LETTER: Judaism in decline

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The Independent Culture

Judaism in decline

Sir: Your article on the decline in numbers of UK Jews (27 June) is particularly poignant in that it inadvertently reflects the two key ways in which orthodox Jewry has assisted that decline.

First, it must become more tolerant of the different shades of Jewish opinion. This was particularly pointed up by the Chief Rabbi's snub last year of the funeral of Rabbi Hugo Gryn, but is also reflected in the lack of balance in your own article, which only interviewed orthodox Jews, as if they alone represented the whole.

In our own case, my wife and I were initially refused membership of our local synagogue because we had been married in a synagogue which, though orthodox, was outside the United Synagogue. We were thus considered not to be "legally" married Jews.

Second, it must become more generous in allowing new Jews in. The article, as with many Jews, assumes that "marrying out" leads automatically to leaving the faith. However this is often the direct result of a policy which both disowns the Jew who marries out and also sets up deliberately high obstacles against bringing the non-Jewish partner in. Given that to convert can entail a series of arcane and difficult tests, is it any surprise that many couples decide to seek their spiritual path elsewhere?

It is time for the leaders of orthodox Jewry to look at their own rigid attitudes and behaviour towards their fellow Jews if they wish to reverse the current trend.


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