Letter: What Jews perceive through a glass darkly

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The Independent Online
Sir: I write further to Matthew Hoffman's open letter to the Chief Rabbi ('Dear Dr Jonathan Sacks', 28 June) concerning the issue of intermarriage and its consequences. First, let it be said that he has fallen into the trap set for him by simplistic media coverage of the situation. It is not that the Chief Rabbi is standing Canute-like against the flood of Jewish indifference to, or even enthusiasm for, outmarriage, but rather more that he is expressing the mood of a community deeply distressed by the consequences of outmarriage but finding difficulty in articulating a rationale for resisting it.

Mr Hoffman suggests that the best way for the world to avoid conflict is for us all to become multi-coloured, multi-cultured people. Any study of history will indicate that this will not lead to a reduction in tension or conflict, it will merely redirect such tension to whichever group bigots will choose as their next scapegoats.

More particularly, he reveals his own complete unawareness of why a Jew, or indeed anyone else who possesses a rich heritage, should attempt to hold on to it in order not only to enrich himself or herself but also in order to be able to contribute coherently to the world in which they live.

Our experience at Jewish Continuity is that Jews in every walk of life perceive through a glass darkly that a firm grip on your own roots enables you not only to grow securely but also to provide sustenance and shade beyond your own needs to others. However, the sloppy liberalism of 'why can't we all just be the same?' has been a sufficiently attractive and vague call that most Jews find it hard to explain not only why this is not an attractive option but also why it is an impossible one.

Mr Hoffman would do well to get in touch with his own tradition. It may help him to understand why he is described in your introductory by-line as 'lapsed Jew', rather than either a former or a current one. He can't escape his identity; he can only choose whether to make it of positive value or a negative burden.

Yours faithfully

CLIVE A. LAWTON

Chief Executive

Jewish Continuity

London, NW3

28 June

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