Monday, June 20, 2011

The great Mixed Dancing Controversy of 1960-61.

Unlike my post on the "Wives and Wigs" controversy on the pages of the Jewish Standard in 1890, I am not claiming that every shred of material on the "Mixed Dancing" controversy of 1960-61 has been uncovered here. In fact, a good article about it is waiting to be written and there is much more material to be collected. Nevertheless, here are many parts of this controversy which played out on the pages of the Jewish Chronicle and, eventually, in the pages of R. Yitzchak Weiss's responsa collection מנחת יצחק Volume 3. No 'Footloose' jokes, please. And definitely no jokes about what leads to mixed dancing.

Here's the abstract: by 1960, in Great Britain, like in the United States, the majority of Orthodox Jews saw nothing religiously wrong with mixed dancing at social events, even in the synagogue. Although such a practice would be exceedingly difficult if not impossible to justify from halachic sources, the rabbis either saw nothing really wrong with it, or justified it as a lesser of evils or they saw nothing at all. Yet in September of 1960 the Beth Din of Manchester took a stand against it. Following this, and feeling that they did not go far enough, some months later other rabbis held a conference in Leeds, criticized mixed and dancing and publicly called for a ban on it. This generated a heated correspondence (including the assertion that mixed dancing causes illegitimate children) and a heated editorial in the pages of the Jewish Chronicle. The editorial in particular was very intemperate, being an editorial, saying that the action of those rabbis raises questions about their "emotional stability" and "mental hygiene." This was too much for the rabbis, who included R. Yitzchak Weiss, and collectively they wrote the Jewish Chronicle a letter (dated December 19, 1960) stating that they demanded a prominently placed apology, which in itself would not be enough, and therefore they also demand monetary compensation for defamation. In addition, they served notice that the editor was hereby called to a Din Torah. The editor responded that first of all the facts are in his favor, and secondly he cannot submit to the will of a Din Torah as this is a matter of Freedom of the Press, and a free press is integral to society. The editor himself did, however, appear before the London Beth Din in what he called "an act of courtesy to the Chief Rabbi and his court," to tell them that he must decline to take part in a Din Torah.

The controversy itself continued pro and con in the Letters pages of the paper. Meanwhile, R. Weiss wrote a responsum (dated the last day of Chanukah, or December 21, 1960) in which the matter ("of the editor of a Jewish newspaper who brazenly insulted famed rabbis, who reproached [Jews] regarding the great breech in so-called Orthodox synagogues, who hold dances with youths and young ladies dancing together, God help us. And this editor did not see fit to [help] repair the breech in Israel, on the contrary, he opened his trap in a lead editorial in this popular newspaper to speak words opposing the rabbis who are exerting their souls to try to uproot this practice which has spread in Israel, God help us.") and the penalty for insulting a talmid chochom (a litra of gold) is discussed. The precise weight of the fine in gold is also discussed. One assumes that no liter of gold was every paid, although the responsum was printed for posterity and halachic precedent.

Here is the editorial (December 2, 1960) and the rabbinic response (January 13, 1961), followed by some earlier and later discussions:

Dated Sep. 9, 1960, here is a notice about the Manchester Beth Din coming out against mixed dancing. We see here a clarification that it's only about synagogue fundraisers (so everyone should relax). Someone points out that this is untenable, as in Judaism "there is not one law for synagogues and another for laymen." It's also unlikely that the Manchester Beth Din really meant only in synagogues, as Rabbi Weiss was one of the dayanim (rabbinic judges).

Next is a notice about the meeting in Leeds for the purpose of deploring mixed dancing. It notes that not one local rabbi showed up. The comments of Rabbi Weiss and others are abstracted (although through the passage of time it is Rabbi Weiss who is the most famous, it would seem here that Rabbi Babad was the leading rabbi present at the time). The same issue featured the editorial, depicted above.

The first reactions begin coming in. Here (December 9) we see one reaction, "the rabbis are trying to drive us back to the ghetto."

