The Jewish people

Considerations of religious issues in general

Re: The Jewish people

Postby Jonathan » 24 Jun 2013, 13:04

Gavin wrote:That's interesting, but I was thinking more in terms of Israel, really. Are Jews becoming more secular there too?


I think the Jewish population in Israel is becoming more observant, mainly because of different birthrates and the fractured educational system.

The current phenomenon of secular Jews is relatively recent - I think it dates back to Napoleon, but no further. The nineteenth and early twentieth centuries produced a wave of secularization amongst the European Jewish populations, and it was these Jews who built and founded the state of Israel. It was this secularization which allowed Jews to contribute to Western culture and science.

However, over the past twenty years or so, certain trends have become more pronounced.

First, religious Jews tend to have more children.

The second factor is a consequence of the Israeli educational system, which has different flavors of education, suited to populations of different degrees of religious observance. However, it has been abused by ultra-orthodox to fund schools in which English, Math and Science are hardly taught at all. There is much political controversy over this, since the products of such schools neither work for a living nor serve in the army.

Third, secular Jews in the diaspora intermarry, and after two generations they are not Jewish in any sense of the word. However, this phenomenon does not happen in Israel.

As for Israel, secular Jews are very worried about what the state will look like if these trends continue indefinitely into the future. This is the reason for the political controversy.

As for the diaspora, the concern is that a combination of low birth rates and assimilation will reduce the Jewish population considerably. It is not clear whether this will be corrected by the higher religious birthrates; It is also not clear whether the result will be a more religious US Jewish population, or what effect the strong secularizing effect of American society will have.

If we're looking 50 years forwards, then these trends are more worrisome than terrorism or conventional wars.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 13 Aug 2013, 09:13

I'd like to know what our Jewish contingent think about the growing Jewish communities in the UK who are very different to, and show no interest in integrating with, mainstream society.

Do you feel this is a case of multiculturalism like any other and it is not really good for our society? When I was in London on Sunday I saw not only many Muslims but also some (albeit far fewer) Jews. One couple both wore kippahs and they had even put one on the head of their small child, who looked about 4 years old. In my view children should really just be taught politeness and to try their hardest, and metaphysical beliefs are best for them to form for themselves, or not. I would therefore call this a form of indoctrination.

Anyway, this is obviously a case of self-segregation. These people live in parallel communities in our country, they do not really mix outside those communities. Is that healthy? Apart from their barbaric ritual slaughter methods and the aforementioned indoctrination, this isn't causing serious problems as yet because i) the numbers are not too great ii) a lot of Jews are not orthodox and fully adapt to their adopted country, being Jewish only vaguely by history and iii) Judaism is not (as?) hostile to unbelievers as Islam is.

But were the numbers to grow, this might be more of a problem. My point, and the point across large parts of this forum, is just that when people are not broadly the same culturally, you're going to get friction - especially if the minorities make little effort to mix with the majority indigenous people.

I don't think I would be comfortable in that position and I remember watching a documentary many years ago about a orthodox Jewish London couple who had a small child, just like the ones I saw on Sunday, who were making preparations for their "big move" - to Israel. I just thought in fairness we should consider this issue alongside the Islamic and other ones if we're going to look at multiculturalism.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Elliott » 17 Aug 2013, 01:35

Personally I'm just not animated about Jewish immigration (or even ghettoisation) like I am with regard to other groups immigrating.

I think part of it is skin colour; Jews tend to be white so I don't feel an instinctual divide between them and myself, and I don't feel that they will be feeling such a divide either.

The other, more rational, part of it is that culturally Jews don't seem to be any kind of threat. They are as civilised as Europeans. They're not belligerent like black people (in numbers) often are. They're not demented or West-hating like Muslims (in numbers) often are.

For all I know, the Jewish conspiracy thing could be true, but I doubt it, and if it is true I doubt they'll be plotting it from their ghettos.

On the matter of parents indoctrinating their children with religion... I guess you're right, it is indoctrination. But then so are all the identities that parents give to their children - national identity, political identity, class identity, etc. Religion of course is different in that it's a supernatural belief system, but I wouldn't want to be in a society that outlawed parents passing their religion to their children. When people complain about this happening, I often think it is because they know that, if religion were not passed from parent to child, in all likelihood it would soon die out and we would be in a fully Atheistic age. That's a perfectly respectable desire, but I don't think anyone would wish, for example, that children were raised in a culturally-hermetically-sealed chamber so that they could choose their own national, political and class identity when they grow up and are old enough to decide for themselves.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 17 Aug 2013, 11:39

I'm glad you replied to this, Elliott.

I think part of it is skin colour; Jews tend to be white so I don't feel an instinctual divide between them and myself, and I don't feel that they will be feeling such a divide either.


Isn't this what classic racism is? To dislike people because of their skin colour? I don't dislike people because of their skin colour. I don't care about that and I judge them only on "the content of their character". Thus I don't mind what colour someone is as long as they "buy into" our culture.

