Addressing a United Synagogue council meeting this past Monday night, made up of delegates from all the synagogues, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet said, “when there is this whole challenge to the legality of Jewish identity – absurd as it may be – it compels us to challenge ourselves and to consider, what are we doing about the morality of Jewish identity?”
An Appeals Court ruling last month said that Jewish schools in the UK could not discriminate against children with only a Jewish father who identify themselves as Jewish.
In response, all Jewish schools implemeted a points system whereby one has to attend synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Schochet, chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, described the system as “a fiasco of the highest order,” and added, “we certainly, at the Rabbinical Council will be voicing vociferously our bitter disappointment with the system as it stands. Let no judge in the land assume that this system is in the least bit tenable.”
He observed how some families turned up already last Shabbos for ‘registration’ and when realising they were a week early they just turned around and went home.
“If they’re there already, why didn’t they at least stay for the service? Synagogues across the land will be filled to capacity this year – because parents will be coming along to register their children, to tick the boxes.
“But if we don’t learn some vital lessons, by encouraging more into Jewish schools and by generally making their lives as meaningfully Jewish as possible, then we may never see them in synagogue again.”
Rabbi Schochet also took a strong swipe at those he described as bringing this upon the community.
“Those responsible for bringing this upon the kehilla – and by that I mean all those responsible at whatever level and however indirectly – will have to stare G-d square in the face on Rosh Hashanah and reconcile their consciences.”
He recalled one incident already where a woman called to say that though non-observant, for the first time in her life she would feel compelled to drive to synagogue on Yom Kippur, in order to register her child.
“For the system to be turned upside down in order to protect the supposed human rights of one person, resulting in another having to compromise her basic religious rights – it can’t be right! Ethically, legally, morally, it cannot be right!”
Concluding his remarks, some of which made headlines in the Jewish Chronicle this morning, he added on a light note: “One Israeli medical officer issued a call that people should refrain from kissing the Torah over the High holidays because of swine flu. My response to that is that we shouldn’t worry so much about kissing the Torah – there’s a greater pandemic out there – and we should be looking to embrace it and its time hallowed values instead. It’s more than just registering our kids for school, isn’t it? It’s about registering them for Jewish life, Jewish continuity, a Jewish future.”