Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum

GJEF And UJIA To Work Together On An Educational Programme

Posted by Admin on May 12, 2009

Fergus Ewing 2On Monday 31st August, between 7.30 and 9.30pm, at Eastwood Park Theatre in Giffnock, Glasgow, GJEF in partnership with UJIA Community Programmes will present a unique and very special educational programme for the youth of the Glasgow Jewish community.

The Scottish Government Minister for Community Safety, Fergus Ewing MSP, will attend an interactive workshop that will allow 60 to 80 young people, aged 14 and over, to look at the different aspects of racism, bigotry, sectarianism and stereotyping that they experience in their day to day lives. Mr Ewing will observe the workshop and take part in a facilitated question and answer session with the young participants. This is a unique opportunity for young members of the Jewish community to share their experiences with a Scottish Government Minister and look at how we build safer and stronger communities for all of the people of Scotland.

By putting issues like antisemitism into a wider context, the participants will gain a better understanding of how racism and stereotyping cuts across community boundaries and impacts on the lives of many individuals in Scotland. They will also see how an appreciation of the difference between particular cultures and religions, and the problems each encounters, helps to breakdown barriers and encourage dialogue between different communities.

Mr Ewing said:

“Scotland is a modern multi-faith and multi-cultural society where all of our young people must be allowed to fulfil their potential without the fear of prejudice or discrimination. Our individual backgrounds help to make Scotland a vibrant and exciting place to live and we should embrace and celebrate that diversity as united communities who will not allow prejudice to hold us back from being the nation we aspire to be.

“I am looking forward to this unusual event and to learning about the experiences of young Jewish people in Scotland first hand.”

The workshop and discussion will be run by JCORE, the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, which was established in 1976 to combat racism and promote social justice. JCORE work with the Jewish and wider community to promote a positive multi-ethnic society. They are highly experienced in running workshops for schools, youth and community groups. Parents and the wider Jewish Community will be invited to observe the dialogue and, if time allows, there will be an opportunity for the wider audience to ask the Minister questions.

Posted in General, Issues, Meetings | 339 Comments »

Whither The God of the Prayer Book

Posted by Admin on April 6, 2009

We are delighted to announce that Rabbi David Goldberg, Emeritus Rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue London, will address the Glasgow Jewish community on Sunday 26th April 2009. The meeting will be held at Calderwood Lodge Primary School at 8.00pm.

He will discuss his controversial thesis that “The God of the Prayer Book is Dead”. In a provocative article published in MANNA, the quarterly magazine of Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Goldberg challenged Judaism’s conception of God. He concluded “. . . it has become increasingly problematic for most of us, Rabbis included, to pay lip service, even twice a year, to the unchanged supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient just, judgmental God of our prayer books. Such a God is, literally, beyond belief in the modern scientific world. Yet apart from Mordechai Kaplan eighty years ago, I can think of no recent Jewish theologian, Orthodox or Progressive, who has attempted to redefine the nature of God, or tackled the barriers to faith caused by the arcane concepts we still use to describe the Deity’s attributes . . . Only a fool – or a fundamentalist – doesn’t have doubts”.

Rabbi Goldberg has served the Liberal Synagogue since 1975. The synagogue is one of the oldest, largest and most prestigious Progressive congregations in the world. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School, Oxford University and Trinity College Dublin and he received his rabbinic ordination from Leo Baeck College in London in 1971. He is a regular contributor on religious and political topics to the BBC and leading newspapers such as The Times, Sunday Times, The Guardian and Independent. He is a long time advocate of Israel-Palestine peace. In 1999 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the International Council of Christians and Jews for his “outstanding contribution to interfaith harmony” and in 2004 he received an OBE for his services to interfaith work.

Posted in General, Issues, Meetings | 249 Comments »

Must Jews Always See Themselves As Victims?