I am of course against PC and we see a lot of it around and I have noted a great deal myself on this forum, but being against PC and double standards is a different thing to just being against black people because they are black. That's too simple for me.

The other, more rational, part of it is that culturally Jews don't seem to be any kind of threat. They are as civilised as Europeans.


I certainly don't buy into this anti-semitic Jewish conspiracy thing. I think Jews are generally high achievers, and that's great. But in this article I am of course talking about Orthodox Jews. How civilised is Shechita slaughter? The Farming and Welfare Council of Great Britain don't think it is very civilised at all. How civilised, really, is circumcision? Medically, at best, the jury is out on that. I know I wouldn't want any part of me cut off (especially there!) without my consent - especially it it were for some mystical reasons.

Anyway, quite apart from how civilised or not an incoming culture is, does a country not have a right to preserve its way of life and ask newcomers to comply with it (and certainly not expect exceptions under British law, as Jews currently enjoy)? I think so.

That's a perfectly respectable desire, but I don't think anyone would wish, for example, that children were raised in a culturally-hermetically-sealed chamber so that they could choose their own national, political and class identity when they grow up and are old enough to decide for themselves.


I agree this would be impossible and undesirable but do point to your distinction between these views and metaphysical beliefs. I think at best the Jewish (or other) religious parents should say "Well, we believe this", not "This is true, so you had better believe it".

So I think secular Jews are fine, and it seems most Jews are secular. They're modern, adapted, they're of various political persuasions. But you haven't addressed the issue of the self-segregation of Orthodox Jews and the potential problem if they were to grow in number. I agree they're not such a problem while numbers are small (and I don't mean to particularly single them out - the same for any other such group) - but this is multiculturalism all the same so according to most of our arguments on this forum isn't really something desirable.. is it?

With regard to the silence from our Jewish members on this issue, I must admit I'm somewhat reminded of the way moderate Muslims tend not to comment on the practices of more fundamental Muslims. It seems they close ranks. But is that right?
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 17 Aug 2013, 19:44

Gavin, I meant to write but kept putting it off because it's 35c and humid so brain functioning goes down. I haven't written much on other subjects lately either.
I also didn't write much because I spent all my life in Britain in a very Anglicised assimilated community in the North. Then I moved to Israel to a secular area. So I don't know if I have the experience to give a good analysis on the Ultra Orthodox community of London vs multiculturalism.

A lot of atheist Jewish friends of mine who are rabidly anti religion, always make the same assumption you make: namely Ultra Orthodox Jews are the same as crazy Imams and Islam. I always argue against them. I don't do it out of great love for the Ultra Orthodox. I genuinely don't think it is the same. Here is why:
The Ultra Orthodox don't kill one another over religion.
The Ultra Orthodox don't kill their daughters or sisters.
Ultra Orthodox believe that non Jews go to heaven if they are righteous. In fact their views over unbelievers and heaven is more charitable than Islam or even Christianity.
Missionary activity is prohibited. (The Reform break off part of Judaism does not count in their eyes.)
I could list a few more.

There is also a history of persecution, exile, destruction of temples, and shocks which affected the Orthodox Jewish world view in a way that never happened with Islam.
Their insularity in Britain is different to that of loud aggressive Muslim communities. This counterbalances their weird sticking out appearence and parallel separate lives.

I disagree with you on the slaughter methods but that is fine. I know lots of Jewish atheists who would agree with you.
I have attended 2-3 circumcisms. I see that the professionals who carry it out take their job seriously. There is a procedure that makes sure that the baby falls asleep immediatly or quite quickly afterwards. I've seen the baby grimace for second then cry, then afterward they always fall asleep within minutes. At the age they are, the cut is probably less than what I get when I cut myself with the kitchen knife.
You call it uncivilised but Prince Charles went through one and there was a phase when it was fashionable in Britain and the USA for non Jewish people. There was research showing that partners of circumsied men did not get a certain type of cancer. Perhaps that is what started off the fashion (?). In either case this fashion has died out now and gone in reverse.

You mentioned some of their customs, you think are uncivilised. I know that they think tatooing and cremation or having a body hang around for ages after death instead of burying it are uncivilised customs. I personally don't care what method of burial anyone chooses but I know that they think that. They don't say it out loud because they seem to be more sensitive about offending non Jewish people then Muslims seem to be.

There are differences between the Ultra Orthodox Jewish and Western world views on what is civilised and what is not but it is horrible to compare those differences to the ethics of Al-Qaida's ideology or Islamic rules on adultary, Jihad, and Sharia laws.

I am not being etho centric because I also think it is wrong to be hostile over the differences between religious Budhists or Sikhs and Western ideology. I also think it is wrong to say that religious Budhists and Sikhs are the same as Muslims. I see those religious Budhist and Sikhs as similarly harmless to the West as the Ultra Orthodox Jews.

