Tuesday 20 November 2018

'What kind of education needs to be given?' - Senior female rabbi criticises 'racist' Kevin Myers column

Rabbi Julia Neuberger
Rabbi Julia Neuberger

Ryan O'Rourke

One of the first women to become a rabbi in the UK has criticised Kevin Myers' 'racist' column, saying that more education is needed to combat stereotypes.

Rabbi Julia Neuberger, a senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue, and a member of the House of Lords condemned the article on RTE Radio One.

“I think Kevin needs to get some education on what it means to be anti-Semitic.

“If you use that kind of caricature you are being anti-Semitic, even if you don’t think you are,” Rabbi Neuberger told RTE Radio One.

Kevin Myers Photo: Tony Gavin
Kevin Myers Photo: Tony Gavin

The Sunday Times removed an online version of the piece by Kevin Myers on Sunday morning amid outcry on social media, but it appeared in printed editions of the newspaper across Ireland.

Under the headline “Sorry ladies, equal pay has to be earned”, Myers wrote: “I note that two of the best-paid women presenters in the BBC – Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, with whose, no doubt, sterling work I am tragically unacquainted – are Jewish. Good for them.

“Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity. I wonder, who are their agents? If they’re the same ones that negotiated the pay for the women on the lower scales, then maybe the latter have found their true value in the marketplace.”

Rabbi Neuberger said that journalists should stay away from historical stereotypes.

“I hope people will look at this and say, what are these caricatures carry in the back of their heads, these anti-Semitic caricatures, and how can we make sure journalists and editors don’t unwittingly fall into them.

“What kind of education needs to be given?”

Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio One. Photo: PA
Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio One. Photo: PA

In a statement released on Sunday a spokesman for The Sunday Times said he “will not write again for The Sunday Times Ireland. A printed apology will appear in next week’s paper.”

Rabbi Neuberger commended the apology by The Sunday Times, but believes Mr Myers should be allowed to apologise.

“I would like to sit down with him because I would like him to understand why this is so offensive.

“But you know, how do you deal with these things, how do you deal with attitudes that you condemn, I think you have to take people on and you have to explain.

“I think you have to give people a chance to rethink their own attitudes.” 

Previously, Vanessa Feltz has said she feels "extremely upset" over the Sunday Times column in which Mr Myers suggested she and fellow BBC presenter Claudia Winkleman earned more because they were Jewish.

Speaking on her BBC Radio One show on Monday morning, Ms Feltz described the Kevin Myers' opinion piece as "so obviously racist it's surprisingly hurtful".

She also questioned how the article could have been considered fit to publish by editors.

"I said to the editor to the Sunday Times when he phoned to apologise... I'm a journalist and I don't understand how that could be considered suitable to publish.

"When someone alerted me to it ... I couldn't believe such a thing had been printed. It is absolutely gratuitous, not cleverly done, it's blatant racism. When you see it like that it's very horrifying."

Ms Feltz said the comment piece was "every vile stereotype about what Jewish people have ever been deemed to be by racists".

She added: "I would have thought after all these years I'd be immune or used to it, but that's not at all how I felt. I felt extremely upset. It's not a very nice feeling."

"The apologies are all very well but how did it end up in the paper in the first place?"

Meanwhile, an article by Mr Myers published in the 'Irish Independent' on March 4, 2009, is no longer available online as it does not comply with our editorial ethos.

The article on the Holocaust was removed on July 30, 2017 after its existence was brought to our attention.

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