The same issue includes two letters. The first letter, by Rabbi A. Babad himself, compares the language of the editorial to the Jewsektzia, or Jewish Communists in Russia, of the early 1920s, who persecuted practicing Jews. Further, he writes that if the mental hygiene of himself and the other rabbis are to be questioned, then so are the mental hygiene of the Mishna Berurah and R. Akiva Eger, whom they had quoted. He calls the attack "vulgar" and "unprecedented" in the annals of the Jewish Chronicle. The next writer notes that a newspaper is not the forum for interpreting Jewish law, and that the public may well feel perplexed on the matter, and can't the Beth Din of the Chief Rabbi comment?

The same issue also includes a comment by the Ben Azai column (the pseudonym for Chaim Bermant). He basically says that the condemners on both sides are avoiding the real issue, which is the disconnect between how people actually behave and what the halacha says. As for where he sides, he opines that trying to prevent young Jews from dancing in synagogue halls is misguided, for it will only result in them dancing "in worse places and with worse partners.":

Next is a notice in the December 16, 1960 issue called On With the Dance, where it is noted that on the ground those who want to dance simply continue to do so. "And now, for those of you who believe in mixed dancing - let's start!" said the president of a certain organization, as he signaled the beginning of a dance:

The same issue includes several letters.

The first is from one of the Leeds rabbis who did not show up at the banning event. This rabbi clarifies that he did not have "the good sense" to stay way, and his non-attendance was not out of a lack of respect for those rabbis, nor was it because he lacks convictions. He says that he did not attend because he believed that a meeting like this causes more harm than good to Orthodoxy. In addition, all over the country such dances are held, and the rabbi questions whether it was right to single out Leeds.

The next letter is from another rabbi, an organizer of the event, who says that mixed dancing is yehareg ve-'al ya'avor (i.e., one of the sins which is so heinous that a Jew must be willing to give up their life rather than transgress. In support of this assertion he refers to the Chafetz Chaim's Nidche Yisrael). He continues to offer the view that the reason why the Leeds rabbis stayed away was plainly and simply "fear of causing displeasure to their masters," by which he must mean the ba'alei batim (laymen). Finally, to the suggestion of the editorial that they recognize that in the general society dancing is perfectly moral, he says "Should we eat bacon because the Gentiles do so?" Furthermore, the same way that the overwhelming majority of Jews who see no problem with it (per the editorial) - well, the overwhelming majority desecrate the Shabbath.

Next is a letter which calls the anti-dancing campaign "bigoted and fanatical," which cause Judaism to be seen as frivolous and trivial. In reply to Rabbi Babad's comment about the Jewsektzia, the writer says that is is no accident that many of their leaders came from Orthdox homes and were even "children of rabbanim." This is not mere chance, but a consequence of fanaticism.

Next, a writer connects the affair with a different lead article in the newspaper which deplored the lack of a religious element in youth clubs. He says that you can't take this view yet att the same time simply reject a clear halachic pronouncement.

But the issue would not go away. In the December 23 issue there were a few more letters:

The first letter addresses the point about simply disregarding a pesak halacha. This calls for a pesak (halachic ruling) from the Chief Rabbi that no rabbis in the country have the right to pronounce a pesak without his prior consent. This would prevent confusion and allow the Chief Rabbi to maintain religious order. With regards to Talmudic statements quoted "in support of the extreme point of view" the writers suggests that we keep a sense of proportion. The Talmud contains the teachings of more than 2000 men, given over many hundreds of years. Many Talmudic sayings are confined by its time and the knowledge of the rabbi, however great, who said it. We cannot be pinned down for all eternity by such sayings. We should take a page from the "human[e?] Hillel approach," which even adjusted the laws of the Torah over 1900 years ago!

