by Bill White
In the interests of full disclosure I should tell you that I am Jewish. I am also an American, which should offer me the very best of both worlds. Literally, a double lottery win at birth. In fact, the only way that my life could be any better would be if I became an Israeli citizen. 'There's the rub', to quote Hamlet.
While I was born in the United States, I moved to the United Kingdom in July 1989 and I have lived here ever since. In 2015, I decided to make Aliyah, to immigrate to Israel, which is the birthright of every Jew, or so they say.
It's actually a privilege bestowed by men who have taken it upon themselves to speak for G-D.
You see, my great great grandmother, Agnes Kiss, was a victim of the Shoah, or the Holocaust as it's called in English. She married Benjamin Toth and together they lived in Hungary until the War, when Agnes was murdered by the Nazis, but let's not get ahead of the story. Their daughter, Julia Toth, had moved to the United States as a young woman. She married Michael Simon, in January 1913, in New York City. Julia's parents remained in Hungary.
Kiss is one of the oldest known Hungarian Jewish family names, being documented as such in the 14th century. Kiss can also be associated with the biblical personal name Kish, the name of King Saul's father (I Samuel 9.1).
Michael and Julia had a daughter together and they named her Helen Agnes Simon and she was born in Arcadia, New York. In November 1936 Helen married William White, in New York, and their daughter, Rose, my mother, was born in February 1938. Pretty straight-forward or so it seems.
The problem is that my grandparents and my own parents were secular and perhaps with good reason. Anti-semitism, the belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish, has caused many within our Community to hide or even to deny their life-membership in what is really quite an unpopular club. Believe me, being 'Jewish' is a moniker that you either love or hate and my family did whatever they could to deny it. There are literally thousands of stories of Jews who publicly were 'Christian' while practicing their faith in private, behind closed curtains. So, my parents and grandparents remained secular and were really rather good at it.
As I explained, I am Jewish. But not merely Jewish. I am a Zionist and a member of the Zionist Federation in England. In fact, I'm a card-carrying zealot and I am damned proud to say it, so perhaps I make up for all the years of denial by my family.
Despite their public denials, my mother ensured that I was circumcised and when Helen, my grandmother died she was buried in an Jewish Orthodox cemetery. Julia and her husband Michael are buried in Jewish cemeteries. Similarly, my great, great grandmother Agnes is described as a Jewish victim of the Shoah and her name appears in the database of victims maintained by Yad Vashem in Israel.
In 2015 I sought the help of the Jewish Community in St Annes, Lancashire. At the time, I was very active in the synagogue there, which was then run by Rabbi Ephraim Guttentag. Unfortunately, the Chief Rabbi's Office in London would not immediately accept the documents that I could produce. According to David Frei, the External and Legal Services Director of the United Synagogue (a misnomer if ever there was), Yad Vashem is "not a Jewish Source". I can't help but wonder if the fine people working there are aware of his opinion. He also said that the death certificate of my grandmother, which describes her as "Jewish" under her race, says "nothing" in his words.
Still, Rabbi Shindler, with the Chief Rabbi's Marriage Section at the Chief Rabbi's Office, advised Rabbi Guttentag that when there is any question one "should lean toward acceptance" and it was based upon his advice that I was initially welcomed into my local Shul.
Soon, however, Rabbi Guttentag, bowed to the internal politics of one or two long-standing members of 'his synagogue', and he informed me that despite the advice of Rabbi Shindler, he would no longer be able to 'count' me among the men for purposes of a Minyan (certain prayers require a quorum of 10 men over the age of 13). Rabbi Guttentag told me that he had spoken to the Beth Din (or 'House of Judgement', like a rabbinical court of Judaism) in Manchester, under which St Annes falls and Rabbi Guttentag said that without more supporting 'Jewish documents' it would be best for me not to attend 'his Shul'. He explained that because the synagogue struggles each day for 10 men, it would be embarrassing, for me, 'if when we have just 10 men you're not counted and other members wonder why...', he said. You see, he was just considering my feelings, after all.
I spoke to a senior Rabbi at the Beth Din in Manchester, who having heard the above and considering the documents that I had in my possession at the time, told me that he 'would have no problem selling the chametz to [me] at Pesach'. Let that sink in... I will not name him because there is a special place in Gehinnom where his soul will spend a great deal of time, when his 'House of Judgement' decisions will surely be judged by HaShem.
So these men, who speak for G-D, like David Frei, Rabbi Guttentag and the despicable Rabbi at the Beth Din in Manchester, who collectively deny a Jewish man his birthright believe themselves capable of knowing who is or is not Jewish.
I relish the thought that each one of these men, who after all, speak for G-D, will one day soon (please G-D) face the true authority in Judaism and answer for their actions.
Bill White is CEO of WireNews.