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2009

Antony Lerman

tony-lermanIn the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza, eager voices are telling us that antisemitism has returned – yet again. Eight years of Hamas rockets and the world unfairly cries foul when Israel retaliates, they say. Biased media are delegitimising the Jewish state. The Left attacks Israel as uniquely evil, making it the persecuted Jew among the nations. Even theatres keep wheeling out those antisemitic stereotypes, Shylock, Fagin and the “chosen people”, just to torment us. If this bleak picture were an accurate portrayal of what Jews are experiencing today, who could deny that suffering is the determining feature of the Jewish condition?

In most Jewish circles, if you pause to question this narrative and suggest that it might be exaggerated, that it unrealistically implies a level of dreadfulness and victimhood unique to Jews, you’ll attract hostility and disbelief in equal measure, and precious little public sympathy. But in the work of Professor Salo Baron, probably the greatest Jewish historian of the 20th century, we find powerful justification for just such a questioning.

Professor Baron spoke out angrily against what he called the “lachrymose conception of Jewish history”, which placed suffering at the centre of Jewish life. “Suffering is part of the destiny” of the Jews,” Professor Baron said in an interview in 1975, “but so is repeated joy as well as ultimate redemption.” Another distinguished historian, Professor Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, said Baron always fought against the view of Jewish history as “all darkness and no light. He laboured mightily to restore balance”.

Baron, who was born in Poland and went to America in 1930 to teach at Columbia University in New York, died aged 94 in 1989, perhaps one of the most significant years in post-war Jewish history. With the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the USSR, the suppression of Jewish religious practice and cultural expression came to an end. More than two million Jews were finally free to choose to be Jewish or not. An astonishing number chose Jewishness and a remarkable revival of Jewish life began. This historic moment aptly illustrates the central truth of Baron’s critique.

Twenty years on, that revival continues, but the world’s response to Israel’s war on Gaza and the dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents in a number of countries since the war began have led many to paint a very dark picture of the current Jewish predicament. So, in thinking about the accuracy of this, especially in view of the poisonous weed of antisemitism that Howard Jacobson, writing in The Independent last month, claims to find growing in practically every patch of criticism of Israel, I wondered what light Professor Baron would have found in the current darkness. Would he have concluded that the lachrymose conception of Jewish history has returned and that a restoration of some balance is required? Have we Jews succumbed psychologically to a sense of eternal Jewish victimhood, a wholly negative Jewish exceptionalism, or is paranoia justified?

Some pioneering research, published as Israel’s bombing of Gaza began, throws some light on this. It reveals just how much the feeling that no matter what we do, we are perpetually at the mercy of others applies to Jewish Israelis. A team led by Professor Daniel Bar Tal of Tel Aviv University, one of the world’s leading political psychologists, questioned Israeli Jews about their memory of the conflict with the Arabs, from its inception to the present, and found that their “consciousness is characterised by a sense of victimisation, a siege mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness, dehumanisation of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their suffering”. The researchers found a close connection between that collective memory and the memory of “past persecutions of Jews” and the Holocaust, the feeling that “the whole world is against us”. If such a study [pdf] were to be conducted among Jews in Britain, I suspect the results would be very similar.

For Jews to see themselves in this way is understandable, but it’s a distortion and deeply damaging. As Professor Bar Tal says, this view relies primarily on prolonged indoctrination that is based on ignorance and even nurtures it. The Jewish public does not want to be confused with the facts. If we are defined by past persecutions, by our victimhood, will we ever think clearly about the problem of Israel-Palestine and the problem of antisemitism?

To justify its attack on Gaza, Israel threw the mantle of victimhood over the residents of southern Israel who have lived under the constant threat of rocket attack from the territory since 2001. Israeli government and military spokespeople seemed to get a remarkably sympathetic hearing in the media when they made this argument. But history did not begin in 2001. As the Israeli journalist Amira Hass notes, the origin of Israel’s siege dates back to 1991, before suicide bombings began. The relentless emphasis on Israeli suffering, to the exclusion of all other contextual facts, and the constant mantra that no other country would tolerate such a threat posed to its citizens over such a long period provided the basis for arguing that the military option was the only alternative. The victim is cornered and there’s only one way out.