Next is a letter noting that while there are many "eternal and unalterable Halachot" in the Bible and in the Talmud, many are subject to interpretation by the generations. The example he gives is the "firm opinion" against listening to a woman singing in the Talmud. Yet, does that make the 20th century opera house a centre of immorality? QED. Furthermore, R. Babad is wrong to claim that criticism of him is criticism of the Chafetz Chaim, for the latter lived in a very different environment with very different standards of modesty. Does R. Babad really follow the lifestyle of the Chafetz Chaim across the board? Did the Chafetz Chaim approve of university education and reading secular literature? Furthermore, when all is well Jewishly in the towns and cities which those rabbis are from, then let them deal with dancing in Leeds. Is there no hillul shabbat in Sunderland (R. Babad's place of residence) or Manchester? As it is the actions of these rabbis seems a "fruitless display of Don Quixoterie" to many Jews, and it brings the rabbinate into disrepute.

Another writer, signing under the group name Youth for Tora, really condemns the editorial. He is sure that "no other paper in the world could render such an attack on its spiritual leaders." Furthermore, it is wrong to raise the morality of the British general society as a guage, for every year "1000 girls of under the age of 16 fill the hospitals with illegitimate children." This is the result of mixed dancing.

The next week it continued (December 30, 1960):

The first writer says that halacha is definitely not a monopoly of the rabbis.

Another writers asks if the opponents of mixed dancing have not ever rode a subway (that's me talking) during rush hour, when every sort of person, married, single, male, female - are in a constant state of physical contact much worse than any dance floor? The dancer has to concentrate on the technical elements of the dance rather than on his partner (so says he) but the traveler actually has to pay attention to those around him, so that he can figure out where and how to stand, how to make an exit, and so forth. If illegitimate children are the result of mixed dancing, then what lies in store for subway riders?

The next writer tries to inject some humour, and points out that one thing is neglected in the discussion, namely the alternative to mixed dancing. He says that this morning he performed "a rock 'n' roll, a Gay Gordons, and a Hora all by myself," rather unsuccessfully. Instead of feeling "purified in the soul" (i.e., by not dancing with a partner) he felt "slightly insane."

The issue also includes a letter about microphones on shabbat, for at the very same time the controversy about microphones was also brewing on those pages.

On January 6, 1961 there were yet more letters:

The first writer is of the view that the whole thing is simply nuts. He says that the religious leaders "degrade themselves by proclaiming to their diminishing flock the sinfulness of perfectly innocent behavior." He ends by stating that it would be a tragedy if "our great humanistic tradition were to be stultified once and for all." He says that he sides with reason in this controversy.

The next writer, a rabbi, states that the purity of family life is rapidly going down the tubes, with divorce on the increase. The cause of this is mixed dancing. Furthermore, it is not a rabbinical prohibition, as some stated, but was banned by God himself; the prohibition is Leviticus 18:19, pertaining to Niddah, and unmarried women who do not go to the Mikva always are in a state of Niddah.

The next writer says that when he was 12 and a half years old he became religious, and considers himself Orthodox. He says that the only halachos which he kept only half-heartedly, were those pertaining to mixed swimming and dancing. Eventually, he says, he tried it. He says that he can state that having to spend all of his time and energies in dance halls getting girls to dance with him, and the dancing itself, he can say that he found no time for the Yetzer Horah. He thinks that the rabbis should try mixed dancing themselves - if they find it sexually alluring, then they should resign. He closes by stating that Judaism is a beautiful religion, and one is allowed to think for oneself. He compares the additions and accretion of new laws to a beautiful woman who is afraid of losing her beauty, so she keeps applying more and more make-up. But rather than being afraid of wiping off the grimy old make-up, she should realize that she has nothing to fear from washing her face! Only then can one see that she is truly beautiful - no matter how old she is.

Finally, a writers says regarding the suggestion that the Beth Din make a pronouncement that halacha is not made by a pronouncement of one Beth Din. While true that a community will follow its leader, this is not binding over other communities. London and Britain is not one such small, tightly knit community. Furthemore, having already found that mixed dancing is wrong, a contrary decision would be of value only if a greater scholar than those who made the decision refutes it. Asking the Beth Din to make such a decision would only cause disunity.

