Don't neglect those who need our help

YOM Kippur places a huge spotlight on our inadequacies and vulnerabilities. Which is why most people, except for the super-fasters who glory in the 25-hour food-starved marathon and the three-times-a-yearers for whom it's virtually their only contact with Judaism, don't like it and are now breathing a sigh of relief that it's over.

But we need to take some meaningful lessons from that day just gone.

The lesson of the day was that, strip us of food, we are all deep down vulnerable and inadequate.

So we must stop smugly being intolerant of the vulnerable and inadequate among us.

This is both currently a political and societal problem.The political climate glories in cutting benefits to the vulnerable, and in British society the stiff upper lip which looks down on any sign of emotional weakness still holds much sway.

The lunchtime BBC 1 medical soap Doctors recently carried a very interesting storyline in which a doctor, struggling with blocking out his own personal emotional scars, failed to adequately treat an abuse victim who went on to commit suicide.

"I thought she should have just pulled herself together," the devastated doctor told his counsellor.

This incident is not too far from real life.

I have a friend who discovered that she was suffering from the syndrome HSP - Highly Sensitive Person - as diagnosed by American psychologist Elaine Aaron.

Reading Aaron's book was a personal revelation to her as she discovered that she was not alone in her extreme reactions to life's circumstances. Her initial reaction was to "come out" and tell her friends and acquaintances about her syndrome.

But that soon stopped after her personal revelations about her sensitivity were usually met with mockery and contempt by all around her, who probably felt their own deep emotional vulnerabilities threatened by her announcement.

In today's British society it's OK to have all manner of sexual quirks but not to be emotionally sensitive.

That has to stop.

Why stemming the tide of nationalism is vital

THE recent Scottish referendum made some of us with connections north of the border acutely aware of our multiple layers of identity.

Even before I lived in Scotland for nine years and gave birth to three Scottish children, I always had a penchant for bagpipes, tartans and Scottish accents. Living there bonded me even closer to that emotionally warm, yet meteorologically cold, country. The threat of imminent Scottish independence and the tearing apart of the United Kingdom made me feel as if my own national identity was being torn asunder.

When push comes to shove, most of us feel more Jewish than anything else.

But identities are multi-layered. How many people make aliya, love their new country yet become ever more nostalgic for their old one?

But for us Brits still living here, the dangers of nationalism which raised their ugly heads with the increased divisiveness and even xenophobia during the referendum campaign are not over.

The "No" vote was a relief but it came at a price - greater powers of autonomy to Scotland.

Which was reasonable enough in the circumstances if some English people had not behaved like spoiled children, looking over their shoulders to their sibling's slice of cake and demanding an equal slice.

We only need to look to our Bible stories to realise how dangerous sibling rivalry can be.

It may be irrational but the thought of English nationalism scares me even more than the Scottish variety. And it is to that very nationalism, as currently expressed through UKIP, to which the Conservative Party conference has pandered.

Thursday's by-elections down the road in Manchester's Heywood and Middleton, as well in the southern Tory heartland of Clacton in which UKIP are slated to do well, make the matter of stemming the tide of nationalism, which is always accompanied by racists elements, more urgent.

Charedi boys need secular education

ONCE upon a time, Jewish education was biased against girls who were denied Torah study. Now the opposite is true, not as far as Torah study but secular knowledge.

In my last column, I mentioned Rabbi Avraham Pinter, principal of Stamford Hill's Yesodey Hatorah Senior Girls' School, who had previously defended boys' secondary schools which did not provide any secular education.

Last week, Rabbi Pinter was proud to tell me that the recent unannounced Ofsted raid on his girls' school culminated in a good report by the increasingly strict education body. Well done, Rabbi Pinter!

But my question still remains. Why can't charedi boys have the same opportunities for secular studies as their sisters?


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