”...But were the numbers to grow, this might be more of a problem. My point, and the point across large parts of this forum, is just that when people are not broadly the same culturally, you're going to get friction - especially if the minorities make little effort to mix with the majority indigenous people.”


I agree with you.
I personally believe they should all leave for Israel.
It is will take many years for the Ultra Orthodox to grow big enough for tensions in Britain. I guess it will take 40-50 years.
Anything can happen until then.
A stoppage of child benefit or a general big economic shock, bigger than the current recession could send some packing to Israel or America.
There might be problems with the 3 million Muslims in Britain. No one knows what will happen.

I think you are over estimating their numbers from what you saw in London. Bear in mind that most of the ultra Orthodox in Britain are concentrated in London. Their only other sizeable community is in Manchester and there is one Yeshiva in Gateshead. Both are much smaller as far as I have heard.

I sometimes wonder if large Orthodox population growth is not sustainable financially in the long term in the UK (or Israel for that matter). This is because they practise long term studying in Yeshivahs (religious universities.) Their Yeshivahs and Synagogues are definitely not funded by the British government. I don't know whether the British government funds their schools or not. I often wonder what they do for a living in Britain considering the numerous religious holidays and prayers they need. Again all these things I don't know are part of the reason I did not post. There are no sinister conspiracies. If you had to sit through religious sermon or read some of the prayers I had during my short educational sojorn with the ultra orthodox, then I promise you would be too bored to think up an anti Western schemes. You would also see good reason to defend it too.

On religious upbringing in children , I agree with Elliott. I think that applies to all religions.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 17 Aug 2013, 21:07

Thanks for taking the trouble to reply, Rachel.

I don't think Orthodox Jews are the same as Islamic imams. I know there are differences and I don't equate Judaism with Islam, either. It's only really similar on the ritual slaughter issue as far as I know, though I suppose there may be other similarities.

There is also a history of persecution, exile, destruction of temples, and shocks which affected the Orthodox Jewish world view in a way that never happened with Islam.


I can understand this and I know it runs the risk of making any appraisal of Judaism whatsoever beyond the pale, but I don't think that would be healthy. It seems to me there should be free conversation about modern Jews, as about anyone else, the horrors their ancestors endured notwithstanding.

It is true that Jews are not at all vocal in seeking special rights (as far as I know), though they are given them anyway.

I disagree with you on the slaughter methods but that is fine. I know lots of Jewish atheists who would agree with you.


In a sense, and I don't mean this facetiously, does it matter whether you or others agree or not? The law should be equal for everyone, and it probably would be if the government wasn't so afraid of Muslims. Also, if you disagree I am assuming you've read all of the FAWC reports, as I have, and found some error in them, or you consider it simply essential that Jewish and Muslim religious belief should trump animal suffering.

I think on the issue of circumcision the jury's out really medically and in terms of what one human being may rightly physically do to another more vulnerable one without their consent. One issue that does cross my mind though is that presumably God did not make man perfect etc. if this "needs" doing once he is born.

I would agree with the Jews about tattooing, and about burial, actually. A lot of Brits do, I dare say, but this is beside my point about setting up parallel societies, really. It's not that I think these Jews are cooking up "anti-western schemes" in the least (they are not a problem in anything like the same sense that Muslims are). I'm just saying it might be better if they i) complied with the law without special exemptions ii) did not indoctrinate their children and iii) made the effort to integrate with the rest of British society.

I just think we have to talk about this kind of thing if we're going to talk about others refusing to integrate too. Thanks again for your reply.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 18 Aug 2013, 01:47

Gavin wrote:Thanks for taking the trouble to reply, Rachel.


There is also a history of persecution, exile, destruction of temples, and shocks which affected the Orthodox Jewish world view in a way that never happened with Islam.


I can understand this and I know it runs the risk of making any appraisal of Judaism whatsoever beyond the pale, but I don't think that would be healthy. It seems to me there should be free conversation about modern Jews, as about anyone else, the horrors their ancestors endured notwithstanding.
.


I didn't mean it to stop appraisal of Judaism or free speech.
I meant it as another reason not to compare them to Islamic Imams.
Judaism (and Christianity now I think of it), went through a time in history where the adherants were persecuted for their faith by the state. For example I remember being taught about the Spanish Inquisition where Jewish people had to change their religion or be burnt at the stake. This went on for hundreds of years. If you read about things like that, even if you are the most extreme ultra orthodox type, it still puts you off the idea of totalitarism, forced conversions, and the like. I have not heard of this sort of thing happening to Muslims for centuries so their worldview is going to be different.


I disagree with you on the slaughter methods but that is fine. I know lots of Jewish atheists who would agree with you.


Gavin wrote:In a sense, and I don't mean this facetiously, does it matter whether you or others agree or not? The law should be equal for everyone, and it probably would be if the government wasn't so afraid of Muslims. Also, if you disagree I am assuming you've read all of the FAWC reports, as I have, and found some error in them, or you consider it simply essential that Jewish and Muslim religious belief should trump animal suffering.

