Sunday’s NRCB annual meeting: “In the St Andrews University case in which a Jewish student was attacked in his room, I deplore the role played by leading members of the Scottish Jews for a Just Peace, Liz Elkind and Dr Sarah Glynn.

    “Both volunteered to give evidence in court, in the name of the Jewish people, to testify against the Jewish student’s interests. This was deplorable and the fact that they are both academics gives me serious cause for concern.”

    Mr Morron has a legal background. How someone with even limited legal knowledge can proclaim that someone giving evidence in court is speaking not for themselves but for the Jewish people collectively is so stupid that he should be sacked immediately.

    That no one else at the meeting took issue with these stupid comments should result in the collective sacking of this committee. Maybe when they calm down from their continuous attempts to justify their existence as the defenders of Jewish students against what they see as the rising tide of Jewish hatred they will consider the utter stupidity of Paul Morron and boot him off their committee.

    Its time to chuck it NRCB if you think that Paul Morron’s comments are anything other than completely barmy.

  44. Morron on Planet Zog said

    So Paul Morron believes that any Jewish person giving evidence in court is not representing himself or herself but rather the Jewish people collectively.

    Tell me Mr Morron if a Jewish person is charged with an offence are the Jewish people being prosecuted or just the individual?

    Tell me Mr Morron if a Jewish person is found guilty in court are the Jewish people collectively guilty or just the individual.

    Tell me Mr Morron if a Jewish person was in court being prosecuted for a serious offence and the main witness happened to be Jewish and was called to give evidence, which one of the two is speaking on behalf of the Jewish people.

    Tell me Mr Morron, are you living on another planet?

  45. powermad said

    I have been sent an email from the GJRC which was sent in error but so was it sent to the other 151 people detailing in depth what seems to be financial problems at GJRC!

    So much for data protection act! Nice one Eddie Iscaas, I know now not to use you as a lawyer….so much for confidentiality…..

    Geoff Jacobs has been voted on to the GJRC by whom exactly?

    I doubt any of these people on this board could get anything arranged or organised…..they are beyond hopeless and full of the own self importance…..

  46. Enough is Enough - Borowski has to go. said

    When can we as a community judge that someone who purports to act on behalf of the best interests of Jewish people living in Scotland has become a dangerous liability?

    I think we have reached that point with Ephraim Borowski. He should be sacked from any position of communal responsibility because he is quite evidently causing huge harm to Jewish people living in Scotland.

    Others have posted on this blog about how he is unelected and the organisation he speaks on behalf is unaccountable. I had sympathy for these arguments but while some good still might occur I remained silent. That was an error on my part.

    Borowski has lost any sense of objectivity as he runs amok claiming everywhere and anywhere that Jews living in Scotland are at risk. The latest piece written on the SCOJEC website states –

    We should never forget that the Holocaust did not begin with gas-chambers and death camps, but with name-calling, graffiti, boycotts, and degradation. Like the Nazis, their successors also might begin by attacking Jews or Muslims, but their hatred continually expands to new targets that they regard as “not fit to breathe our air”. So soon after Remembrance Sunday, we should all remember what it was that those we honoured gave their lives for, and resolve to stand up against all these pedlars of hate.

    Now Borowski tells us that if we don’t do as he did and stand up for what he wants to shout about it may result in another Holocaust.

    He is not only mad, but dangerously mad.

    Enough is enough – Borowski has to go.

  47. Tolerant Tom said

    It looks like Israel has more problems with Orthodox fundamentalism than our very own dear Glasgow Jewish Community. In Israel the ultra-orthodox are trying to impose their srtict religious code on a troubled town near Jerusalem. In today’s Herald President Shimon Peres says “we are fighting for the soul of the nation”.

    An eight year old girl was accused last week of dressing immodestly and she was spat at. There are growing concerns in Israel over a rise in religious extremism.

    Its time we all stood up to be counted and insisted that religious fundamentalism in all its forms has no place in Glasgow or Israel.

    Happy New Year to one and all

  48. glasgowpunter said

    The Administrators are quick off the mark to have removed any critical posting that they take exception to. A bit tardy when it is pornograghy!!!

  49. glasgowpunter said

    Once again your site has been compromised. Suggest you close it down.

  50. Donald Duck said

    This blog seems to have gone rather quiet. A good friend happened to mention at dinner last Friday night that there have been several well recorded achievements since its inception.

    The general consensus though was that by far the biggest is that a certain Jeffrey Gladstone will forever be known in Glasgow as Jeffrey 5 Bellies. If it has achieved little else, and I for one would be happy to commend it to other communities, exposing Gladstone, Borowski and other members of the Giffnock Taliban will in years to come be looked upon as a rather special ephitaph.

  51. Pluto said

    The obvious answer to Giffnock Shul’s cash crisis is to start selling souvenirs of Jeffrey 5 Bellies. All suggestions should be sent to the Treasurer Giffnock Synagogue, Giffnock Glasgow.

    Who’s the Treasurer – Jeffrey 5 Bellies of course

    Possible Favourites – stress balls with 5 Bellies’ picture on it and punch bags.
    Unfortunately the demand for pillow cases with 5 Bellies face on it is unlikely to make too much money and you couldn’t scare the children either.

    Perhaps they could do a joint venture with the Burial Society? Any suggestions for an appropriate souvenir are very welcome

  52. Peter Pan said

    Hands up – posts about 5 Bellies Gladstone are childish and rude. But is there one person in our community other than Gladstone himself who doesn’t think that the description is warranted.? Even his mates know him now as 5 Bellies.

  53. Memo from God (Reform Branch) said

    (In Israel) Repeated demands to exclude, deport and even kill non-Jews, particularly Arabs, migrant workers and other “strangers” constitute gross racial incitement. These demands are raised in the name of the Torah and Halacha, distorting Judaism and tainting it with the scourge of xenophobia. The objective of these racist statements is clear: to mark Arab Israelis as enemies: to forment fear; to encourage hatred of “strangers” in general; and to nurture a sense of superiority among the Jewish people.

    These instances of racial incitement constitute a public offence committed by religious leaders. This phenomenon is drawing Israel close to the precipice and encouraging hatred of religion and Judaism. Through their actions, the Rabbis not only damage the delicate relations between the different nationalities in Israel and the civil service in which many of them serve, they also damage Judaism itself.

    Maybe just maybe our Orthodox Synagogues will wake up and discuss this matter this Shabbat.

  54. Memo from God (Liberal Branch) said

    Can Jewish and Christian values last without belief in an omnipotent God?Religion-based morality will survive in the secular world even if people no longer believe in the resurrection or the story of the Ten Commandments

    Article below by Rabbi David Goldberg was also published yesterday in the Guardian.

    RabbiDavid Goldberg, Friday 2 March 2012

    The supposedly “sensational” findings of an Ipsos Mori poll for the Richard Dawkins Foundation that many self-styled Christians in the Church of England do not believe that Jesus was physically resurrected or was the Son of God; rarely pray; cannot name the four gospels in correct order; and seek moral guidance elsewhere than from religion – will be no surprise to those of us who work within Christianity’s mother faith of Judaism. My guess is that the numbers would be even higher for Jewish (lack of) belief.

