Rabbi Ariel Abel: Grateful for our citizenship

LIVERPOOL has had the honour and privilege of many not-of-the-faith and of those not integrated into our congregations supporting us through the thick and thin of anti-Israel sentiment and BDS action, never separating out between Judaism and Israel as some try to do.

After all, they are synonyms. Many of us know Keith Fairclough, unflinchingly standing along with the Jewish people and others like him who trust the ancient Hebrew prophecies that our true place is to return to the land of our ancestors from the age-old diaspora.

What I Ieast expected to encounter on the cusp of the pro-Israel group was a man who looked more obviously Jewish than most with long peyot, and a large kippa which declares in Hebrew: “We have no-one upon whom to rely other than our Father in Heaven.”

A Christian, I thought, who loves Jews. A year last Simchat Torah, I invited him to the synagogue, then afterwards to my home.

After a short introduction, he told me what I least expected: that not only was he not Christian, but that he was an Israelite Jew, of the Bnei Efraim, of south central India.

Israel Bhooshi found himself in synagogue praying to the God of Israel, as his ancestors had done before him. What do you believe in, I asked, with no expectation to hear anything earth-shattering.

His reply moved me greatly: I believe in the God and in his Torah. Whom would you have your children marry, I asked. Only those who keep His Torah and His mitzvot, came the reply.

There could be, as a testimony, no clearer pledge of fidelity to Judaism than that.

From there to synagogue membership is always that administrative and procedural “hoop” that, ironically, in spite of such clarity of declaration, must be upheld.

It is a matter unconnected to Orthodox versus non-Orthodox.

Only a few months ago I was made aware of a case where a Kurdish Jew living in Wales was told that he could only expect to come into the Reform Jewish community if he went through a four-year procedure of conversion; there are no easy ways in to Anglo-Jewish synagogue membership, especially if the right paperwork is not in sufficient evidence.

The ready acceptance or not of Jews from far-off lands and less-known communities is not a matter of a particular halachic tradition or not.

Rather, it is the result of when Jewish law is processed as a procedural bureaucracy, which is a modern rabbinic era attempt against foreign infiltration, as opposed to taking oral testimony as one finds it, which is the Biblical way.

The Judaism of the remnants of Israel from the Indian subcontinent, and ancient community which had its own Jewish kingdom for many centuries reigned over by the Yemenite Jewish Rehabi family, and which has at least five different Jewish and Israelite communities over three millennia, is now travelling through our patch of western Europe.

Two weeks ago Israel gained his British citizenship. The joy of Israel receiving his citizenship was eclipsed only by his gratitude to HaShem.

Baruch HaShem, he declared, words that one hears seldom for such an event one may see as mundane.

So I invited Israel to our synagogue and delivered an appropriate blessing, a miSheberach, to reflect his gratitude and to teach all of us how grateful we are for our own British citizenship.

Naked and dispossessed many of us came to this country, disenfranchised and humiliated, and now the Almighty has set us up proudly as His ambassadors to his Torah.

We wish Israel many years of good health and success in his newly-attained citizenship.

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