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JfJfP comments


06 May: Tair Kaminer starts her fifth spell in gaol. Send messages of support via Reuven Kaminer

04 May: Against the resort to denigration of Israel’s critics


23 Dec: JfJfP policy statement on BDS

14 Nov: Letter to the Guardian about the Board of Deputies

11 Nov: UK ban on visiting Palestinian mental health workers

20 Oct: letter in the Guardian

13 Sep: Rosh Hashanah greetings

21 Aug: JfJfP on Jeremy Corbyn

29 July: Letter to Evening Standard about its shoddy reporting

24 April: Letter to FIFA about Israeli football

15 April: Letter re Ed Miliband and Israel

11 Jan: Letter to the Guardian in response to Jonathan Freedland on Charlie Hebdo


15 Dec: Chanukah: Celebrating the miracle of holy oil not military power

1 Dec: Executive statement on bill to make Israel the nation state of the Jewish people

25 Nov: Submission to All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

7 Sept: JfJfP Executive statement on Antisemitism

3 Aug: Urgent disclaimer

19 June Statement on the three kidnapped teenagers

25 April: Exec statement on Yarmouk

28 Mar: EJJP letter in support of Dutch pension fund PGGM's decision to divest from Israeli banks

24 Jan: Support for Riba resolution

16 Jan: EJJP lobbies EU in support of the EU Commission Guidelines, Aug 2013–Jan 2014


29 November: JfJfP, with many others, signs a "UK must protest at Bedouin expulsion" letter

November: Press release, letter to the Times and advert in the Independent on the Prawer Plan

September: Briefing note and leaflet on the Prawer Plan

September: JfJfP/EJJP on the EU guidelines with regard to Israel

14th June: JfJfP joins other organisations in protest to BBC

2nd June: A light unto nations? - a leaflet for distribution at the "Closer to Israel" rally in London

24 Jan: Letter re the 1923 San Remo convention

18 Jan: In Support of Bab al-Shams

17 Jan: Letter to Camden New Journal about Veolia

11 Jan: JfJfP supports public letter to President Obama

Comments in 2012 and 2011




A secular Jew – an exact identity

Bevis Marks synagogue, built 1701 in the City of London, to serve the local Spanish and Portuguese Jewish communities (Sephardi).It is the only synagogue in Europe which has held regular services continuously for more than 300 years.

I am a secular Jew – and there’s no contradiction in that

Dr Daniel Susskind will be going to shul this Rosh Hashanah, but, he argues, as Jews, we are bound together by far more than faith alone.

Jewish Chronicle, September 20, 2017

It is that time of year when ‘secular Jews’ like me descend on synagogues, filling the back-benches and over-flowing into neighbouring rented buildings. We stand out with our pristine prayer-books and our bright-white uncreased tallit, struggling to tell the difference between our Musaf and Maariv, stumbling to our feet to mumble incorrectly at the wrong moments. But we will be there, as Jewish as everyone else.

“There is Auschwitz, and so there cannot be God” Primo Levi

This idea, that you can feel very Jewish and not root that identity in a God, puzzles non-Jews and divides Jews. To those on the outside, the idea of a ‘secular Jew’ sounds like an oxymoron; to those inside, it is often dismissed, less generously, as confused nonsense. But for me, and I suspect a great many others, it exactly describes who we are.

There is a line in an interview with Primo Levi where he says, “There is Auschwitz, and so there cannot be God”. Levi had survived that camp, and his testimony would make him one of the great modern writers. That remark captured the sense in which, for so many Jews, the Holocaust had murdered their faith, along with their family and friends.

I consider myself part of that group, deeply agnostic, and unable to reconcile any serious sense of faith with what happened in the first half of the 20th century (though my scepticism has roots elsewhere, too.) And yet, at the same time, I try to live a secular Jewish life – partly because of what happened in the past. To me, there is Auschwitz, and so we must make sure that there are always Jews.

There is no contradiction here, between being a devout Jew and not having faith. The Holocaust was not only an attempt to kill a Jewish God, but also to destroy a Jewish civilisation – our histories and memories, songs and stories, ways of thinking and living.

The Nazis never asked our ancestors how observant they were before they murdered them; only whether their parents or grandparents were Jews, whether they could claim to be part of our four-thousand-year-old story that they wanted to bring to an end. They knew that much more mattered than faith alone.

I know that when I take my first High Holiday steps into the synagogue in the coming weeks, I should expect the same familiar glare from the observant old-guard, the front-benched regulars, who no doubt think of me and my fellow-travellers as irreligious riff-raff, distracting them from one of the most important days of their year.

But to secular Jews, I say – do not be deterred. Think of this article as a secular call to prayer. Take some Jewish stories along with your siddur*, carry a biography of a Jewish hero and put it proudly on the bench in front of you, take a piece of Hebrew and try to make sense of it, take a secular Jewish philosopher and try to interpret it. Go to synagogue, not necessarily in search of religious revelation but for secular contemplation, and know that is okay.

My wife, who converted to Judaism and has her feet in two faiths, once said to me that when Christians go to Church, they go to be with God, but when Jews go to synagogue, they go to be with other Jews. At first I smiled, but now I realise that she is exactly right. As Jews, we are bound together by far more than faith alone.

And as you walk home, in the coming weeks, perhaps after a prayerless day in synagogue, be happy because you have contributed, in your own way, to that ongoing Jewish story, of which we are all part.



Daniel Susskind is a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford.


* For the secular Jews who read this website, the siddur is the Jewish, Hebrew prayer book.

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