A man who de­serves ban­ning

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

Esanc­tions are open to them.

The ad­vert it­self in­vites us all to con­sider whether it is “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” for any of us “to have so­cial or busi­ness con­tacts” with Abaya­hou­dayan while he con­tin­ues with his ob­sti­nacy. And Beth Din case­worker Joanne Green­away has cor­rectly ob­served that, since US bye-laws pro­vide for the right for mem­ber­ship to be ter­mi­nated where a hus­band has been ruled by the Beth Din to be un­rea­son­ably with­hold­ing a get, the hus­band might well find him­self de­nied the right of burial in a United Syn­a­gogue ceme­tery. “The Beth Din,” she ob­served “is fully pre­pared to make use of this sanc­tion.” I’m not com­pe­tent to judge whether git­tin granted un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances are kosher. But, in the 1990s, the Fed­er­a­tion of Sy­n­a­gogues Beth Din is­sued an os­tracism or­der against a re­cal­ci­trant hus­band, who even­tu­ally re­lented and pre­sented his wife with a get. And, in Is­rael, ob­du­rate hus­bands are not in­fre­quently thrown into jail, or have their pass­ports con­fis­cated un­til they re­lent.

Are there other cir­cum­stances in which re­li­gious sanc­tions might be re­garded as ap­pro­pri­ate? Some 30 years ago, the then chief rabbi of the United Syn­a­gogue, Im­manuel Jakobovits, threat­ened to place my good self un­der a cherem fol­low­ing my pub­lic crit­i­cism of him in the case of the late rabbi Sim­cha Lieber­man, who had been sum­mar­ily dis­missed (with Jakobovits’s ap­proval) from his teach­ing post at Jews’ Col­lege. While a cherem — a ban — is not the same as full ex­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, it would have meant that no one — not even my wife — would have been able to ap­proach within four cu­bits of me. Lieber­man was a Gerer chasid. So I was grate­ful that the then Gerer Rebbe, Sim­cha Bunem Al­ter in­ter­vened on my be­half, and threat­ened to is­sue a cherem against Jakobovits!

But I can think of some­one fully de­serv­ing of a cherem: the Right Hon­ourable Ger­ald Kauf­man, Labour MP for the Gor­ton di­vi­sion of Manch­ester and a pro­fess­ing Jew. Kauf­man’s suit­abil­ity for the cherem treat­ment does not in my view rest upon his in­nu­mer­able crit­i­cisms of the state of Is­rael. He is fully en­ti­tled to th­ese opin­ions, and to voice them.

How­ever, in al­leg­ing at a “Pales­tine Re­turn Cen­tre” event in Par­lia­ment on Oc­to­ber 27 that “Jewish money, Jewish do­na­tions to the Con­ser­va­tive Party… bias the Con­ser­va­tives”, I do be­lieve that he has crossed a red line: he has pub­licly de­famed the Jewish peo­ple. John Mann, the Labour MP who chairs the All-Party Par­lia­men­tary Group Against An­ti­semitism, has de­nounced Kauf­man’s spite-laden com­ments as “the in­co­her­ent ram­blings of an ill-in­formed dem­a­gogue.” And Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn has con­demned Kauf­man’s re­marks as “com­pletely un­ac­cept­able and deeply re­gret­table.”

Kauf­man is known to be a syn­a­gogue at­ten­der. In 2002, on Rosh Hashanah, he was fa­mously ver­bally abused by fel­low con­gre­gants at the St John’s Wood United Syn­a­gogue. A ban on him ever again en­ter­ing a United syn­a­gogue, or be­ing buried un­der United Syn­a­gogue aus­pices, be­sides be­ing long over­due, would be widely ap­plauded and fully de­served.

Not even my wife would be able to come within four cu­bits of me

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