Division over a rabbi's memory

February 21, 1997

GEOFFREY Alderman's admir-ably succinct history of British Jewry's fissiparous tendency (THES, February 14) sadly neither sheds light on the issues nor justifies his own stand and the Paisleyite language of betrayal in which he expresses it. It is far from clear, for example, what is so "bizarre" about yesterday's memorial meeting for the late Hugo Gryn.

The simple answer to Professor Alderman's position is that if the faith brands the chief rabbi's attendance as betrayal, then the faith must be deficient.

Such an argument will carry little weight with the orthodox. Unlike in the Christian tradition, and famously the Jesuitical, reason has never played much part in traditional Jewish theology, fundamentally flawed as it is as an ethical system (or basis for one) by having no place for the universalisability of its precepts. The orthodox Jew is enjoined to observe the 613 mitzvot (commandments) because and solely because he/she is a Jew.

All of the above may well be shrugged off by your readers who recall the story of the two Jews marooned on a desert island and who proceed to found three synagogues: one for each, and a third in which neither would be seen dead.

G. Colin Jimack

Mill Hill, London NW7

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