Ask the Rabbi with Rabbi YY Schochet

Dear Rabbi

It was such a breath of fresh air when the Jewish Weekly started and although you had some glitches in consistently producing a weekly publication, I was genuinely delighted to have a balanced orthodox paper to read every Shabbat.

However, I have to say the last few weeks have been simply embarrassing. I haven’t spoken to anyone in North West London who takes you seriously since you started portraying Rubashkin as a hero. I don’t want to get into my own thoughts on the matter but as a loyal Jewish Weekly reader, the least I expect from you is sensible, balanced reporting. I understand you are Chabad so I can almost forgive your predictable stance, although you’ve lost credibility by allowing your emotions to get the better of you and being devoid of any logical argument when it comes to Chabad matters. When criticised for defending a criminal, I had hoped for a little more than his defeatist response that can be summarised as ‘there’s more important things to worry about’….aka ‘I have absolutely nothing to say in my defence’. 

So I’m just writing in to say what a shame. There was a place in the community for a fair and balanced orthodox publication and instead you are now the laughing stock of Jewish papers. 

Thank you for the past year’s publications but unfortunately, like many others, I have to say farewell and I’m fairly confident it is the beginning of the slippery slope for the Jewish Weekly.

A former loyal reader

Dear FLR

Although you wrote this initially to the paper, I have been given the task to respond to it, since it contains a direct attack on me and your blatant Chabad bigotry. For one, I have no doubt that you are not saying farewell. In fact, you are sitting there right now reading this, possibly stewing at the fact that I know that – and you will be back each week thereafter – even if only to read my column. Come on, admit it. You can’t help yourself! But before you rip this page to threads and bang your head against a wall, I think it is utterly pathetic to suggest that my defence of Rubashkin coming here to speak had anything at all to do with the fact that he’s Chabad. In fact, of the thousand plus who went to hear him, ninety percent were not Chabad. So which emotions did they allow to get the better of them? Moreover, placing your whole argument on a concluding line of my response, “there are more important things to worry about,” while ignoring everything else stated before that – just reflects how intellectually dishonest you are. Assuming that is, that intellect is an appropriate word to be used here altogether. Which brings me to my final point: Anytime someone writes a letter but is too cowardly to put their name to it – the letter isn’t worth the paper it’s written on and the letter writer isn’t worth the time responding to. But, I couldn’t help myself, even if only because of the fifty shades of red your face has now become. Now – deep breath.


Dear Rabbi

I am engaged to be married to a wonderful man. My parents are quite traditional and are very against the relationship. A friend of mine heard you say at a lecture that people should be more tolerant of such relationships. Can you tell me how I can get them to accept my choice? He is not Jewish.


Dear Davina

I am planning to drive a group of wonderful kids to school today. My parents are quite sensible and are very against my driving. A friend of mine once said that people should be more tolerant of my driving. Can you tell me how I can get my parents to accept my driving? I’m stone drunk! 

You catch my drift? And for the record, I would never have said that people should be more tolerant of mixed marriages. What I probably did say, as I always advocate this, is that in the event that something like that happens parents should not shut the door on their kids, but always ensure to keep the lines of communication open. A fine balance needs to be sought between your parents letting you know that they cannot and will not accept the relationship under any circumstances – but they need to still love you as their child. Not an easy balance but one that has to be sought. 

Dear Rabbi

I converted to Judaism several years ago. I like to think of myself now as truly observant in every way. My question is whether I still have an obligation to respect my non-Jewish parents?


Dear Claudia

What does your new found religiosity have to do with no longer wanting to respect your parents? While it is true, as per the words of the Talmud, a convert is like a newborn child nevertheless the physical facts must also be taken into consideration. Your biological parents gave birth to you and raised you. The fact that you now have the opportunity to convert is essentially due to what your parents did for you. Practically, according to Jewish law, one should honour their biological parents.

Leaving a certain life behind you while still respecting those who got you there can be tricky. But the onus is on you to make that work. It’s not for nothing that it’s said, respecting parents is the most difficult of mitzvot.