But the popular Israeli phrase ein breira, “there is no alternative”, won’t stand one second’s scrutiny. There was a wealth of informed senior military and security opinion, especially following the disaster of the 2006 Lebanon war, which argued that there is no military solution to the problem of Islamist groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah. Even before Lebanon, in 2004, former IDF spokesman Nahman Shai, a senior figure in the Israeli establishment, said: “Despite all the anger, frustration, and disgust we feel, we ought to talk to Hizbollah. We must exploit every possibility to reach a compromise with them and gain precious time. Does it really embody all the evil in the region? What are we waiting for? We can always go back to fighting terrorism.” Early in January this year, Israel’s former Mossad chief and former national security adviser, Efraim Halevy, said: “If Israel’s goal were to remove the threat of rockets from the residents of southern Israel, opening the border crossings would have ensured such quiet for a generation.” Daniel Levy, former adviser in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, shows clearly where the wrong choices were made: withdrawing from Gaza without co-ordinating the “what next” with the Palestinians; hermetically sealing off Hamas and besieging Gaza after the 2006 elections instead of testing Hamas’s capacity to govern responsibly; instead of building on the ceasefire, Israel was the first to break it on 4th November. In short, there were other alternatives.

The current flurry of diplomatic activity only confirms this. Tony Blair’s first trip to Gaza, Hillary Clinton’s talks with Israel’s leaders and stronger language on settlements and the $5bn pledged for Gaza at the Egyptian donor conference are all discomfiting signs for Israel’s polity, now in a state of electoral upheaval. They show that the Gaza offensive blasted open the doors to alternative diplomatic options, as well as the possibility of a new Palestinian unity government. Instead of validating the government’s line that this was justice for Israel’s traumatised southern citizens, it only served to demonstrate to the world, and especially to the new Obama administration, Israel’s responsibility for the injustice of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.

It’s not a political judgement to feel compassion for Israelis terrorised by Hamas rockets, and it’s just the same for Palestinians living in a virtual prison in Gaza. But the objective predicaments of the two populations are not the same. To convince yourself that a turkey shoot is an act of great heroism, you need the “self-righteousness” and “blind patriotism” Professor Bar Tal found in his study. You see yourself as David against the Islamist Goliath. The world sees a powerful elephant and an aggressive, rogue mouse that draws blood. The elephant hands the mouse the power of veto over the entire Middle East peace process by demanding that the mouse recognise the elephant’s existence before any meaningful negotiations with Palestinians can take place. All this does is send a message of weakness: “We genuinely believe that our existence is threatened by this mouse.”

Professor Baron argued that you cannot understand the history of the Jews outside of the histories of the societies in which Jews lived. Yet this narrative of victimhood is sustainable only on the basis of a negative Jewish exceptionalism which severs the Jewish experience from the historical mainstream.

The hope and optimism which accompanied the collapse of communism and the Jewish revival in Europe in 1989 have certainly been eclipsed by a defensive, fearful, ethnocentric mindset, which makes a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict ever harder to achieve and casts a pall over Jewish life everywhere. So why are we reading our own times through the prism of a lachrymose view of Jewish history?

If you’re urging me to list the faults of the enemies of the Jews, to say it’s all because of them, you might as well stop reading now. Yes, of course our predicament is partly caused by others who wish us no good, but before we heap blame on them, I want to hold up a mirror to ourselves, to know what’s our responsibility. The liberal historian of Zionism, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, said it’s “wrong to deny the Jews the dignity of having made their own history, even its pain”. Consider these five interlocking points.

There is every reason why the Holocaust should be a constant influence on our thinking. But by insisting on owning it, fencing it off and seeing it as uniquely unique, we’re in danger of lifting the Jewish tragedy out of history altogether. And this process has been a conscious act. If seen as completely unfathomable, the Holocaust is easily used to justify extraordinary measures to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. This is a dangerous road to travel.