Finally, finally, finally - the Jewish Chronicle did the sensible thing and asked various British rabbis their view and found that "Ministers Divided on Mixed Dancing (January 13, 1961). They asked 11 United Synagogue rabbis (called Ministers). Eight said there was nothing wrong with mixed dancing, two declined to comment and only one said it was wrong. The Jewish Chronicle uncovered a nugget from its own archives, noting that in March 1911 a very similar rabbinical conference took place in Leeds (alluded to by an earlier writer) and in response the newspaper printed an editiorial which stated that ". . . Dancing came also under the ban of the Rabbis and was denounced. And is this last word of Rabbinism on purity of life? Don't dance, don't go the theatre, and wear Shaitels?"

Finally, to mention once again the responsum by R. Weiss, he discusses the penalty for four sort of insults. They are insults against:

1) A regular, good Jew.
2) A Torah scholar.
3) A communal rabbi, judge or famed posek
4) An insult against a rabbi specifically for his teaching the proper religious way.

This responsum goes through various aspects of the subject, and ends with a detailed discussion of the exact weigh in gold (in grams) that the fine should consist of.


  1. For a Brit such as myself, this is absolutely fascinating. How times have changed! Rabbi Babad's son is now the Rav of the Belzer Kehilla in London, and I'm almost certain no United Synagogue rabbis would condone mixed dancing now. Admittedly, a good few years ago, at my bar mitzvah, we had mixed dancing in a hall which is part of a United Synagogue complex; I'm not sure if this would still be allowed.

    It's also interesting that many people found it difficult to believe that orthodoxy would be opposed to what 'proper Englishmen' would deem decent - this is both a reflection of societal morals before the 60s and the unique brand of 'high church' English orthodoxy that existed then.

    It's fascinating to witness the tension back then between what was considered 'mainstream' orthodoxy and the charedim - the charedim in that era were still very much a marginal force, this was presumably one of the first indications of their growing self-confidence in post-war England. Despite the fact that the 'mainstream' is now far to the right of where it was then, this tension still exists - the UOHC founded by Dr. Schonfeld (and later controlled by Hungarians) still very much sees itself as an 'Austritt' community - the fight over eruvin in London is a perfect example, and almost exactly mirrors the Frankfurt eruv controversy.

  2. Fotheringay-Phipps3:37 PM, June 20, 2011

    R' Shneebalg was also a prominent rabbi of sorts, and he wrote some sort of multi-volume t'shuva sefer whose name escapes me at the moment but which one sees around every so often.

  3. I think that's a different R. Schneebalg (brother?) - the sefer is called Shraga Hameir - the R. Schneebalg from Manchester was R. Dovid Tzvi - I think it is his son who is the current R. Shneebalg in Manchester, and if I am not mistaken the son of the Shraga Hameir is currently a rav in London (Edgware). R. Chaim Halpern, a leading UOHC/Kedassia rabbi in Golders Green, London (son of R. Chuna) is the grandson-in-law of the R. Schneebalg mentioned here.

    One still hears many of the surnames mentioned in this correspondence - the Hamburgers are still a prominent Manchester family. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

  4. Sorry, the Shraga Hameir (R. Shraga Feivel) was the son of the one mentioned here, as one can see:

  5. Fotheringay-Phipps5:49 PM, June 20, 2011

    Thanks for the correction.

  6. Not related to this post (sorry!), but I know that you used to blog about What's Bothering Artscroll, S, and I was wondering if you'd seen the new all-English, no-Hebrew version of the Tanach that just came out. Apparently, based on the marketing, they got special haskamos from the gedolim to make a non-Hebrew Tanach, and employed the expertise of "counter-missionary" scholars to keep it all traditional. It seems that they're hoping that the typical Artscroll readership will buy copies of this Tanach to give as gifts to non-religious relatives and acquaintances.

    The ad in the Jewish Action headlined with, "Tanach: The Ultimate Kiruv Tool."

    Check out the sample pages you can view on the sale page.

  7. I haven't seen it, but I have heard of it. It's a little . . . weird. It's almost like they ran out of things to print so they came up with this idea, complete with a dispensation for something which most people probably think is neged halacha.

  8. Playing the Jewsektzia card. I can't stand that stuff.

  9. Great post here, musta taken a nice amount of work to put together. Thanks!

    It should be mentioned for perspective (I didn't read through every word here yet, I admit) that the problem of mixed dancing is not new and has not been limited to 'new' areas of settlement such as the UK and USA. It has been around for a long time and was a big problem on the continent as well, hundreds of years earlier.

