Sitting in shul over yomtov has been a rather difficult experience. And not only because it was crowded, long and the children's service turns my brain to mush - but because just a few weeks ago, I was publicly branded an enemy of the United Synagogue by none other than its president, Simon Hochhauser.
Amongst the JC columnists, he told a US council meeting, “we find there is an antipathy towards what we stand for in Orthodoxy” (that is, he explained, modern Orthodoxy).
Columnists such as Miriam Shaviv, Geoffrey Alderman and Jonathan Freedland - he said - engage in a “constant attack on everything we stand for“.
“We feel a little bit like the Jewish community generally does with the Guardian. It’s almost like a delegitimisation of the United Synagogue going on. We have a case, we have a strong case… We do feel we are being given a particularly rough deal.”
Now, I can’t answer for Messrs Alderman and Freedland - who are in any case both perfectly capable of defending themselves. But when it comes to me, Mr Hochhauser, you couldn't be more wrong.
There are plenty of things I love about the United Synagogue. Here are my top 10:
1 Fishballs at Kiddush. Genius invention (practically unknown beyond these shores) which ensures that members keep returning again and again, no matter how bad the rabbis’ sermons. (Plus, my kids love them. Means I don’t have to feed them Shabbat lunch).
2 Burial included in membership. Cemeteries well-kept and landscaped (the fish at Bushey are a particularly nice touch). Regrettably, beneficiaries may not appreciate this fully at the time.
3 Board of Deputies included in my fees. And where would Anglo-Jewry be without the Board of Deputies?
4 Chief rabbi is very handsome. Little-mentioned secret to his success.
5 The pom poms on top of the chazans’ hats (now an endangered species). Very retro.
6 Canonicals. Another seriously bold fashion statement. Why oh why did they get rid of them?
7 Disastrous decisions by the dayanim provides me with half a livelihood. My good friend Rabbi Schochet provides the other half…
8 London Beth Din certifies pet food as kosher. Chicken, ham and vegetable dog food made by Applaws is apparently Kosher for Pesach and is presumably better for their digestion than shemurah matzah. Do not serve at Kiddush!
9 London Beth Din is the gold standard for conversions. Ensures that the Jewish population remains confined to N16 and a few select streets in NW11 (NW4 now suspect).
10 Women can't be presidents of synagogues - leaves us with more time to make cakes.
Happy April 1...