    Jews today are an overwhelmingly secular people, whether in Israel or the Diaspora. It is one of the issues I address in my new book. Traditionally, Jewish thought revolved around the three pillars of God, Torah and the people of Israel. Nowadays they are antisemitism, the Holocaust and the state of Israel.

    Aside from the devoutly pious fringe sects of Judaism, hardly any Jew today gives literal credence to a God who came down on Mount Sinai to give Moses the law for his chosen people, Israel; who is the omnipotent, omniscient creator and rules his creation with perfect justice; and who is guiding history, whatever its terrible vicissitudes along the way, towards a messianic age of peace and harmony when all peoples will acknowledge his sovereignty and do his will.

    A moment’s reflection on the suffering, pain, injustice and sheer arbitrariness of human existence in what Thomas Hardy called “this nonchalant universe” makes it difficult for any thinking person to defend the notion of an all-beneficent or all-powerful creator. And even Jews who claim they believe in God resort to metaphor and woolly thought – a sense of wonder at nature, the “still, small voice” of conscience, the “divinely inspired” genius of Mozart, a universe too intricately intermeshed not to have had a guiding hand behind it – when trying to explain why they believe.

    So what makes all those Jews who would define themselves as non-believers or predominantly secular still call themselves Jewish? The answer lies in something additional to faith and summed up as “Jewish values”. The 4,000-year-old link that a modern Jew in Tel Aviv, New York or London traces back to the biblical Abraham might be genetically fanciful, but it and the national narrative that evolved from it in all its infinite variety, customs, folk memories, intellectual and artistic efflorescence, tragedies and creative achievements still have the power to retain the loyalty of the overwhelming majority of men and women in the world today who classify themselves as Jewish.

    That is the legacy of a tradition that binds together the heirs of Judaism’s diffuse culture, in which religion is a major component but not the only one. Adherents can choose where and how they wish to opt in, what on the menu takes their fancy, and those dishes they would rather avoid, including, for many, the chef’s religious recommendations.

    Rejecting Judaism’s beliefs would have been shocking in the past; less so today. Modern Jewish identity is fluid and pick’n’mix. Moral exhortations about justice, loving your neighbour and improving the world were originally religion-based but have become normative secular values among all Jews since emancipation and our entry into wider society. Parochial belief may have declined, but awareness has grown in Judaism of the need to work towards a universally endorsed secular ethic for healing the world. The same is true in Christianity, which is why I think the values of the two religions will survive – even without affirmations of belief from their followers.

  55. Interested in Israel? said

    Editor’s note: David Grossman is one of the greatest Israeli novelists and his sensitivity to the nuances of daily life in Israel is exquisite. For those who don’t understand how far Israeli racism toward Arabs has led that country away from traditional values, just read this and contrast it with the Torah perspective articlated in Deuteronomy Chapter 21 sentences 1-9.– Rabbi Michael Lerner
    David Grossman: Why? Who died?

    ShareDavid Grossman: Why? Who died?

    Translator: Sol Salbe on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 at 2:53am ·

    Translator’s Note: Last Friday Haaretz did something unusual: it placed an opinion piece on top of its front page. But it wasn’t just an ordinary opinion piece, it was written by one of the country foremost novelists, David Grossman. The article, like Emile Zola’s J’accuse, to which it has been compared, was a moral critique. Many who read it were very moved. But the moral missive never appeared in English (at least to my knowledge). The English Haaretz has always been somewhat reticent in presenting Israel to the world. And of course translating Grossman is not easy, he is a master of the language and the art of writing.I have no idea whether I have done justice to this work. But it needed to be translated. The message is too important.*Hebrew original:

    *Translated by Sol Salbe of the Middle East News Service, Melbourne Australia*

    Why? Who died?
    by David Grossman

    All said and done it is merely a minor story about an illegal alien who stole a car, was injured in an accident, then released from hospital to have cops dump him, still injured to die the by the roadside. What are the building blocks that lead to such an atrocity?
    David Grossman

    Omar Abu Jariban, a resident of the Gaza Strip, staying illegally in Israel, stole a car and was seriously injured while driving it. He was released from the Sheba Medical Centre while his treatment was still ongoing and handed over to the custody of the Rehovot Police station. The police were unable to identify him. He himself was bewildered and confused. The Rehovot Police officers decided to get rid of him. According to Chaim Levinson’s account, they loaded him onto a police van at night accompanied by three policemen. He was still attached to a catheter, was wearing an adult nappy and a hospital gown. Two days later he was found dead by the roadside.

    It’s a minor story. We have already read some like it and others where even worse. And when it is all said and done who is the subject of this story: an illegal infiltrator, from Rafah and a vehicle thief to boot. And at any rate it happened as long ago as 2008, there is a statue of limitation to consider. And we have other, fresher, more immediate matters which are more relevant for us to consider. (And beside all that, they started it, we offered them everything and they refused and don’t forget the terrorism.).

    Ever since I read the story, I find it difficult to breathe the air here: I keep on thinking about that trip in the police van, as if some part of me had remained there, bonded on permanently and impossible to be prise out. How precisely did the incident pan out? it? What are the real, banal, tangible elements that coalesced together make up such an atrocity?

    From the newspaper I gather that there were three cops there alongside Omar. Again and again I run the video clip mentally in my head: Was he sitting like them on the seat or was he lying on the floor of the van? Was he handcuffed or not? Did anybody talk to him? Did they offer him a drink? Did they share a laugh? Did they laugh at him? Did they poke fun at his adult nappy? Did they laugh at his confusion or at his catheter? Did they discuss what he was capable of while still attached to the catheter or once he would be separated from it? Did they say that he deserved what was coming? Did they kick him lightly like mates do, or maybe because the situation demanded a swift kick? Or did they just kick him for the heck of it, just because they could, and why not?

    Besides, how can someone be discharged just like that from medical treatment at the Sheba Medical Centre? Who let him out in his condition? What possible explanation could they put down on the discharge papers which they signed off?

    And what happened when the van reached the Maccabim checkpoint [not far from Jerusalem -tr]? I read in the newspaper that an argument ensued with the Israeli checkpoint commander, and that he refused to accept the patient. Did Omar hear the argument about him from within the van, or did they drag him out of the van and plonked him in front of the commander, replete with catheter, nappy and hospital gown for a rapid overall assessment by the latter? And the commander said no. And yalla! We are on our way again. So they returned to van, and they kept on going. And now the guys in the van are perhaps not quite as nice before, because it is getting late and they want to get back and wonder what have they done to have deserved copping this sand nigger and what are they going to do with him now. If the Maccabim checkpoint rejected him, there was no way in which the Atarot checkpoint will take him. It is now pitch black outside and by the by, while traveling on Route 45, between the Ofer military base to the Atarot checkpoint, a thought or a suggestion pops up. Perhaps someone said something and nobody argued against, or perhaps someone did argue back but the one who came up with the original suggestion carried more weight. Or perhaps there was no argument, someone said something and someone else felt that this is precisely what needs to be done, and one of them says to the driver, pull over for a moment, not here, it’s too well lit, stop there. You, yes you, move it, get your arse into gear you piece of shit – thanks to you our van stinks;, you ruined our evening, get going! What do you mean to where? Go there.