I looked over the FAWC reports only very briefly I'm afraid. On the opposing side I read that slitting the animals throad quickly makes their blood pressure drop so fast that they die very fast and feel no pain. Again I looked over that too briefly. I think both sides have biases and their own agendas and I can never know the truth unless I actually visit a slaughter house myself or become a proper expert. I still believe the treatment of animals in their lifetime is more important. So I think you've over simplified it when you ask if Jewish or Muslim belief should trump animal suffering.
Saying that, if the majority in Britain really wanted Hallal and Kosher meat banned, they should do it. It would be a bit hypocritical because banning battery farming would help animals more if in my opinion, but the majority should have the decision.


I think on the issue of circumcision the jury's out really medically and in terms of what one human being may rightly physically do to another more vulnerable one without their consent. One issue that does cross my mind though is that presumably God did not make man perfect etc. if this "needs" doing once he is born.

Yes you are right. The jury is out medically.
Argument no.2 could be used against giving babies vaccines with side effects, splashing cold water on babies heads during baptism, those outdoor PE lessons I had to do in the cold in school in Britain that often gave me the flu. If you think circumcism is dangerous and are against it, then you should not do it. No one forces anyone to do it. Even in the extremist fringes of Israel, no one is going to shoot you or even care whether you are circumcised or not.
The last statement you wrote surprised me. I once read a Rabbi say the exact same thing. I think it is part of the theology that man is not born perfect. (?) I can't remember now.

Gavin wrote:I'm just saying it might be better if they i) complied with the law without special exemptions ii) did not indoctrinate their children and iii) made the effort to integrate with the rest of British society..

Which laws have they broken or had a special exemption from?
Is it the kosher animal slaughtering or are there other laws that I haven't heard about?
I haven't been in Britain for years now so I'm a bit ignorant.
I don't think there is any chance of getting them to integrate with the rest of British society. They won't even fully integrate with Israeli society and the non integration part of their identity is their Raison d'etre.

I have no problem with them "indoctrinating" their children as you put it.
I do have a problem with some of them not teaching their children about the outside world and not giving them enough of a secular education alongside the religious one. A lot of Israelis have a problem with that.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 18 Aug 2013, 10:29

Jewish people had to change their religion or be burnt at the stake. This went on for hundreds of years.


Yes, no doubt this kind of treatment is going to lead to a very protectionist attitude.

I think both sides have biases and their own agendas and I can never know the truth unless I actually visit a slaughter house myself or become a proper expert.


I'm not sure it has been shown why exactly the scientists from the FAWC would want to have a bias. It would surely be politically much easier for them if their detailed tests showed that there was not much of a difference in terms of suffering between the two methods of slaughter. But that isn't what they showed. It's true we can't discuss this much further unless or until until you've read all of the reports mentioned in my article.

The treatment of animals in their lifetime is more important.


Well this is, in a sense, treatment of animals during their lifetime, but I know what you mean and the two can be important - the one concern does not cancel out the validity of the other. Indeed arguably if the animal suffers moderate human-inflicted pain throughout its life that's bad, but if it then suffers terrible (easily avoidable) pain at the end, that's worse - especially if it's only to satisfy someone's superstitious belief.

Argument no.2 could be used against giving babies vaccines with side effects, splashing cold water on babies heads during baptism, those outdoor PE lessons I had to do in the cold in school in Britain that often gave me the flu.


No, I'm talking about adults making permanent changes to children's private parts on - at best - unsettled evidence without the child's permission. Do they really do it primarily for health reasons anyway? I thought it was just another ritual thing. Ritual doesn't seem a good enough reason to me to do something so irreversible to a child, even (perhaps especially) if one is the parent.

The last statement you wrote surprised me. I once read a Rabbi say the exact same thing. I think it is part of the theology that man is not born perfect. (?) I can't remember now.


Right, I gather the concept of "original sin" is not generally part of Jewish theology, but I am talking here about the idea that a healthy male baby is not born physically "as they should be" (presumably), according to Jews. God has left on a superfluous part, thus the rabbi thinks he needs to correct matters by cutting skin off the penis. One wonders why God would have put that there in the first place - it is not, after all, an irregularity. I just wonder how the very religious make sense of this in their minds.

The actor Russell Crowe voiced some concerns about this practice of circumcision some time ago, by the way, then quickly backtracked when he was told he wasn't allowed to do that!

Which laws have they broken or had a special exemption from?
Is it the kosher animal slaughtering or are there other laws that I haven't heard about?


The only one I have really looked at is the slaughter one, because I was looking at it in terms of halal, which is an outrage in the UK because it is not labelled and is served by default now across our country, so as not to "offend" Muslims. There are specific exceptions in British law to license Jews and Muslims to (arguably) cause additional pain to animals because of their supernatural beliefs. There are probably other exceptions made for both Jews and Muslims and other religious groups (though probably not Christians), I dare say - for example in the line of faith schools. I dread to think what they teach there sometimes.

