Thursday, 28 August 2008

BATTLE OF THE RANKINGS

American universities have begun a rebellion against academic league tables. British universities should join them

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/27/highereducation.usa

Monday, 18 August 2008

UNIVERSITY STANDARDS UNDER THREAT

The case of Professor Paul Buckland exposes serious flaws in the way universities maintain standards and classify degrees

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/18/bournemouthuniversity.administration

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

STANDARDS SLIP AND SLIDE

The new A* grade for A-level students could skew university admissions in favour of children from privileged backgrounds

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/13/publicschools.oxforduniversity

JONATHAN SACKS AND THE MASORTI MOVEMENT

To mark the publication of Controversy and Crisis – my book of collected essays (published last month by the Academic Studies Press) : that cover some of the most sensitive and divisive issues to have confronted British Jewry in recent times – I am, in the interests of historical research, commencing the electronic publication of original documents in my possession related to these events.

The first, which I published on 7 August and which you can view at http://www.geoffreyalderman.com/pdf/deed.pdf , is the Deed of Submission (13 May 1985) that authorized the establishment of a special Beth Din [Ecclesiastical Court] to adjudicate on the dismissal from the staff of Jews’ College of the senior teacher of Talmud, Rabbi Simche Lieberman.

I now publish the second [ www.geoffreyalderman.com/pdf/Masorti.pdf ], which consists of two contrasting views of the Masorti movement by two successive British Chief Rabbis, Immanuel Jakobovits and Jonathan Sacks. On 24 September 1981 Jakobovits attempted to appease the Masorti movement by agreeing to certify to the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews that the New Highgate & North London Synagogue was "a congregation of persons professing the Jewish Religion." Such certification [dating from 1836] was necessary so that this synagogue could appoint a marriage secretary who would be able to act as civil registrar - thus obviating the necessity for couples to attend a quite separate civil marriage ceremony. But Jakobovits was careful to add a rider: that his certification was dependant upon the synagogue conducting marriages in accordance with orthodox Jewish law. He was also careful to make it clear that his certification did not extend beyond the appointment of a [civil] secretary for marriages.

Jakobovits hoped that he could thus go some way towards healing the rifts caused by the Jacobs Affair, but without compromising his view that Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs - in effect the religious founder of the Masorti movement in Great Britain - was a heretic.

But when Sacks was asked to certify another Masorti synagogue, in St Albans (11 January 1994), he attached no such rider.

Sacks' ambivalent attitude towards the Masorti movement was a key factor fuelling the confrontation that developed between him and large sections of the Torah-orthodox communities in the UK, and which climaxed in his having to rewrite sections of his book Dignity of Difference.

This confrontation forms an important them of the essays I reproduce in Controversy and Crisis.

Geoffrey Alderman

Thursday, 7 August 2008

DOCUMENTS ON THE HISTORY OF THE JEWS IN MODERN BRITAIN

To mark the publication of Controversy and Crisis – my book of collected essays that cover some of the most sensitive and divisive issues to have confronted British Jewry in recent times – I am, in the interests of historical research, commencing the electronic publication of original documents in my possession related to these events.

The first, which you can view at http://www.geoffreyalderman.com/pdf/deed.pdf , is the Deed of Submission (13 May 1985) that authorised the establishment of a special Beth Din [Ecclesiastical Court] to adjudicate on the dismissal from the staff of Jews’ College of the senior teacher of Talmud, Rabbi Simche Lieberman. This cause cel├Ębre forms the subject-matter of ‘Albert Road: An Everyday Story of Jewish Folk,’ which was published as an appendix to my University of London Inaugural Lecture (1989) after having been banned by the Federation of Synagogues. The text of the lecture, and the banned appendix, are reproduced in full in Controversy and Crisis.

The Deed of Submission was signed by Rabbi Dr [now Professor Sir] Jonathan Sacks (then Principal of Jews’ College), Mr [now Lord] Stanley Kalms (then chairman of the College Council) and Sir [subsequently Lord] Immanuel Jakobovits, then Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue and President of the College Council, as well as by Rabbi Lieberman, whose signature I witnessed.

This was the first occasion on which a British Chief Rabbi had agreed (in effect) to be summoned to a Din Torah [judgment by a Beth Din]; and the Beth Din itself was established completely outside the aegis of the United Synagogue.

[The Rabbi Lieberman (Antwerp) who was one of the members of this Beth Din was unrelated to Rabbi Simche Lieberman]

But this special Beth Din never actually sat, because – regrettably in my view - the dispute was settled the day before its scheduled first meeting, when a very large sum of money was paid to Rabbi Lieberman to drop all claims against the College.

For the technically minded, I drafted the Deed of Submission on my Sinclair Spectrum 48K computer – the first computer I ever owned - and it was printed on an Oki Microline dot-matrix machine. Primitive by today’s IT standards, these tools proved sufficient to the task twenty-three years ago, and played their part in one of the most divisive issues to have confronted British Jewry at the time.

Geoffrey Alderman