    And what happens next? Does Omar remain steady on his feet, or are his legs unable to carry him? Do they leave him on the side of the road, or do physically take him there, and how? Do the haul him? Do they drag him deeper into the field?

    You stay here! Do not follow us! Do not move!

    And then they return to the car, walking a little bit more briskly, glancing behind their shoulder to ensure that he is not pursuing them. As if he already has something infectious about him. No, not his injury. Something else is already beginning to exude out of him, like bad tidings, or his court sentence. Come on, let’s get going, it’s all over.

    And he, Omar Abu Jariban, what did he do then? Did he merely stand on his own feet or did he suddenly grasp what was happening, and started running and shouting that they should take him with them? And perhaps he did not realise anything, because as we said, he was confused and bewildered, and just stood there on the road or in the field, and saw a road, and a police van driving away. So what did he do? What did he really do? Started walking aimlessly, with some sort of a vague notion that somehow being a little further away would turn out somewhat better? Or maybe he just sat down and stared blankly in front of him and tried to figure it, but it was clearly beyond his comprehension for he was in no position to understand anything? Or perhaps he lay down and curled up on the ground and waiting? Why? And whom did he think about? Did he have someone, somewhere, to think about? Did the thought occur to any of those police officers, at any time during that whole night that there was someone, a man, a woman or a whole family for whom Omar was important? Someone who cared about him? Did it occur to them that it was possible, with a little bit more of an effort to locate this person and hand Omar to them?

    Two days later they found his body. But I have no idea how much time had elapsed from the moment they dumped him by the roadside until he died. Who knows when it dawned on him that this was it; that his body did not have enough strength left to save himself. And even if could have summonsed the energy, he was trapped a situation from which there was no exit, that his short life was about to end here. His brother Mohammed, said by telephone from Gaza, “They simply threw him to the dogs”. And in the newspaper it says, “Horrible as it may sound, the brother accurately described what happened.” And I read it and the image turns into something real, and I try to wipe that image from my mind.

    And in the police van, what happened there after they dumped Omar ? Did they talk among themselves? About what? Did they fire each other up with hatred and disgust at him, to retrospectively justify what they did? To justify what in their heart of hearts they knew stood in contrast to something. Maybe that thing was the law (but the law, they probably imagined, they could handle). But maybe it was contrary to something deeper, some deeply ingrained memory in them which they found themselves in, many years ago. Maybe it was moral tale or a children’s story in which the good was good and the bad was bad. Perhaps one of them recalled something they learnt at school — they did pass through our education system, didn’t they? Let’s say it was S Yizhar’s HaShavuy (the captive).

    Or maybe the three of them pulled out their mobile phones and spoke to the wife, the girlfriend the son. At such times you may want to talk to someone from the outside. Someone who wasn’t here who did not touch this thing.

    Or maybe they kept quiet.

    No, silence was perhaps a little bit too dangerous at that point. Still, something was beginning to creep up the van’s interior; a sort of a viscous dark sensation, like a terrifying sin, for which there is no forgiveness. Maybe one of them yet did suggest softly, let’s go back. We’ll tell him that we were pulling his leg. We can’t go on like this, dumping a human being.

    The paper says: “As a result of the police Internal Affairs investigation, negligent homicide charges were filed in March 2009 against only two of the officers who were involved in dumping and abandoning Abu Jariban. Evidence has yet to be submitted in a trial of the pair but in the meantime, one of the two accused has been promoted.”

    I know that they do not represent the police. Nor do they represent our society or the state. It’s only a handful or bad apples, or unwelcomed weeds. But then I think about a people which has dumped a whole other nation on the side of the road and has backed the process to the hilt over 45 years, all the while having not a bad life at all, thank you. I think about a people which has been engaging in a brilliant genius-like denial of its own responsibility for the situation. I think of a people, which has managed to ignore the warping and distorting of its own society and the madness that the process has had on its own national values. Why should such a people get all excited over a single such Omar?

  56. How To Buy Gold…

    […]‘Antisemitism’ and the Liberal Media: The Long View « Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum[…]…

  57. Interested in Israel said

    Another fantastic article by David Grossman

    Unless you happen to be politically very interested you wouldn’t have seen this. Somehow you won’t see this either on the front pages of the weekly Jewish comics.

    The sad thing is you should.

  58. Zionist Old Timer said

    Is Zionism dead in Glasgow?
    There is not an Israeli political meeting held anymore – there is no discussion and no debate.
    The atmosphere is sterile and boring.
    We are reduced to wondering whether one Shul should merge with another and thats all we can think of.
    We have become the most narrow and parochial of diaspora communities where opinions are frowned upon.

    We are a 3rd rate community that has bored most of the people living here so much that no one is interested anymore.

  59. Guardian Reader said

    Grossman at his very best in today’s Guardian – Comment is Free

    It is Israel’s fears, not a nuclear Iran, that we must tameIsraelis must resist Netanyahu’s rhetoric. An attack on Iran will bring certain disaster, to forestall one that might never come

    David Grossman, Monday 12 March 2012 19.31 GMT Article history In his speeches, Binyamin Netanyahu likes to fire up his audiences with frequent references to the Holocaust, Jewish destiny and the fate of future generations. In light of this doomsday rhetoric, one wonders if Israel’s prime minister can always distinguish between the real dangers confronting the country and shadows of past traumas. This question is crucial, because to confuse one with the other could sentence Israel to relive those echoes and shadows.

    If all that – the tough talk, the big bellows of catastrophe –, is no more than a tactic meant to enlist the world to tighten the screws on Iran, and if the tactic were to succeed without an Israeli attack, then we would happily acknowledge, of course, that the prime minister had done an excellent job, for which he deserves due credit and kudos. But if he indeed thinks and operates within a hermetic worldview that swings between poles of disaster and salvation, we are in a very different universe of discourse.

    Instead of a one-dimensional translation of the Israel of 2012 into the Holocaust of European Jewry, one question needs to be asked: is it advisable for Israel, on its own, to enter into a war with Iran, a war whose consequences cannot be foreseen, in order to prevent a future situation that is dangerous indeed but that no one can be sure will ever come to pass? In other words, in order to block a possible disaster in the future, will Israel be driven to initiate a certain disaster in the present?

    It’s very hard to decide at a moment like this. It would be hard for any Israeli leader, not least Netanyahu, to make a level-headed decision in a situation heavily freighted with the trauma that occurred in the past and another that may occur in the future. Can Netanyahu, amid the tangle of pressures that he creates and inflames, find his way to a practical, clear-minded present? A present reality that need not be part of a tragic, apocalyptic myth that somehow strives for fulfilment again and again, in every Jewish generation?

    Because this too is the present reality: there is already a balance of terror in place between Israel and Iran. The Iranians have announced that hundreds of their missiles are aimed at Israeli cities, and it is safe to assume that Israel is not sitting idly by. This balance of terror, say the experts, includes unconventional weapons, biological and chemical. To date, this balance of terror has never been violated.