Being so defined by the Holocaust, Jewish leaders in Israel and elsewhere regularly use the tragedy to dramatise Israel’s position or the threats facing Jews. So when the US Anti-Defamation League head Abraham Foxman described the attack on the Caracas synagogue as “the scene of a modern-day Kristallnacht” – the 9 November 1938 pogrom in Germany in which 91 Jews were killed, more than 30,000 were arrested and 191 synagogues were set on fire – he diminished Kristallnacht. But more than this: it perpetuates the view that we Jews are for ever the objects and never the subjects of history. This was never more than partially true, but ever since the establishment of the state of Israel, it has ceased to be true at all. Israel changed everything – whether you’re close to Israel or not. Israel acts on the world stage; it calls itself a Jewish state; what it does affects the Jewish position worldwide; it cannot pretend to powerlessness; it’s the subject of history, not the object, and in being so turns Jews everywhere into subjects of history too.

This is starkly illustrated in the fact that the UK Jewish community’s defence body, the Community Security Trust, reports a dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents since the beginning of the Gaza war. This is not a new phenomenon. For some decades, incidents have increased at times of high tension or violence in Israel-Palestine. Jewish leaders and commentators are indignant at the implication that Jews worldwide are responsible for Israel’s actions. Don’t conflate Jews and Israel, they say. But matters are far more complicated. Most Jews support Israel; they feel it’s part of their identity; official Jewish bodies defend Israel when it’s criticised.

None of this justifies one single act of antisemitism against Jews perpetrated because someone claims to be angry about Palestine. But we can’t have it both ways. If you’re close to Israel, you can’t just own your connection with the country when all is quiet; you have to own it when what Israel does provokes outrage. The consequence of this is recognising that by provoking outrage, which is then used to target Jews, Israel bears responsibility for that anti-Jewish hostility. If Israel were truly concerned about Jews worldwide, it would think long and hard about the implications of this reality.

The incongruous truth is that while we are drawing attention to antisemitism more comprehensively than at any time in the past 30 years, I sense that so much of the Jewish world is more comfortable with an identifiable enemy that hates us than with a multicultural society that welcomes Jews on equal terms.

Any antisemitism must be taken seriously, even at the best of times, but our appetite for the apocalyptic assessment of the antisemitic threat seems to know no bounds. When the Labour MP Denis MacShane writes that “Neo-antisemitism is a developed, coherent and organised system of modern politics that has huge influence on the minds of millions” and that it “impacts on world politics today like no other ideology”, can we really take such hyperbole seriously? It’s perfectly possible to acknowledge the pain caused by increased antisemitism but reject wild scenarios and counterproductive ways of dealing with the problem – such as demonising strong criticism of Israel. We should be able to have a dialogue about alternative ways of interpreting what’s happening and what needs to be done. Sadly, the Jewish establishment here and other self-appointed gatekeepers of Jewish dignity see this as traitorous and a denial of antisemitism.

Nothing illustrates better how we are in thrall to the uniqueness of our suffering than the shocking silence from most Jewish leaders that has greeted the rise of Avigdor Lieberman – a politician who, in Ha’aretz’s words, “conducted a racist campaign against Israel’s Arab citizens and is suspected of grave criminal acts” – to king-maker for the next Israeli government. It’s sickening that the leaders of Israel’s three largest parties have courted him and conferred respectability upon him, with not the slightest hint that they might be metaphorically holding their noses.

Before we put down the mirror, the final image we see is that of Lieberman.

We are not condemned to accept the fate which the closed-minded ethnocentricity of so many Jews dictates to us. Ameliorating our predicament, restoring the balance, could come from acknowledging modest but profound truths, even if we get to them through distasteful comparisons.

I know that the siege, bombardment and invasion of Gaza were not like the German obliteration of the Warsaw ghetto – a comparison that critics of Israel are spreading through the internet I believe. And our need for calm and compassionate examination of the reality of the conflict would be greatly enhanced if we could retire such comparisons. But if we pause to think of the suffering of a dying Jewish child in the ghetto and a dying Palestinian child in Gaza, who would dare to suggest that their suffering is any different. Yet, as Professor Baron seems to imply, we fall all too easily into the trap of thinking that there is something unique about Jewish suffering. There isn’t.

