Death and the debate

March 21, 1997

In my article on the repercussions within Anglo-Jewry of the death of Rabbi Hugo Gryn, requested by The THES, I sought to explain to a largely non-Jewish audience a complex and confusing dynamic. As the official historian of the Federation of Synagogues, and a member of its executive, I have my own views on the "Chief Rabbinate" (an office to which the federation does not contribute and to which it owes no allegiance). However, I respect my fellow Jews of all faiths, and am proud to have accepted invitations to address Reform Jewish audiences, and to have written for Reform publications.

I did not refer to the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain, the organisation Mr Hyman represents but to the "reform movement". Mr Hyman admits that elements of his movement joined with others in raising the hue and cry against Rabbi Dr J. H. Sacks following Rabbi Gryn's death.

Mr Hyman contends that it was Rabbi Sacks who requested the "memorial meeting" held on February 20. This explanation runs counter to that given by Dr Sacks himself in a private letter (printed in the Jewish Chronicle of March 14) to Rabbi Chenoch Padwa, of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations making clear his view that, had he not attended the memorial meeting, the Reform movement would have established its own "Chief Rabbinate". This option has always been open to reformers, and that Rabbi Sacks's attendance at the meeting only exacerbated divisions within Jewish communities in Britain.

I have never been part of any campaign (personal or otherwise) either to discredit the chief rabbinate or to malign reform Judaism. However, I believe it my duty to dispel myths and as a result I have been the object of personal abuse of which Mr Hyman's letter is a fair example. Within Anglo-Jewry I can only be described as of anomalous insignificance.

Geoffrey Alderman

Middlesex University

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