    No one can know for sure that the balance of terror will last. Nor can anyone be certain that it will not. No one can know whether nuclear weapons or knowhow might “trickle” from Iran to terrorist organisations, just as no one can rule out the possibility that the current regime in Iran might be replaced by a more moderate one. Politicians are currently working mainly on the basis of guesswork and fear. One must not belittle the gravity of such conjectures, but can they provide a solid basis for actions that might bring about irreparable damage?

    No one in Israel can be absolutely certain that all Iran’s nuclear potential would be demolished by an Israeli attack. Nor has anyone precise knowledge of the extent of the death and destruction that an Iranian response would sow in Israeli cities. It is worth remembering the overblown confidence of Israel’s leaders and their illusions of accurate military intelligence at the start of the second Lebanon war, or the failures of prediction in the first Lebanon war, which entangled Israel in an 18-year occupation.

    Even if the infrastructure of Iran’s nuclear project were destroyed, it is impossible to destroy Iranian knowledge. And knowledge, and those who possess it, will rise from the dust – and this time fuelled by the insult of humiliation, and unbridled hatred, and a thirst for vengeance on the part of the whole Iranian people.

    Iran, as we know, is not just a radical fundamentalist state. There are wide sectors of the population that are secular, educated and enlightened. There is a broad middle class, including many people who risked their lives in brave demonstrations against the dictatorial religious regime they despise. I am not claiming that the Iranian nation feels any sympathy for Israel, but that same part of the Iranian public, at some point in the future, might be the ones who will lead Iran, and might even warm to Israel. An Israeli attack on Iran would eliminate that possibility for many years; in the eyes even of moderate Iranians, Israel will be permanently perceived as a haughty, megalomaniacal nation, a historic enemy to be fought indefinitely. Is this possibility more or less dangerous than a nuclear Iran?

    And what will Israel do if Saudi Arabia decides it wants a nuclear weapon? Attack it too? And if Egypt, under its new regime, heads down that path? Will Israel bomb it? And for ever stay the only country in the region allowed to have nuclear weapons?

    Even if these questions have already been voiced, they must be repeated before ears go deaf in the din of battle: will war bring any real gain, any assurance of peaceful life for Israel? Anything that would create the willingness to accept Israel as a partner and neighbour, a willingness that in the long run can render all forms of nuclear arms – Israel’s, and those of others – superfluous?

    A legitimate answer to these questions, an answer hard to swallow but worthy of public discussion, is this: if economic sanctions do not cause Iran to halt uranium enrichment, and if the United States, for reasons of its own, does not attack it – even then, it would be better for Israel not to attack, even if this means that Israel, gnashing its teeth, would have to live with a nuclear Iran. It is very hard to accept that, and one hopes that international pressure will eliminate this eventuality, but an Israeli attack might be no less painful and bitter. And because there is no way to ascertain that Iran would indeed attack Israel if it had nuclear weapons at its disposal, Israel must not attack Iran. Such an attack would be a rash, wild bet, likely to disfigure our future in ways I dare not even imagine. No, I can imagine it, but my hand refuses to write it.

    I do not envy the prime minister, the defence minister and members of the cabinet. Immense responsibility lies upon their shoulders. I think about the fact that in a situation mainly made up of doubt and uncertainty, the one certain thing is often fear. It is tempting for us Israelis to cling to such fears, to let them counsel and guide us, to feel their familiar, reassuring ring. I am sure that those who support an attack on Iran justify it on the grounds that it would be done to forestall the possibility of a bigger nightmare in the future.

    But has any person the right to sentence so many people to death, only in the name of a fear of a possibility that might never come to pass?

    • This article was translated from Hebrew by Stuart Schoffman.

  60. Postcard from Jerusalem said

    I used to be part of the Jewish community in Glasgow but I wholeheartedly agree with Zionist Old Timer that the rich and vibrant community interested in Israel is long gone.
    UJIA hold know meetings about Israel for the adult community.
    The Representative Council used to get the odd visit from an Israeli ambassador every so often but with the exception of the very rare private visit no ambassador has addressed the Jewish community for years.

    The last time I came back to Glasgow it struck me very clearly that most of the community were not interested in Israel. I’m sure if Israel attacks Iran there will be the usual solidarity tub thumping but that isn’t a substitute for genuine education.

    Glasgow used to be a hub of Zionist activity – not any longer.

    Next year in Jerusalem

  61. Israeli ( not under the control of the lunny right wing) said

    Gilad Shalit’s father –

    “I would kidnap Israelis if I were a Palestinian”

    from today’s Guardian

    The father of an Israeli soldier held in captivity for more than five years by Hamas has said he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian.

    Noam Shalit, who announced earlier this year that he would be standing for the opposition Labour party in the next Israeli elections, has provoked outrage among the Israeli right with the comments. His son, Gilad, was released in a prisoner swap in October 2011.

    Shalit added that the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hamas militants was comparable to the techniques used by Israeli paramilitary fighters the Haganah against the British, arguing “we also kidnapped British soldiers when we were fighting for our freedom”.

    Speaking to a television interviewer in the kitchen of the Shalit family home, a familiar backdrop for the Israeli public from the family’s five-year campaign for their son’s release, Shalit was subject to repeated questioning attempting to pin him down on his political policies.

    The former engineer eventually summarised his key campaign issues as “mutual responsibility. And not leaving soldiers behind or any Israeli who is in any trouble.” He also said he would be prepared to negotiate with Hamas if he were an MP, something the Israeli government, along with Britain and the US, refuses to do.

    “I am in favour of speaking to anyone who wants to talk to us,” he said. When asked whether he would negotiate with a Hamas government headed by his son’s kidnapper, he maintained: “If they change their ways and are willing to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, yes, I would shake his hand.”

    While acknowledging Binyamin Netanyahu’s role in securing his son’s release, he criticised the Israeli prime minister for not acting more swiftly. Shalit suggested economic sanctions should have been imposed on the Gaza Strip. “As soon as they capture an Israeli soldier and are not willing to release him and asking for such a price, you should put the pressure on them including stopping the transfer of money,” he said.

    Shalit went on to dismiss as “pathetic” the counter-argument that Netanyahu had “brought Gilad home”, a decision that carried a significant political risk given the necessary release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in exchange.

    “Netanyahu saw that more than 70%, sometimes 80%, of the public wanted the deal [to release Gilad] and he realised the public would not accept another Ron Arad [missing Israeli pilot captured in Lebanon],” Shalit said.

    An official from within the Israeli prime minister’s office refused to give an official response to Shalit’s comments but pointed to his recent emergence as a candidate for the opposition, recommending “his comments should be taken in that context”.

    So how about a meeting in Glasgow GJEF to explore the issues GJEF or UJIA or REP COUNCIL?

  62. Postcard from Jerusalem said

    To put it rather bluntly my friends this is much more interesting than whether two Shuls merge into one.