Again, I don't mind if they want to say "We believe this". Then an inquisitive child might say "Why? Is it because all the evidence leads that way?" Then they could say "No, it's not really to do with evidence. Other religious people believe other things just as strongly. In fact it's belief without, or in the face of, evidence - it's called 'faith'. We probably believe it just because it was handed down to us". That would be true, and I like the idea of the truth being given top priority in a child's education, and thereafter for that matter.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 18 Aug 2013, 13:20

I have only just now read the long thread you posted on Halal and Kosher meat. I hadn't seen it before. You must feel very strongly about it. I read that somewhere that countries like Australia already have the majority their Halal meat done by stunning.

Regarding what you said against circumcism.
I can not argue with you for it on the health grounds. I don't know enough.
I can not argue about it with you on the theological grounds. I don't know enough.
I really don't want any Jewish or non Jewish person to circumcise their child unless they truly want to and if they take precautions for safety.
I don't know how the religious make sense of it in their minds.

I disagree with you on it being wrong ethically. I have attended 2-3 circumcisms and I did not see it as a horrible barbaric ritual. I am surrounded by men who had it done for 3000 years and who don't complain much. That gives me a different perspective to you. Therefore I think we have to agree to disagree on the ethics issue. I suppose it is a tradition influence with me that makes me unable to argue with you on a rational level.

Regarding Russel Crowe, personally I had no problem with what that actor said.

Gavin wrote:Again, I don't mind if they want to say "We believe this". Then an inquisitive child might say "Why? Is it because all the evidence leads that way?" Then they could say "No, it's not really to do with evidence. Other religious people believe other things just as strongly. In fact it's belief without, or in the face of, evidence - it's called 'faith'. We probably believe it just because it was handed down to us". That would be true, and I like the idea of the truth being given top priority in a child's education, and thereafter for that matter.

I agree. That's how I was taught by my parents because we are not religious. At the same time I went to a state school with standard Christian religious assemblies everyday. (Perhaps your school had them too in the 1980's.)
I can understand your concerns about what is being taught in the most extreme religious segregated schools. I have never been to them myself. I'm as much in the dark as you are.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Jonathan » 18 Aug 2013, 22:55

Gavin wrote:I'd like to know what our Jewish contingent think


I was churning some ideas in my mind before writing a post, and now I see the conversation's run ahead without me - so many topics, so many ideas. I hope you'll forgive me if I pitch in my semi-formed thoughts - otherwise I'll never wind up making any contribution to this thread.

My comments are also addressed to Elliott and Rachel, though I'm not able at this late hour (1 AM) to keep track of who said what - sorry.


(1) Why are large groups of Jewish Immigrants fundamentally different from large groups of 3rd-World Islamic immigrants?

A) Jewish law has a doctrine which says they have a duty to obey the law of the land in which they live - "Dina de-Malchuta - Dina" (= The Law of the Kingdom is The Law). There are, of course, endless arguments about exceptional cases (e.g. a law requiring idol worship) but the fundamental point is that Jewish Law is not conceived as something destined to supplant local law, but accomodate itself to it.

B) Judaism is a non-proselytizing religion. Converts are not sought out, but they are accomodated, and conversion takes years of determined study - it's nothing like a baptism.

C) Judaism has no concept of expansionist Jihad, as in conquering infidel lands for profit and further Islamic expansion. The only land that matters to the Jews is the Holy Land. This exception may be worrisome for an Arab living in Jerusalem, but not for a Briton in Manchester - or an Arab in Manchester, for that matter.


Note that this is relevant for large groups, not for individuals, each of whom may be a scoundrel or a saint, regardless of his origin.


(2) To what degree to Jewish communities assimilate in the diaspora?

This depends to an extent on the degree of religiousity and insularity of the community, and if you're thinking of a particular one in England, you've got to learn its name before you can tell much. That said, I can provide a few illustrative examples.

I've got a (non-religious) elderly relative who was born in England between the wars; she's about as English as you could possibly imagine. Well, as English as *I* can imagine, which might not be saying all that much. If I've got my family history right, her father immigrated to England from Poland - yet his daughter was very much assimilated. Judging from the average family size in the family tree, the immigrant himself was probably brought up in a religious household.

I've got other relatives three generations back who came to the U.S. as children, and their children were completely Americanized.

In the university I had a circle of religious american friends - the men all prayed 3 times a day, observed all the laws of kosher food, studied Jewish law in school, and they were sufficiently Americanized that they formed their own little circle in a Hebrew-speaking university in Israel.

Amongst them was also a Modern Orthodox American/Mexican fellow, even more observant, yet utterly unlike the local (Israeli) Ultra-Orthodox Jews, in that it never occurred to him to live a life of study (without working) as many Israeli ultra-orthodox do. He is representative of a whole community of American Ultra-Orthodox Jews who have completely adopted the American attitude towards hard work and business.