Antony Lerman is the former Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

Posted in General, Issues | 41 Comments »

Charles Kennedy Meeting: Change of Venue

Posted by Admin on February 23, 2009

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the venue for the meeting with Charles Kennedy has been changed.

The event will now take place at Calderwood Lodge Primary School on Sunday 8th March at 8.15pm. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause. All existing tickets for the event will be honoured.

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Antony Lerman briefs ACPOS

Posted by Admin on January 28, 2009

On Wednesday 21st January, Antony Lerman, former Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, addressed the ACPOS Religion and Faith Reference Group on the subject of antisemitism. This event was facilitated by GJEF at the request of ACPOS (Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland), and officials in the Scottish Government. Mr Lerman’s lecture was very well received and afterwards there was a lengthy discussion about this important issue. GJEF would like to thank ACPOS for their invitation and excellent hospitality.

Summary of Antony Lerman’s briefing to ACPOS:

The upsurge of antisemitic incidents since the beginning of the Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza shows that antisemitism is alive and well. But the fact that these incidents are directly linked to the Israel-Palestine conflict shows also that antisemitism today is a complex phenomenon.

Although the word ‘antisemitism’ was coined in the late 19th century, it has come to refer to Jew-hatred going back to the birth of Christianity. Hundreds of years of persecution and discrimination culminated in the most virulent form of antisemitism—based on ‘scientific’ racism—which was adopted by the Nazis and led to the Holocaust.

After the Second World War, antisemitism did not disappear, but it became less acceptable to express antisemitic views in public. With the development of human rights legislation and laws to combat racial incitement, and the commitment of governments to protect their Jewish communities, antisemitism gradually declined. With the collapse of communism in 1989, Jews practically everywhere were free to choose to be Jewish or not for the first time and the 1990s saw a flowering of Jewish culture.

However, growing hostility to Israel after the collapse of the Oslo accords, which built on the development of anti-Zionism from the 1970s onwards, was seen by many to have an antisemitic element. With the outbreak of the second intifada, the anti-Jewish activity witnessed at the UN anti-racism conference in Durban and the 9/11 attacks, the opening of the 21st century saw a resurgence of antisemitism. Many see this as a ‘new antisemitism’—hatred of the collective Jew in the form of the state of Israel. But others deny that there is such a separate form of antisemitism and insist on keeping a distinction between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, even though they do sometimes overlap.

Combating antisemitism today requires sensitivity to, and an understanding of, the complexities of the problem. Monitoring antisemitism is extremely important, as the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism, which produced a report and recommendations in 2006, stressed. However, recording antisemitic incidents, which police forces across the country are all being urged to do, is only one part of monitoring antisemitism. One of the problems facing both law enforcement agencies and researchers is that, while antisemitism is a form of racism, it’s different in some important respects. For example, anti-black racism manifests itself clearly in discrimination. Jews in the UK suffer no discrimination to speak of.

In the Jewish community, the Community Security Trust plays a very important role in monitoring antisemitism and providing security for Jewish premises and events. However, as a private organization it is not always clear whether it can strike a balance between intelligence-driven action and community accountability, between the need to ensure heightened awareness of its assessment of the threat posed by antisemitism and the need to ensure that community life can carry on as normal.

Looking ahead, it is important to remember that the current rise in antisemitic incidents as a result of the fallout from the Gaza conflict does not necessarily mean that there has been a rise in underlying hostility to Jews. Jews were once seen as ‘the canary in the coalmine’—when society’s democratic structures were collapsing, Jews would be the first in the firing line. This is no longer true. Other groups are the primary targets of most racists today. This doesn’t mean that antisemitic acts, when they occur, are any less troubling, but it does not help to combat the very real antisemitism that exists by exaggerating the threat it poses.

The recession we now face is likely to make life more difficult for some minority groups and especially for refugees and asylum-seekers. To the extent that this spills over into an increase in open expressions of racism, we will all be disadvantaged by the resulting coarsening of relationships in society.