  63. Giffnock Shul Devotee said

    You are wong mon ami from Jerusalem. The fighting at Giffnock has only just begun and the plotting and intrigue will continue – I know only 30 of us care but very few can pretend not to be interested in a good punch up.
    Nigel Allon – you might remember him in Jerusalem from his left wing Zionism is in all probability going to be flung out of office. Even one of his closest friends Michael Conn seconded a motion to defeat his proposals. Allon survived the first attempt to sack him but word on the ground is there is going to be more. Not many Shul chairmen face the ignomy of being dumped.

    Bring it on boys.

  64. Laura Wolfson - Psychiatrists and the Ger Chasidic Movement said

    Please accept my apologies for posting a full length article from Haaretz on this forum. I think the article exposes a practice that if it was happenening in other cults we as Jews would be leading the complaints. I am horrified.

    Rabbi’s little helper
    Forget ‘Big Brother’: Psychiatric drugs are frequently administered within the Haredi community at leaders’ requests, in order to bring members in line with norms, say sources.
    By Yair Ettinger
    Tags: ultra-Orthodox Haredim Israel health

    Get Haaretz on iPhone Get Haaretz on Android This is not a reality show. It’s a true story that’s been going on for years. No one denies it, neither the psychiatrists nor their patients: Psychiatric drugs are being given to ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, men, seminary girls and married women at the request of rabbis, yeshiva “supervisors” and marriage counselors. The furor that erupted recently after a psychiatrist prescribed pills to participants on the TV reality show “Big Brother” – apparently to help the production and not the patients – convinced some Haredi patients to come forward with prescriptions and documents attesting to a far broader practice.

    Haaretz spoke to psychiatrists and others knowledgeable about psychiatric treatment in the Haredi community, and collected testimonies from half-a-dozen patients and their families. About half of them are Haredi and the others have left the community. Each told a different story, mentioning the names of senior psychiatrists, rabbis and community functionaries.

    Psychiatric drugs are rife in Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community, sources say,

    Last December, the Israel Psychiatric Association held a symposium titled “The Haredi Community as a Consumer of Mental-Health Services.” Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, a Gur Hasid, was invited to speak, as were several psychiatrists who treat Haredi patients and well-known Haredi medical go-betweens (i.e., people who help mediate between patients and professional ).

    Conference organizers included Prof. Omer Bonne, director of the psychiatry department at Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem, Jerusalem, who gave a talk about “Culture-dependent psychiatry in the Haredi community.” Bonne, a highly esteemed veteran physician, praised that population’s growing openness vis-a-vis the field, but made a few comments that caused some audience members to shift uneasily in their seats. For example, Bonne said that sometimes yeshiva students and married men should be given antidepressants even if they do not suffer from depression, because these drugs also suppress sex drive.

    Rabbi Yosef Kuperberg. Courtesy Mishpacha magazine.

    “Some behaviors put Haredim in conflict with their values and cause them mental problems, even to the point of depression,” Bonne said. “My view concerning drug treatment in such cases has changed. For example, when I was young, idealistic and less experienced, whenever I had a case of homosexuality, masturbation – or, as Haredim put it, ‘compulsiveness in sex’ – I would say: ‘Homosexuality is not a mental problem, masturbation is certainly not a mental problem or even a medical problem. I do not treat people who do not have a medical problem.’

    “Over the years, I saw that people who do these ‘awful’ things suffer terribly because of the conflicts they create. Those urges, impulses or behaviors place them in conflict with their society, and then they become depressed. In these cases, I would indeed prescribe medicines that block these conditions.”

    Prof. Avi Weizman.

    Photo by: Ariel Shalit

    The implication would seem to be that Prof. Bonne wants to prevent patients from experiencing mental conflict. In practice, treating such cases ostensibly puts the patients back on the straight and narrow, in keeping with the interests of rabbis (who are often the ones pushing for psychiatric treatment ). Bonne acknowledges that this may be an exceptional approach, but others agree with it, too. “Currently, their society has no good solution for this,” he says, referring to homosexual urges. His remarks suggest that prescription drugs are often the only way out.

    Dual loyalties

    Dr. Ilan Rabinovich.

    Photo by: Daniel Bar-On

    Psychiatrists who treat yeshiva students are almost always consulted privately, as opposed to via the public health system. In certain cases the treatment is paid for by a rabbi, mashgiah (a supervisor who oversees educational and spiritual levels among students), or medical go-between. Psychiatrists interviewed for this article say the connections between the Haredi establishment and psychiatrists raise ethical questions, at the very least. As the Israel Medical Association states: “The physician shall safeguard the patient’s privacy and medical confidentiality,” and “he shall not take part in any action that compromises [the patient’s] physical or mental integrity or human dignity.”

    One psychiatrist raises the possibility that his colleagues “could become emissaries of the Haredi establishment.” Yet another noted that the “pressure” from Haredi rabbis and functionaries leads some of his colleagues to develop “dual loyalty” – instead of remaining loyal to the patient alone, they see an opportunity to increase their patient load.

    Prof. Omer Bonne.

    Photo by: Emil Salman

    Psychiatrists say there are welcome trends as well: greater awareness and readiness to treat mental distress despite the stigmas (which exist among society at large ) and the possible adverse effect on matchmaking. This is partially due to advice columns on psychological problems within the Haredi media. One such column, which has run for years in the women’s supplement of the veteran newspaper Hamodia, often encourages psychiatric drug use.

    But psychiatric treatment is proliferating above all due to personal, discreet recommendations by rabbis, functionaries and yeshiva supervisors, or even by well-known leaders such as the Gerer Rebbe and the Amshinover Rebbe. They are thought to possess “understanding” of the psyche and they recommend psychiatrists whom they trust to people who come to consult with them about psychological problems.

    Some seeking help have to pay for the treatment themselves. Others, though, get funding, and may not always know who is paying.

    Years ago, the Ger Hasidic dynasty established a fund called Saving the Generations (Keren Hatzalat Dorot ) in order to help Hasidim offset fertility treatment costs. Over the years, the fund, which was created by Rabbi Yosef Kuperberg, a confidant of the Gerer Rebbe (Kuperberg is now also the chairman of the Agudat Israel Central Committee ), increasingly began helping Hasidim treat mental problems.

    The fund periodically calls for donations, via mail or through Hamodia. One such letter stated that the fund engages in “finding relief and cures for mental health problems and distress.” The letter, which Haaretz saw at the time, added, “Nowadays extremely complicated problems can be solved via proper treatment. The fund’s officials are in close touch with senior physicians and well-known professors. Based on their precise diagnosis, suitable medicines are administered as needed, producing no side effects, so that one can return to a healthy, happy daily life. Medicines and treatments in this painful sphere are extremely expensive, and the fund covers them for those who cannot afford them.”

    The Ger (or Gur ) sect, Israel’s largest Hasidic group, with tens of thousands of followers in communities from the Galilee to the Negev, is exceptional even within the Haredi world for its conservatism, particularly regarding sexuality. The current Gerer Rebbe, Yaakov Aryeh Alter, is known to ascribe importance to health matters, including mental health. It was under his leadership that the community developed systems for addressing this issue. Hasidim say drug treatment has been widespread within high-school yeshivas for years.