Even the Ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel, the most isolated and most insular, have been affected by their proximity to a Secular society. A frequently cited example is that on Purim, half their children dress up as (Israeli) soldiers, whereas 50 years ago this would have been unthinkable.

The key question, in this case, is probably that of language. If the children born in England speak English (in addition to their parents' language, and possibly Hebrew) then they're assimilating. If not, then not - but this is mitigated by their small numbers and the points I mentioned in (1).

(3) Circumcision - why?

This is a question which stabs at the heart of every Jewish father who has a son. I've heard medical arguments for it - at best I'd say the evidence is ambiguous, at worst I'd say it's the usual multi-culti claptrap, unexpectedly applied to the Jews - Health is the highest good in Western societies, and we like to bend over backwards to approve of foreign customs, so circumcision must have a health benefit. Maybe 50 years from now there will be an unambiguous answer, or maybe the weathervane of fashion will consider it medical malpractice. Who knows.

So - why? Why perform such an irreversible procedure? Because it's irreversible in two senses, not one. The foreskin's gone, that's one. But the infant now has a People, and the People have him. This is also irreversible, and if the child's actions drive him away from his people, his actions can also reconcile him. He has a permanent reminder of who he was when he was born.

Why not choose something less harmful, like dyeing the eyebrows? It is the antiquity of the rite, and its universality (amongst the Jews, that is) which give it its power. It cannot be replaced by a diktat - and if it could be, the new rite would be a pale shadow of the original. Can any man convert the English from Cricket to Baseball, or from Tea to Coffee? Could they even manage to do it all together, in an act of collective will? The question is never whether circumcision could be replaced by some other equivalent ritual, but whether it can be dispensed altogether.

When you consider how the West has drifted away from its core values, how society is splitting apart at the seams, how Truth is considered relative, and nothing matters any more - the problem is precisely this - that such similar ancient, binding rituals have been ridiculed and cast away as outdated and illogical.

I would hardly advise other societies to adopt this particular ritual to keep themselves together. But if you discard every unifying ritual which is found wanting under the harsh light of logic and science, you will find yourselves a mass of disorganized individuals, not a People. I am a Jewish man, with Jewish sons. For me, circumcision is terrifying, illogical, ancient, barbaric - and vitally necessary.



I've got a few other thoughts to share on other subjects, but this will have to do for now.

Edit to add - just noticed another thread about Received Pronunciation - this looks to me like a good example of a unifying English trait which is being discarded after being found wanting under the harsh light etc. etc. Even if it was only spoken by 3% of the population, it unified the intellectual class, and it opened a path for any Englishman to walk, provided he was willing and able (and rich enough) to put forth the effort to learn it - and if he failed, why then his children could start at an earlier age, and succeed.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 18 Aug 2013, 23:36

I think we can put any comparison with Islam off the table where Jews are concerned, except the ritual animal slaughter. As far as I'm concerned that was all already accepted. Jews seem to assimilate well also - that was accepted too - it's just the Orthodox ones I was talking about.

I'm grateful for your contribution but I'm not sure you have either successfully counter-argued or accepted my points about the three concerns: ritual slaughter, refusal to integrate and circumcision.

Jewish Law is not conceived as something destined to supplant local law, but accomodate itself to it.


Then one would expect they should be happy to give up their exemptions on animal slaughter (especially if it means we can get - or compel - Muslims to give them up too as we seek to get Islam under control).

Can any man convert the English from Cricket to Baseball, or from Tea to Coffee?


These are relatively unimportant things, but nonetheless millions of English have converted from tea to coffee - Dalrymple himself (of Jewish "heritage" of course) being a case in point, apparently.

For me, circumcision is terrifying, illogical, ancient, barbaric - and vitally necessary.


It sounds like you are in something of a quandary about this, Jonathan, in the sense Muslims might be when they wish to go against the teachings of their religion. If I may say so, I don't think you "need" to do anything illogical and barbaric just for the sake of identity. That's perhaps not an identity you would want to have? At best it might be an identity which needs to evolve.

But if you discard every unifying ritual which is found wanting under the harsh light of logic and science


These things are left wanting not only on those grounds but also on moral grounds, surely. I mean, vegetarians might even be right - that's another discussion we could have - but surely Shechita is wrong. I certainly haven't been convinced otherwise yet.

Please note that I do think these things are wrong anywhere (all three) but I wouldn't tell Jews in Israel that they should live in any different way. They have their culture and their sovereignty. But in the UK an effort at integration would help, one law for all would help, and Jews might give some serious thought to evolving their ritual of circumcision.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 19 Aug 2013, 11:55

Gavin, out of curiousity, what do you think of the large number of non Jewish people in the USA who chose to circumcise their children?
According to this article 57% of babies are circumcised in the US
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 12102.html
The article is strictly a health/medical article with for and against arguments. The against person is taken up by a Jewish doctor in order to emphasise that. It also emphasised parental choice.
I don't know how accurate the statistic is but it is partially backed up by a documentary that I once saw. It mentioned that there was once a big trend for circumcision in the USA by people who were not Jewish or Muslim but now parents do not chose it as much.

