Louis Jacobs group hit by ‘censorship’
A GROUP set up in memory of Rabbi Louis Jacobs, the founder of Masorti in the UK, says it is giving up a venue it uses in a dispute about censorship.
The Friends of Louis Jacobs, which was established in 2006 to promote discussion of Rabbi Jacobs’s ideas, has regularly hired a hall from the Central Square Minyan, an independent Orthodox congregation in Hampstead Garden Suburb, north London
But the Friends say Central Square now wants to be notified about speakers in case it has problems with them.
In a statement, the trustees of the Friends said: “We are not prepared to prejudice our independence in any way. Therefore we will not be using the hall for the foreseeable future.”
The dispute follows a lecture at the hall given to the Friends last month by Benjamin Sommer, professor of Bible at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York, which trains Conservative rabbis.
In his writings, Professor Sommer has argued it is possible to reconcile acceptance of biblical scholarship — which believes the Torah was compiled over time rather than dictated word for word by God to Moses —– with traditional observance of the commandments.
The Friends say Central Square had told them that publicity for the lecture had caused it difficulties.
Central Square suggested that its name should not be mentioned in connection with future Friends’ events and that it be given the opportunity to veto any speaker it objected to.
In its statement, the trustees of the Friends said its lectures were designed to promote “open debate about matters relevant to all denominations.
“All of a sudden concern has been expressed by the hall trustees about who we may ask to speak in the future.” It urged Central Square to rethink. Simon Eder, director of the Friends, said: “This is an example of silencing and censorship which seems to be a prevailing trend within the establishment at this time.”
No one from Central Square was available for comment.