    “The fool is worse than the wicked,” says a married yeshiva student, referring to the founders of the Saving the Generations. The rebbe’s emissaries often truly wish to help, “but because of their stupidity they trample souls upon souls, and I ask myself how aware they are of this,” he says.

    Haim (not his real name ) was a member of the Ger community for his first 23 years. Over that time, he was repeatedly treated by psychiatrists and prescribed medications. Three years ago, he divorced his wife and abandoned religion.

    “Sometimes they [the supervisors or the teachers] want to help, but they don’t know anything about psychology. Someone brought up the idea of medication, and it caught on like a gimmick. They love gimmicks.”

    A department head at a Jerusalem area psychiatric hospital that treats many Haredim says he’s seen “normative youths at a small [high-school] yeshiva who have no disciplinary problems but were having difficulty with Gemara studies. Some psychiatrists have no problem prescribing Ritalin for them, often at the rabbis’ request. This shocks me. The psychiatrist is becoming the ally of the rabbis instead of the patients. No one even considers that perhaps the kid is unsuited to study Gemara all day.

    “Some boys are sent for medical treatment because they were caught doing something in the shower,” he says, referring to physicians in general, not necessarily those mentioned in the article. “There is often no justification for this.”

    Another well-known psychiatrist said he used to get many calls from Haredi functionaries, but that they dropped off when he resisted what he called rabbis’ “pressure” to prescribe particular drugs to Haredi youth and married men. “Perhaps they found other psychiatrists who prescribe medicines without asking too many questions,” he says, adding that he takes a grave view of such behavior.

    “The issue also exists in the army, where in many cases the expectation is that the physician will declare the patient healthy. Here, we sometimes find the opposite: over-diagnosis. If you say a person aspires to maintain a particular way of life, based on specific values, then you do what you can, including via medicine, to allow him to live up to those values. There is a problem on the part of psychiatrists, who are legally and ethically committed to help patients but in some cases become delegates of the Haredi establishment and their values. And this goes far beyond a handful of participants in ‘Big Brother.'”

    The “Big Brother” outcry centers around the allegation that a psychiatrist prescribed medication in keeping with the needs of the production staff, but not necessarily those of the patient. Dr. Ilan Rabinovich, the psychiatrist employed by the program, denies this categorically. In some cases, Israel’s top clinics are sometimes mobilized to the Haredi cause, knowingly or unknowingly, via yeshiva heads who are thought to know something about psychiatry, community therapists and various go-betweens with no official position.

    Prof. Bonne confirms that go-betweens, rather than the patients, are often the ones who contact the psychiatrist, and they also accompany the treatment process. “It’s rare for educators [in other communities] to be so involved. Overall, I think this is positive, since these are people they trust. … In most cases I think that the therapists, the rabbis, the teachers and the supervisors truly want what is best for the patient, and genuinely believe he is better off conforming with the system. But this is not always the case, and I do not prescribe medicine to everyone. It’s not automatic.”

    False diagnosis

    Haya (not her real name ), also a former member of the Ger community, left her family and religion by means of a bumpy road that included a psychiatric referral as soon as she sought to divorce her husband a few years ago. “The day I launched divorce proceedings in the Family Court, I was threatened that if I did not drop them by noon the following day, I would lose my children,” she recalls.

    “My father went to court with me to ensure I was dropping the case,” she continues. “He told me he had something important to tell me, that he had been hiding something from me for months – that I was manic-depressive. My father played a major role in my life, and if he said so, I thought he must be right.

    “I went to see a well-known psychiatrist in the center of the country. [Haya requested that his name not be published.] I believed he would save my life. I don’t wish those feelings of helplessness on anyone. When I arrived, I saw a Hasidic man who apparently was paying my bill. It all became very fishy at that point. Maybe psychiatrists are also a type of victim: the go-betweens lie to them freely. I don’t blame the psychiatrist, but the functionaries. They are the ones who control everyone.”

    Haya says she met with the psychiatrist once.

    “He wrote ‘needs follow-up.’ After my divorce, I found an amazing female psychiatrist who saved my life. It took her half a year to persuade me I wasn’t manic-depressive. That was critical. I’d thought that if I was mentally ill, I could not take responsibility for the children. I had to fight for my sanity and find psychiatrists who would help me. I am a strong person, but I wonder what happens to more vulnerable, less knowledgeable women.”

    A senior psychiatrist who treats Haredim told Haaretz that some who take up a secular lifestyle overnight might be suffering from a manic condition.

    “In these cases, people make decisions that are not level-headed, give in to their impulses and pursue an unrealistic image of the secular world. They think that if they become secular they will have intercourse with everything that moves. I prescribe lithium for people who are manic. In most cases it helps, and afterward they tell me, ‘I lost my judgment.’ If they are not manic and they really thought it through before becoming secular, the pill won’t change that. The pill won’t change your worldview.”

    Haim, who was raised in a Ger community in the north, says, “Some guys are full of pills. My little brother was given Ritalin from age 13 or maybe even earlier. My father didn’t want to tell him what it was, so it wouldn’t hurt his marriage prospects. Plus, since I hadn’t wanted to take pills, he decided to trick my brother by telling him they were vitamins. My father has no schooling at all, but he and the teacher at the heder determined the diagnosis and gave him pills. They were provided by the family doctor, who probably would have given my little brother Prozac or oral contraceptives had my father asked.”

    Haim, now 26, is secular and independent, and maintains only loose ties with his family. He was given medications for nine years, beginning at age 14, even though he says it was never forced on him, unlike the cases of other people. He now believes he never needed the medicines, other than Ritalin for ADHD. The treatment was initiated by rabbis, yeshiva supervisors and his marriage counselor in Ashdod, who worked with him during his two years of married life.

    Haim showed Haaretz documents and prescriptions revealing that he was treated by Dr. Ilan Rabinovich and by Profs. Omer Bonne and Avi Weizman.

    “I have had learning disorders and hyperactivity from infancy,” he says. “When I was about 14, the yeshiva counselor told me, ‘Let’s do non-spiritual treatments, let’s start seeing professionals.’ That’s how it started. The school supervisor got into drug treatment and really went for it. Within a year there were rumors that one out of every three students at the yeshiva was taking Ritalin or Prozac. Some of the students, like me, requested an professional medical opinion. He would send us to a psychiatrist, who would provide a diagnosis, paid for by the children’s parents.

    “I know some students received hints that they would be thrown out of the yeshiva if they didn’t take the pills. That is a very extreme measure. Unless you have sex at age 13, you won’t be thrown out of a yeshiva. Maybe one person a year is thrown out. In this case they went full-force. Parents were pressured, too: The rabbi would call, the parents were persuaded. A few students, including me, threw the pills down the toilet. I was prescribed Ritalin, some of the others got Prozac. The overseer administered the Prozac personally.”

    Why Prozac? Did they have depression?

    “How does depression manifest itself in a Haredi yeshiva? It’s different there. Depression is everything that interferes with functioning. You don’t wake up for prayers, say, and the supervisor asks you why you didn’t get up – ‘Maybe you should be thrown out of the yeshiva because you aren’t religious enough?’ The guy says he is religious but can’t get up. So the supervisor realizes it’s something mental, and the only things he knows are depression and attention deficit disorder.”