If you object to all circumcism whether religiously motivated or not, how do you reconcile that with personal freedom and choice?
I mean would you enforce a law that would have police knocking on people's doors to check on whether their babies have been circumcised?
How would you have the police punish them?
I know you aren't a Nazi. I was just wondering about your views on non-religious circumcism, freedom of choice, privacy etc.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Gavin » 19 Aug 2013, 13:39

I thought I was clear about this - I see this as quite a serious thing to do to another vulnerable human being, a baby. It's a permanent change to their private parts on uncertain grounds.

It's not something I think about all the time, I just think it is not something that should be just done for mystical reasons and that the medical grounds are, at best, inconclusive.

Of course, this applies whoever is doing it, true enough, whether Jews or not.

If you object to all circumcism whether religiously motivated or not, how do you reconcile that with personal freedom and choice?


I'm against it being done to other people without their consent for the reasons given above (so I am arguing precisely in favour of freedom of choice). I don't even like it when parents give their toddlers ear-rings. Do think you think it would be okay for them to tattoo them? I'm not against anyone having it done to themselves later in life for cosmetic or medical reasons if they deem it the best course of action.

A lot of my arguments have gone unanswered in this thread. e.g. The one about God "getting it wrong" with the human form routinely in this way.

I mean would you enforce a law that would have police knocking on people's doors to check on whether their babies have been circumcised?


It's conceivable an offence of personal assault could be formed against this by a fairly radical government, I suppose, but I would not be in any hurry to pass such a law. I'd like Jews (and others) to think about it though and at least not to consider it "essential", as some seem to.

I must say I'd revoke the exceptions for Jews and Muslims on ritual slaughter, though, whether they were happy about it or not. I would hope the evidence persuaded them to be with me on it, but even if it didn't I'd still revoke the exceptions. Again I have heard no arguments to refute me on that. The law of the UK should apply to everyone the same, particularly when it comes to acts of cruelty.

(In the case of Sikhs who don't have to wear police helmets and so on, I suppose that's another issue as it's their look-out, but I would be inclined to oblige them to do so, in the same way I would stop Muslims praying five time a day on the job, demanding prayer rooms at work, etc. I don't see religion as a trump card for people to be able to just obstruct the flow of employment culture in almost any way they see fit. You come to the UK and fit in, I think. I'm afraid we have not seen the end of this "freedom of religion" thing vs. "When in Rome" yet...)
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 22 Aug 2013, 16:00

Gavin, I was going to ignore some of your aggressive remarks and just leave quietly but then I felt angry and thought that your hostility should not go unanswered, if only for my blood pressure and self- respect. I have been with the forum from the very start and it is quite unnerving to have people you thought were nice gradually turn hostile towards you just because you are Jewish.

Caleb once wrote that he was sick of right wing forums that are obsessed with Jews and are anti-semitic. I can not find his eloquent quote but I find it sad how things have changed since then here.
Since you are so eager to know answers to unanswered I will try and answer a few.
"A lot of my arguments have gone unanswered in this thread. e.g. The one about God "getting it wrong" with the human form routinely in this way.".


Why don't you ask a Rabbi or read a book about Jewish theology and the reasons of circumcism, ideas on God etc. It is not fair to ask 2 secular uneducated Jews on the subject, both of whom never had education to answer and then castigate them for practising it or not knowing how to answer.

"I must say I'd revoke the exceptions for Jews and Muslims on ritual slaughter, though, whether they were happy about it or not. I would hope the evidence persuaded them to be with me on it, but even if it didn't I'd still revoke the exceptions. Again I have heard no arguments to refute me on that. The law of the UK should apply to everyone the same, particularly when it comes to acts of cruelty."


You're suddenly very obsessive about animal cruelty and strangely not bothered by cruelty during an animal's lifetime. I buy free range and organic if I can.
I have already answered on why Kosher slaughter is not cruel to start with but you deliberately ignored my answer. Have a look back down the thread. If that was not enough then you can try google for the Jewish point of view.
FAWC – does have it's own interests. It is probably obsessed with attacking Muslims and Jewish slaughter because it is funded by an atheist society like the "The Secular society".

"…in the same way I would stop Muslims praying five time a day on the job, demanding prayer rooms at work, etc. I don't see religion as a trump card for people to be able to just obstruct the flow of employment culture in almost any way they see fit. You come to the UK and fit in, I think. I'm afraid we have not seen the end of this "freedom of religion" thing vs. "When in Rome" yet...)"

