Jewish Telegraph on Martin Stern and A Time to Speak – Controversial Essays that Can Change Your Life

AUTHOR Martin Stern – a forceful defender of orthodoxy – says he partly owes his writing ability to the Jewish Telegraph.

He recently published A Time to Speak – Controversial Essays that Can Change Your Life.

Mr Stern revealed that he was provoked in 1985 into becoming a frequent Jewish Telegraph correspondent by a JT column by the late Rabbi E S Rabinowitz.

According to Mr Stern, it “gave an altogether far too lenient ruling on family planning, at least in the context of a paper aiming at the not particularly observant public”.

He went on: “The rabbi’s view was that the man can’t do anything, but that the woman could more or less do what she liked.

“I think he was really over the top. While you can make an argument for leniency, to put something like that in the Jewish Telegraph, the average reader would say, ‘Great, we can do what we like’.

“I felt compelled to respond. This gave rise to quite a heated exchange in the letters column, eventually leading to my production of a short pamphlet on the subject, entitled Family Planning – A Torah Perspective.

“I sent it to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who signalled his approval.” Since then, Mr Stern has been a regular contributor to the Jewish Telegraph and other Jewish and non-Jewish newspapers. He writes in the preface of his new book: “When I was a boy, I always found essay writing difficult, which was one reason I gravitated towards mathematics, a subject that did not require that skill.”

Mr Stern then went on to become a mathematics lecturer at the John Dalton College of Technology, later Manchester Metropolitan University, where initially writing was not considered a necessary skill.

But he wrote: “It was therefore something of a shock when our college decided to aim for a higher university status and the head of our department called a meeting at which we were told that we must do research and publish at least one paper a year.”

Hailing from a Jewish Germanic background, Oxbridge educated Mr Stern is uncompromising in his principles on such matters as talking in shul, which he compares to “murdering your brother”, prolonging the morning service to the detriment of people who need to rush off to work and men “leaving their wives and children while they satiate themselves at a stream of kiddushim with no appetite left for the Shabbat meal”.

Mr Stern also makes a semi-fictional allusion to his recent “verging on the criminal” eviction from Salford’s Adass Yeshurun Synagogue after he had protested against their changes in the Germanic customs of the congregation.

These ethical comments on synagogal behaviour are interspersed in A Time to Speak – Controversial Essays that Can Change Your Life with mathematical observations on matters of Jewish interest.

These include a comparison of the Muslim and Jewish calendars, gematria, the numerical values of the Hebrew letters and menstrual cycle analysis.

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