    Was Prozac given to students with sexual “problems,” including homosexuality or masturbation?

    “That is a constant rumor in the yeshivas – that students are being given pills that work like chemical castration. But I never encountered that.”

    Sexual suppressant

    At the psychiatrists’ symposium, Prof. Bonne said explicitly that yeshiva students are prescribed SSRI-group antidepressants, including Prozac, Lustral, Cipralex and Seroxat, due to their sexual side effects: reducing urges and slowing ejaculation.

    Bonne says antidepressants are used to avoid destructive conflicts that would make students depressed.

    What is the purpose of the pharmacological treatment? Are you seeing to prevent a destructive conflict?

    “To prevent depression,” says Bonne.

    Wouldn’t it be better to advise the teen to leave the place causing him suffering? Maybe to stop being Haredi?

    “I don’t say, ‘The Haredi system is problematic because it places people in conflicts that lead to depression.’ Theoretically, I could say, ‘Look what this system is doing.’ I don’t do that. I give people the information, and if they choose the path then I will prescribe them medicine.”

    Have you found this really helps people spare themselves the conflict?

    “It does much more than that. It enables them to preserve their place, image and dignity within the system, to continue to maintain proper family and social relations, and to find a match and raise a family.”

    Haim says that after he was married, he asked his marriage counselor to set up a meeting with a psychiatrist.

    “At the age of 21 I got into a certain conflict , and I wanted to suppress my sexual urge. After a year of marriage, when we were living in Ashdod, I got into a complicated conflict.”

    Haim approached Kuperberg, who referred him to Prof. Avi Weizman.

    “Weizman conducted a professional diagnosis,” Haim says. “He gave me pills to relax, not to suppress sexual instincts. … I saw him three times. I found out that Ger sends people to Weizman. His waiting room is packed with Ger Hasidim.”

    Haim took antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication for the two years he was married. His wife received medication to treat compulsive disorders. “My wife didn’t know I was taking pills, but I knew she was taking them. That’s how it is in Ger. You don’t tell.”

    Haim later visited Dr. Rabinovich. “My cousin took me. . My cousin didn’t come because he was my cousin, but because he was trying to promote himself within the psychiatry sphere. I saw Rabinovich with the go-between and Rabinovich gave the prescription and the forms to him, not me. I was sitting with him in the room, and he asked Rabinovich for the forms and was handed them.

    “Rabinovich doesn’t have the sensitivity to understand that I was Haredi,” he continues. “I can’t tell someone to leave. You don’t do that. Haredim don’t do that. Rabinovich might think I trust my cousin, but I don’t. I would not want him to be involved, but he set up the appointment and he paid. I was dependent on him.”

    Haim adds, “Rabinovich made a professional diagnosis and wrote things. He wrote more or less the same as Weizman – anxiety, depression – and prescribed pills. So I take them in loads, because I want to solve my personal problems.”

    Haim’s last psychiatric treatment was with Prof. Bonne, whom he visited with a senior Hasidic functionary from outside the Gur community. That person treated his ex-wife and gave her a steady supply of medicine, and he was the one who initiated the appointment with Bonne, says Haim.

    “Through my wife, he suggested that I go to Dr. Bonne. He said he would come with me to Jerusalem. I respected him, because since he started treating my wife, I believed he would fix all my troubles. I met with the functionary and we took a taxi to Rehavia, Jerusalem. I didn’t want him with me during the appointment, but he sat down in the room. After talking to him for a few minutes, the psychiatrist tells me, ‘Wait outside, I want to exchange a few words with him,'” recalls Haim.

    “When I came back in, Bonne asked me questions: How I define myself in religious terms, whether I consider myself religiously deviant. The functionary heard it all. I don’t remember what I told him, but I wanted to get treatment, so I expressed my feelings more or less. Two weeks later, while I was at synagogue, [my wife’s] parents came to our home and took her. They called me and said, ‘We packed up and took our little girl. We want a divorce.’ Just like that.”

    Haim feels that the meetings with Bonne and the functionary contributed to his divorce.

    Bonne says he makes a point of receiving the patient’s permission to have someone else present in the room.

    Haim, what do you think is wrong here?

    “They control you: how many children you have and when you sleep with your wife. They bring you to a psychiatrist and listen to the opinions. They are deeply ingrained in your personality, they hear what you tell the professional. They are involved in the process between you and the psychologist or the psychiatrist. They penetrate your psyche. We forgave them for telling us how to behave in the synagogue, or even at home. Here they’re entering your inner self.”

    Where did it take you?

    “I complained about heightened sex drive. In the Gur community it is strictly prohibited to enjoy sex, and my conscience was in overdrive because of my desire for sex. You have sexual relations with your wife only twice a month. I felt guilty because I wanted more. I wanted to suppress that. They used it against me. I wanted to improve myself and I asked the system for help, and in turn it hurt my family. After that I stopped taking pills, divorced, moved and abandoned religion. Now everything is fine. I am not taking anything and I am doing well.”

    Schizophrenia pills for a better life

    As opposed to Haim, Yaakov (not his real name ) decided to stay in the Ger community. He is unwilling to say why he was sent to Dr. Rabinovich.

    “I am a normal person, very much so,” he says. “I was sent to Ilan Rabinovich two and a half years ago because of a very specific story.

    “I was sent by a spiritual counselor, a well-known person in the Hasidic world. I sat with Rabinovich and [the counselor] started to charm him, and in the end he prescribed pills. ‘This will make your life better,’ he told me.

    “I never touched them. I went home, and since I’m a slightly rebellious Haredi with Internet access I looked on Google and read all I could about Ilan Rabinovich. I saw forums where patients wrote good or bad things about him. I saw the pills he gave me were intended to treat schizophrenia. I’d heard stories about Hasidim who had taken those kinds of pills, which destroyed their nervous system.

    “When the rabbis and functionaries realized that I did not intend to take the pills, they declared me persona non grata. They didn’t throw me out, but the institutions broke off all contact with me,” he says.

    “Secular people like to criticize Haredim over two issues: draft evasion and not working. I don’t think these two issues justify hatred. The true story of the Haredi community is the trampling of human and property rights. It’s incredibly suffocating. Some of the people handing out pills in our community are true saints; most have good intentions and want to help. To really understand what’s going on here, you have to know how the good is mixed with the bad, with the darkest things.”

    Countering stigmas

    Rabbi Yosef Kuperberg, who founded Saving the Generations to help Haredim pay for fertility treatment and later mental health care, refused to respond to Haaretz, but an anonymous source at the foundation presented the rabbi’s views on psychiatric treatment. It’s crucial that someone accompany Haredi patients to meetings with psychiatrists due to cultural gaps: For many yeshiva students, this is their first time meeting someone outside the Haredi world, says the source.

    “People may accompany the patient, who often is embarrassed to express himself,” says the source. “So people help him. The escorts should be praised. Wouldn’t you want someone to help you express yourself in an unpleasant situation?”

