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Not really united

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2006-05-12

Leslie Bunder

Leslie Bunder

In the week when the United Synagogue's own Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks joins in with Prince Charles and faith leaders saying it is important to embrace interfaith work, some parts of his own organisation are seemingly not embracing it within the Jewish community.

On more than one occasion I have written about the lack of work the Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks appears to do within his own community.  

He may talk the talk about mixing it up and developing dialogue with Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other faiths, but when it comes to the plain and simple of developing better dialogue with members of his own community, both the Chief Rabbi and indeed his organisation the United Synagogue seem to be ignorant of the fact that good dialogue begins in your own community.
Totally Jewish and its sister newspaper The Jewish News, which itself is largely aligned towards the United Synagogue these days, leads with a story about how a United Synagogue rabbi denied Reform Rabbi David Hulbert the opportunity to  speak at an interfaith event in the shul hall.
The Rabbi of Wanstead and Woodford Synagogue, Alan Lewis said: "As far as Wanstead and Woodford and I are concerned when it comes to religion I want the true Torah point of view to be taught and professed in the synagogue."
The Rabbi further added: "If it wasn’t at the synagogue but at some neutral place I would have no objection."
Of course that is a fair statement if indeed it was to be a United Synagogue orthodox Jewish religious event but this was an interfaith event to develop dialogue between those of different faiths and the speaking was taking place in the shul hall, not in the formal surroundings of the inside of the synagogue.
The Reform Rabbi was there as a late replacement to the planned Jewish speaker, Sir Sidney Shipton from the Three Faiths Forum who couldn't make it.
The purpose of the meeting was for the Jewish Association of Cultural Societies to speak about the work it does in brining Christians, Muslims and Jews together, which is to be applauded but sadly Rabbi Lewis didn't see it that way.
A wrong call by Rabbi Lewis? Or maybe something he wanted as a parting shot as Totally Jewish writes that the Rabbi was recently elected as the next minister of Edgware Yeshurun Synagogue.
With Jews like Rabbi Lewis, we really don't need enemies to knock the community, Rabbi Lewis does a pretty good job at it himself showing a complete lack of respect for his own fellow Jew.
The question that remains, is what will the Chief Rabbi and indeed the United Synagogue be doing about it.
An apology to Reform Rabbi David Hulbert should be issued. Will the Chief Rabbi get out of his own world and start living in the real Jewish world and start developing better dialogue and relationships with all Jews?
Or will he carry on as he is and continue allowing some rabbis of his own organisation damage the Jewish community as a whole?