You are contradicting yourself. You earlier said that you agree that Orthodox Jews are not the same as Muslims. Now you are saying that the very private and insular practises of Orthodox Jews are the same as public demands of Muslim praying rooms.
It's strange that early to mid 20th century Britain had Kosher slaughter legal, and they understood where to draw the line about freedom of religion and choice vs integration while you don't. Neither do modern day multiculturalists on the other extreme.

"With regard to the silence from our Jewish members on this issue, I must admit I'm somewhat reminded of the way moderate Muslims tend not to comment on the practices of more fundamental Muslims. It seems they close ranks. But is that right?"

Thank you for that early snide comment that coerced me to write an essay on the Jewish people when I was not in the mood for it. I also resented being compared to moderate or extreme Muslims. There were rockets fired on my country by them today.

"I'd like Jews (and others) to think about it (circumcism) though and at least not to consider it "essential", as some seem to."

Well they do think about it. It was clear from Jonathan's answer that he did. There is even whole Seinfeld episode on the subject. But many chose it as ethically correct after some thought and experience.
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Re: The Jewish people

Postby Rachel » 22 Aug 2013, 17:44

I have answered your questions. Now I want to have my say.

Gavin, your comments reminds me of I a forum I once joined that was supposed to give practical help for English speakers in Israel for finding things like good cellphone providers, restaurants etc. Instead here was one militant atheist like you there who spent every post banging on about how she hated the orthodox and why does the local Chinese have to be Kosher and why some companies aren't open on Sabbath and what bastards they all are cotowing to the religious. I'm not a religious person myself, yet she was so obsessive that I had to leave the group. Everyone got too exhausted to answer her, or too scared, like some might be here.
She was like a secular Ayatollah or a missionary from a religious sect. I don't understand why people like you care about something as private as what religion I have or what Orthodox Jews do.

If you really want to know or discuss Orthodox Jewish theology, go to an Orthodox Jewish forum or ask a Rabbi or read a book. I told you my about my uneducated secular background and why I do not have the education to argue about it. There was no need to call me protectionist because I did not have the education or ability to answer. I tried to be understanding but it was thrown back at my face.

Your militant athiesism and need to examine everything objectively is a religion in it's own right.

That attitude along with the discarding of traditions (that you want to impose on Orthodox Jews,) might be one of the reasons for the social decay this forum used to discuss.

You also ignored some of Jonathan's intelligent comments and were rude to him. He already saw what he was dealing with because he only addressed his intelligent comments to me and Elliott. I am writing here to thank him because I learned a lot from them.
I don't know if he is in the forum anymore because you might have driven him away. You called us the "Jewish contingent " of the forum even though we are only 2 people and dropped rather nasty hints and called Jews "protectionist". Well you have no Jewish contingent in me anymore. I am leaving after today. I would be pleased if you were to remove my name from the members list.

You were particularly rude to Elliott to call him a racist and then ignored everything else he wrote. Again I am writing to thank him and a few of the other nice people of the forum for teaching me stuff over the years here.

My answers here don't signify the typical Jewish stereotype by the way. They signify only me alone because I don't like being singled out to be insulted just because of my religion.
There is a bit of anti-Semitism in your answers. It is not as bad as Neo Nazi Daniel whose views you were happy to have written here under Theodore Dalrymple's name and photo. You are not a Nazi like Daniel was, but obviously you have some hostility to Orthodox Jews who live in very small numbers in your country and have done you no harm.

It seems fraudulent to use Theodore Dalrymple's name in this forum now that it contains a lot of things that are nothing like his views. I would have never joined and participated if it wasn't under Theodore Dalrymple's name. It is particular two faced of you to put a veneer of respectability on this by putting a little sub section devoted to his books and even boasting of visiting his home and then to host a Neo Nazis like Daniel and start pushing your points in this "The Jewish People" thread that you started.

For the information of others here "Daniel" was a Neo Nazi. Half his links were to Neo Nazi groups. I've only just found out that Kevin McDonald, who was the pseudo intellectual Daniel tried to promote, had his books hailed by American Neo Nazi groups as the "best book since Mein Kamf". He was even given an award by David Duke. It is disgusting to give respectability to a Neo Nazi on a forum named after Theodore Dalrymple. I was the only one to stand up to him.

I was annoyed to be accused of "Closing ranks." and being "protectionist" when I was duped into joining what I thought was a Theodore Dalrymple forum. It a bit rich considering this whole nationalistic forum is protectionist and far right. It used to be decent.

You had 2 Jews on this forum and it seems awful to start castigating us for Kosher slaughter which is something you hate, of course.
You hate Orthodox Jews, though I must be very grateful that you can tolerate non religious ones and read their books and steal their names to make your forum look like a higher level.

Like I said before, no one is converting you to circumcism or Judaism, no one ever will either, so why on earth are you trying to convert me? I wouldn't even mind if you weren't being so rude, and so insistent at it.

Well feel free to brag about playing TD music and visiting his house while being two faced enough to steal his name and voice radical politics using it.
You can do it without this Jewish "contigent".
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