    He adds, “We consistently encourage a person not to seek help alone, and we do not encourage parents to get involved. Generally patients exaggerate or underestimate an issue − it’s not that they’re lying; they’re distorting the picture. So it’s good when somebody more objective comes along. The doctor has no objective measure; you can’t make a [definitive] diagnosis in these cases. Assessments are made based on a story. So the truth needs to be heard.”

    One of the foundation’s main purposes is to improve awareness of mental health services, and to counter the stigmas surrounding them, he says.

    “There is a deeply embedded reluctance to psychiatric care,” says the source. “You can find aspirin in any home, but rarely Valium − why? The stigma calls Valium the ‘deputy’ of the angel of death. People may face pain much more severe than a headache or a toothache. The damage caused by not taking aspirin is negligible compared to the damage caused by stress.”

    Are pills given to reduce sexual urges?

    “The medical profession has answers to minor, moderate and very severe problems. There are solutions for those who suffer from urges and do not behave as they would like to behave.”

    Are teens told the nature of the drugs they’re being given?

    “Since the stigma against Valium is so strong, and it is even worse regarding more serious medications, instead of being helped by it, [Orthodox] youths curse it, denounce it.”

    Do Ger Hasidim more frequently turn to psychiatrists? If so, why?

    “To some degree, yes. It could be that the Gur leaders are a little more open, that they have broader vision, and that they want to help their people. That’s all there is to it. Opposition [to professional care] will erode: It could take two years, or five or 10 years, but in the end, we hope that anyone feeling abnormal stress, if he’s half-crazy, if he’s hitting people or if he is compulsive will seek help, just like people take aspirin for a headache. Compulsiveness is normal, but when it becomes harmful, why should a person suffer?”

    Who funds psychiatric care for Hasidim who need it?

    “Usually the families − who else? Saving the Generations helps people who can’t pay, but does not provide regular funding.”

    Doctors respond

    “Many patients, ultra-Orthodox and secular, come to me with a companion,” says Prof. Omer Bonne. “Sometimes it’s a family member, sometimes it’s someone else the patient trusts. At the start of each session I ask the patient whether he or she wants the other person to be present, and I always respect the patient’s decision. I’ve never forced a patient to have someone else in the room during an examination.

    “Cultural norms are very important when diagnosing mental illness. The person mentioned in this article [the non-Gur functionary in Haim’s story], like other Haredi activists and family members, helps me come up with an initial assessment and then a diagnosis. He says he arranged the meeting and knew the family well, so I may have asked him − with Haim’s knowledge − for information.

    “Haim claims his decision to see me was initiated by that person, that he considered him a ‘savior.’ Did [Haim] take a cab from Ashdod to Jerusalem with him in order to come to the appointment alone? Did he intend to use his help for free? And if he really wanted to be examined alone, why didn’t he say that? I have never passed on medical information about a patient without his or her explicit consent ‏(aside from situations stipulated by the law‏), in this case or any other.”

    Moshe Klughaft, Dr. Ilan Rabinovich’s media consultant, states: “Dr. Ilan Rabinovich, a leading psychiatrist who upholds the highest standards of care and runs Israel’s leading private psychiatric clinic, improves the quality of life of thousands of people a year. Dr. Rabinovich is proud of his work over the years with [Gerrer Rebbe confidant] Rabbi [Yosef] Kuperberg and other rabbis. These are top-caliber people who work day and night to help the public. Dr. Rabinovich has spearheaded a revolution over the past decade, not just among the secular but also among the ultra-Orthodox: He has helped do away with stigmas, stereotypes and fears about psychological and psychiatric care, and about how such treatment can profoundly change a patient’s life.

    “The ultra-Orthodox are not treated differently than the secular. Dr. Rabinovich provides both communities with top-quality treatment, as if treating his own children. Since his work relates to mental health, Dr. Rabinovich will not disclose information about specific patients or their treatment. Dr. Rabinovich refuses to exploit patients’ mental health in order to get his name into the newspaper.”

    Prof. Avi Weizman says he is usually contacted initially by patients’ parents. “They direct the course of events, and they come to me,” he says. He also confirms that many of his patients come escorted by a rabbi or a yeshiva supervisor. “I make sure that the escorts remain outside, unless the yeshiva student says, ‘I want the supervisor to sit with us.’”

    Weizman denies prescribing medication to curb sexual impulses, “unless there is something compulsive. It is normal for people to masturbate, and I would never prescribe a drug for that.” The patient’s family usually pays for the treatment, he says.

    “In 99 percent of the cases, the parents come with the child. All contacts are initiated by the parents. If nothing is needed, I do not provide treatment, but I do address situations where I feel the quality of life can be improved, suffering can be mitigated and feelings of failure can be countered,” he says. ‏

  65. G46 Resident said

    What is the point of posting this on a Glasgow blog Laura? What’s your agenda?

  66. G46 Resident said

    Transparency – that is the point.

  67. G46 Resident said

    I am sorry I should have made it clear that now that I have read the article again I understand why it has been posted.

  68. Interested in Israel? said

    I think its time we had a proper discussion on here. I have just been sent a note regarding the findings of the SCOJEC project about being Jewish In Scotland. There is nothing there at all that merits a grant of £20,000 from the Scottish Government. Go on to the SCOJEC website and take a look – you will not be surprised to learn that some of the conclusions advocate a closer link with organisations whose principal officers who are already part of SCOJEc – like Limmud and Jewish Students. If the Scottish Government think that funding this project is good use of public money then serious questions need to be asked.


  69. Taggart said

    “It is important to listen to closely to what respondents are telling us, as opposed to the words they use” – Summary of Scojec findings June 2012

    What Borowski means by this is that he isn’t interested in what you tell him – he will decide whay you really mean.

    This is the most condescending arrogant statement yet used by Scojec in their brief existence. Borowski does not believe that the respondents are clever enough to work it out for themselves – they need his supposedly analtical expertise to qualify and intellectualise what people really mean

    So if respondents don’t think they have experienced antisemitism, Borowski will interpret that as these daft lackeys don’t get it and are too stupid to realise what antisemitism is and they can’t even see it when it is in front of their eyes.

    Arogant certainly. Undemocratic undoubtedly.

    Lets start an investigation into who funds this organisation.

    Anyone got any helpful hints?

  70. Alan said

    Is this a starter for 10

  71. LA LAW said

    Keeping Leah Granet on the payroll part time when she lives in Israel creates a fantastic precedent for Ephraim Borowski. When he ups sticks, he will of course claim he can continue to serve the Glasgow Jewish Community and claim expenses when he starts living in Israel.
    What a brilliant idea. Does anyone know who funds Borowski other than the Scottish Government?

  72. Celebrity Chef Chaplaincy Style said

    Harvey Kaplan is charging £65 for the student centenary dinner according to the article in the Jewish Telegraph and claims this is subsidised. Is he using Jamie Oliver as the chef? Don’t worry though you get a free trip round the archives included (that’s normally free but lets not be picky about it)

  73. Nick Nairn said

    I sincerely hope that Chaplaincy Committee Members are paying the same as the rest of us for their dinner.

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