Dealing with antisemitism requires a proportionate response. Policy-making at whatever level will not succeed if the threat is either exaggerated or underestimated. Sadly, we will never rid the world of racism and antisemitism completely, but we can do a very great deal to create the conditions which reduce hatreds to a level where they do as little harm as possible.

Posted in General, Issues | 143 Comments »

Charles Kennedy to Address the Glasgow Jewish Community

Posted by Admin on December 8, 2008

charles-kennedy-5We are delighted to announce that the Rt Hon Charles Kennedy MP, will address the Glasgow Jewish Community on Sunday 8th March 2009 at Mearns Castle High School at 8.15pm.

Mr Kennedy has been MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber since 1983. Born in Inverness in 1959, he was brought up and educated in Fort William, and attended Glasgow University. Following his graduation in 1982, he worked as a journalist and broadcaster with the BBC.

In May 1983 he was elected to the House of Commons as an SDP Member of Parliament to become the youngest MP of the time. He was the first SDP MP to back the merger with the Liberals after the 1987 general election and he was elected UK Party President in 1990. In August 1999 he was elected as the leader of the Liberal Democrats and he was appointed to the Privy Council in October 1999.

He took the Liberal Democrats to their most successful election performance for some 80 years when they returned 63 MPs in May 2005. He stood down as leader of the party in January 2006.

In September 2007, he was unanimously elected President of the European Movement in Britain and he is also Rector of Glasgow University.

Charles Kennedy is one of Britain’s most recognisable politicians. A regular writer in the national press and a frequent participant in “Have I Got News For You”, this is a wonderful opportunity for the Glasgow Jewish Community.

Mr. Kennedy will address our community on the 8th March 2009 and his talk will include his impressions of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, human rights issues and world affairs. He has also agreed to take questions from the floor.

The lecture will be open to all members of the community and we anticipate a very high demand for tickets. There will be a £5 donation per person, which will help recover some of our costs. We hope that you can be with us on what we are sure will be a memorable occasion. To apply for tickets for the event, please use the Contact form on the website.

Charles Kennedy 6
(All images ©2004 Alex Folkes)

Posted in General, Meetings | 363 Comments »

The Jewish Future in Scotland: Engaging with the Scottish Government

Posted by Admin on November 4, 2008

The Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum last week facilitated a meeting between officials from the Scottish Government and Antony Lerman, Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR). JPR aims to advance the fortunes of Jewish communities across Europe by developing ideas for an inclusive Europe where difference is cherished and common values prevail. The discussions covered a wide variety of subjects including antisemitism, Holocaust education, the impact of global events on the Scottish Jewish community and the interaction between European Governments and Jewish communities throughout Europe.

Since the First Minister addressed a public meeting of the Jewish community in April 2008, the Scottish Government have been aware that GJEF has been organising an educational programme for the Glasgow Jewish community over the past 20 months that has brought about discussion and debate. Some of Britain’s leading Jewish academics and thinkers have been brought to Scotland by GJEF. It was agreed that GJEF will, when appropriate, help to facilitate further meetings and consultations with the Scottish Government as part of a wide-ranging advisory process.

Victoria Quay (Medium)

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Foreign Secretary to Address the Jewish Community

Posted by Admin on September 19, 2008

We are delighted to announce that the Foreign Secretary, The Rt Hon David Miliband MP, has accepted Glasgow Jewish Educational Forum’s invitation to address the Glasgow Jewish Community.

Mr Miliband will speak at a public lecture to be held under the auspices of GJEF, early in 2009. We will advise the community of the exact date, in due course, when we are informed by the Foreign Office.

GJEF wanted a senior member of the British Government to address the community and our first choice was always David Miliband. Local MP, the Rt Hon Jim Murphy, Secretary of State for Scotland, has worked tirelessly to secure Mr Miliband’s agreement to come to speak to the community and we are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to chair the meeting.

Mr Murphy has issued the following statement, and further details can be found on his website http://www.jimmurphymp.com:

“I am delighted that David Miliband has agreed to visit my constituency to address the Glasgow Jewish Community. Through my work with the community for over 10 years, I am fully aware of the issues that concern you and I can promise you that the Foreign Secretary will address them. I am very pleased to accept GJEF’s invitation to chair the evening and look forward to a memorable occasion.”