    For a post related to an earlier manifestation, see

  10. Did mixed dancing in Young Israel (and similar) synagogues peter out or was there a similar public brouhaha at some point?

  11. As far as I know it petered out in the US - which is probably what happened in England too, brouhaha or no brouahaha. Conceivably the difference in culture between the US and England, where the latter has a Chief Rabbinate which is Orthodox, and the former had a majority that was Reform and Conservative made a difference. Also in the US at the time the criticism would have played out in the pages of the Jewish Observer, but there wouldn't have been an exchange. By contrast the Jewish Chronicle served a much, much broader spectrum.

  12. Sorry to clog up the comments section - I simply can't resist. The biographies of almost every one of the rabbis who were interviewed by the JC tells us the story of the changes that have taken place within Anglo-Jewry. The most striking thing is how many of them were known as 'Reverend'; this was in part due to the Church of England-like structure of the United Synagogue, in which there was one Chief Rabbi, and the rest were his subordinates - reverends were even known to wear priestly 'dog collars' in earlier eras.

    Many of these Reverends had clashes with younger and stricter colleagues in their later years. Reverend Amias ( wanted to install microphones in his shul but was banned from doing so. At least one of the rabbis mentioned in the article later served in a Conservative Congregation in the US (, which shows us how flexible the borders of UK Orthodoxy were as late as the 1960's. Rev Isaac Levy, another figure mentioned here, was to go on to support Louis Jacobs, as mentioned here:

    Another of the ministers mentioned, Rev Hardman, also supported Jacobs:

    Thus this was an 'Orthodox' rabbinate where doctrinal uniformity could not necessarily be taken for granted.

    The Rabbi Jacob Heshel of Edgware mentioned was a brother of AJ Heschel, as noted here:

    Many of the rabbis who were 'stricter' at the time, ended up having children who went much further to the right, such as Rabbi M Hool, whose son is a dayan in Jerusalem :

    The Rabbi G. Ellinson mentioned was later to publish an acclaimed series of books on halachic issues relating to women.

  13. J., in your opinion was Jacobs correct in his defense that he was what typically constituted an Orthodox rabbi in his time and place?

    Re Reverend, it should be noted that long before the Church of England structuring of the Rabbinate, English Jews preferred to call rabbis "Reverend." I've seen references to David Nieto as Reverend, and if I'm not mistaken I even saw a reference to the Hida that way. Presumably it had something to do with perceptions about a proper title for a spiritual leader, without the negative connotations of 'rabbi.' (Much the way 'Dr.' also came to be a euphemism for rabbi in many parts of Europe and America, degree or no degree.)

    And by all means, keep commenting.

  14. S. - I'm not really qualified to comment, and I'm not even particularly well read on this topic, but I think there were various levels of what we would now consider 'orthodoxy' at the time amongst the rabbinate. From his writings, one realises that even Jacobs understood that his open promotion of his views was a departure from the practice of his colleagues; I think that in the spirit of the traditional English 'fudge', this issue used to be one of the things that was deemed best left undiscussed in public, the Jacobs affair brought out some trends that were already latent.

    Lord Jacobovits's son-in-law once told me that if Jacobs had been allowed 'to get away with it', mainstream Anglo-Jewry would now have been conservative. I think that even if Louis Jacobs had never existed, this tension would have come to a head at some point, as the cultural trends inspiring a more 'defined' (or dogmatic) orthodoxy, would have collided with the old-style Anglicanesque ecumenism.

    This article on the topic is quite pertinent:

    And this excerpt from a book describes a very interesting meeting between Jacobs and Lord Jacobovits:

  15. Great post, but it was not the London Beth Din/Court of the Chief Rabbi that condemned mixed dancing but the regional Batei Din. Dayan Weiss was in Manchester, for example. It looks like the LBD tried to stay out of it.

