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 celèbre 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

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