In addition to the Foreign Secretary’s talk, GJEF has organised an extensive programme of educational lectures which will explore many of the key issues facing Jews in the contemporary world. Our guest speakers include some of the leading intellectual figures in Anglo-Jewry. The following meetings have been confirmed:

Sunday 26th October: Antony Lerman, Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, will consider the moral responsibilities of communal leadership.

Sunday 16th November: Jonathan Boyd, Director of the JDC International Centre for Community Development, will examine the relationship between Israel and Jewish Communities in the diaspora.

Sunday 14th December: Dr Adam Sutcliffe, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at King’s College London, will consider the nature of the security threat to the Jewish community.

Posted in General, Meetings | 128 Comments »

Does our Community Need a Holocaust Memorial?

Posted by Admin on August 27, 2008

Earlier this summer, GJEF was honoured to sponsor a lecture by Dr Stephen Smith, chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. For those who were present on the night, it was a privilege to hear the considered view of one of the leading authorities on the subject of Holocaust commemoration. 

Dr Smith addressed the question of the proposed Holocaust memorial in Scotland, an issue which, hitherto, had not been subject to any form of public discussion or consultation. His lecture examined some of the most difficult and complex questions associated with the proposed memorial; namely, whether East Renfrewshire is the most appropriate location for the memorial, and the difficult question of “ownership”:

Without taking anything away from the community of East Renfrewshire, would East Renfrewshire be the most obvious place to make a clear and unequivocal statement to the whole of Scotland? As founder of the Holocaust Centre in the middle of a field in rural Nottinghamshire, I have no grounds to question the generous hosting of a memorial in East Renfrewshire. However, the Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire is a private initiative developed at the time out of pure necessity. We used the very few resources to establish something in the UK fifteen years ago. That is a very different proposition to a memorial funded by a national government. If the community is the nation, then it has to reach the nation. If that means it has to be in central Glasgow or in Edinburgh that needs to be thought about now. I understand there is the offer of land, which is a wonderful gesture, because land is expensive. But it will be costly to get the location wrong. East Renfrewshire might indeed be the right place, but you only know that once feasibility is tested against other possible locations. I wonder whether that exercise has been done. If the community to which we refer is the Jewish Community, then East Renfrewshire will be just fine. If it is a wider community, then this location needs very careful thought.

[. . .] This raises the thorny problem of ownership. Who ‘owns’ the Holocaust memorial? Moreover, who owns the Holocaust? Let me rephrase that. Who has the right to represent the Holocaust, its causes, its history and its consequences, to the rest of society? We all know that the vast majority of victims of National Socialisms genocidal regime were Jews. From the outset, they were ideological targets of a pathological state, hell bent on their destruction. There is good reason to think about how to involve the Jewish community in the creation of Holocaust memorials and centres, because Jews do know about the Holocaust from the very core of their being. That partly explains why when a Holocaust memorial is considered, East Renfrewshire is an obvious choice for many. However, south of the border, it would be unthinkable to put a Holocaust centre for the general public in At Hendon Central or on Hampstead High Street. It places the ownership and the onus on the Jewish community and this is not a Jewish Community problem. Whatever it was that created the mass murder of the Jews of Europe it was not the making of the Jews. They suffered the tragedy, the problem lay elsewhere.

These are questions which we, as a community, have to address. To this end, GJEF is making available the text of Dr Smith’s lecture in order to facilitate an open debate on this issue.

Your comments on this issue are welcome.

To download a copy of Dr Smith’s lecture in *pdf or word format, please right-click on the associated file icon below, and select Save Target As from the context menu in Internet Explorer:

Posted in General, Issues | 32 Comments »

Alex Salmond Lecture: Photo Gallery

Posted by Admin on May 12, 2008

The First Minister and the Great Leader

We are delighted to announce the unveiling of our new Photo Gallery Pages. To view pictures of the Alex Salmond Lecture, please click here »

Posted in General, Photos | 319 Comments »