Leadership: quality counts
READING THE report by Simon Rocker on the excellent Limmud Conference (JC, December 29), I see that the president of the United Synagogue supports the idea of women becoming officers of the organisation.
To reassure him, my synagogue, the New London in St John’s Wood, has had two excellent chairwomen in the past few years, and as he and everyone will acknowledge our late great Rabbi Louis Jacobs was one of the most eminent Halachic scholars of his time.
Therefore I am sure Simon Hochhauser need have no halachic concerns for his plans. As to rabbinic concerns — well, that’s another matter. June Jacobs firstname.lastname@example.org A DYNAMIC leader in the synagogue is a dynamic leader, whether male or female. However, if female there are certain boundaries which should be preserved.
I am privileged to have been the only female president of the Norwich Hebrew Congregation, and during my three years of office I did not once break with tradition. I did not go to the Bimah, the Ark or the Sefer Torah — those are the domain of the male.
Dr Simon Hochhauser is right in thinking women have a greater role to play within the synagogue — as officers of the organisation, but not as rabbonim. Ethel Imber-Lithman Norwich Synagogue, Norwich AT LIMMUD I was one of the pensioners who was “swaying on my feet” with Joshua Nelson. As a first-timer I was extremely impressed by the competence of the organisation, the width and depth of the programme, and the excellence of the speakers. I thoroughly enjoyed the lectures, discussions and workshops that I attended. But two of the sessions worried me.
The first, led by a senior vice president of the Board of Deputies, was called “Does a community get the leadership it deserves?” It attracted an audience of about 10, which included members of the speaker’s family.
The second, “The Jewish Leadership Council — myths and realities”, chaired by the CEO of the JLC, had an audience of exactly two, me and a lady from South Africa who had a particular axe to grind. Not one of the hundreds of intelligent British youngsters who were there made the community’s leadership their first priority, although the matter is of greater importance to them than it is to my generation.
It seems to me self-evident that our community, like any other group, does get the leadership it deserves — and no question mark. In our case that could well be a self-perpetuating oligarchy. Dr John Marks Eyre Court, Finchley Road London NW8