    The LBD and regional Batei Din still supervise functions where there is mixed dancing. So I don't think this fuss was a sign of a swing to the right so much as a Hungarian rav, Dayan Weiss, rubbing up against and the realities of a Westernised community

  16. Dr. Elton - They may supervise such functions, but they would no longer hold official synagogue events with mixed dancing, as far as I am aware. It is also the case that the swing to the right is evident in the attitudes of United Synagogue rabbis towards such things, which has changed dramatically since then. Perhaps there were earlier brouhahas of this sort, but I'm not aware of many cases after the war when charedi rabbis made a big noise about what mainstream orthodox officialdom was tolerating, although I defer to your expertise.

  17. The Golders Green Federation synagogue where I grew up ('50's and 60's) regulalry held annual Shul dances on ... New Year's Eve. (No one had ever heard of 'Sylvester'). So, probably, did many other synagogues. Anglo Jewry was completely different, and comparisons to 'normative' American Orthodoxy are misleading. Another issue was completely non-kosher wine served at supervised functions, which only ended, if I remember, in the early 1970's. The UK 'rabbinate' was indeed a rather exotic breed - many 'Revs' of different standards of knowledge, but including many outstanding pastoral ministers (Amias and Hardman, to mention but two). Louis Jacobs, who came entirely from a yeshivah background, maintained that his beliefs were shared by many who occupied Orthodox (ie United Synagogue) pulpits; I am sure he was right. He also recognised, later, that the Jacobs affair was the harbinger of changing times in Orthodoxy, and that his position wouldhave been untenable in the changing world of Orthodoxy in the UK and everywhere else. I respect the reported comment of Lord Jakobovits' son, butI prefer the comment made to me personally by Lord Jakobovits z'l: "If I would have been Chief Rabbi the Jacobs affair would never have happened".

    Finally -the Artscroll English Bible is aimed at the American Evangelical market. See where they advertise....

  18. i'm not the biggest artscroll fan, but practically speaking, what's the big deal with an english-only edition?

  19. The rabbis in question did not accept the authority of the Chief Rabbi -- although they certainly acknowledged the dayanim of the London Beth Din and were happy to bring their din Torah before them -- and they had their own spheres of influence in the more observant regions of the north. It's also important to note that -- with the possible exception of Rabbi B. Horovitz, then Rov of Manchester Central Synagogue and later founder of Yeshivas D'var Yerushalayim -- their background was in the politics of Galicia and the Machzikei Hadas, dominated by Belzer hasidim. Rabbi Babad was the hasidische (Belzer) Rov of the (litvisher) Sunderland Beth Hamedrash and head of Agudas Yisroel in Great Britain. Dayan Weiss was from Galicia, as was the father of Dayan Golditch, who was also, I believe, a Belzer hasid. The combative, Galician approach to mainstream Anglo-Jewish orthodoxy was very different from the withdrawal practised by the Litvisher rabbonim of Gateshead, with whom they otherwise had much in common.

  20. The "reverends" who used to dominate the United Synagogue ministry were not rabbis; they had no smicha, and were usually complete amhoratzim outside Orach Chayim and practical rabbinics. They learned at Jews College how to conduct weddings and funerals, and when to refer a shayla to a real rov, and that was it. Thus it's not so surprising that so many of them professed to be unaware of the issur on mixed dancing.

    What I found interesting was the way several letter-writers' own words proved their falsehood. While going on about how innocent dancing is, and how far the yetzer hara was from their minds at such a time, at least two writers rejected the idea of dancing with another man. Now why would that be, I wonder, if dancing is not a sexual experience? The very fact that they could only conceive of dancing with a woman and not with a man proves beyond doubt that their words about its innocence were lies. It proves that they liked dancing for the sexual thrill it gave them, and not for the physical or mental exercise of going through the steps. And that makes it indeed a Yehareg Ve'al Ya`avor.

  21. Interesting nobody seems to know R' Moshe Turetsky Zatzal. He was a huge Talmid Chacham, and among other things, taught the Chief Rabbi, Lors Sachs at Jews College. He was no Galicianer or Litvak - but a born and bred Brit of many Doiros of Rabbanim.
    Likewise, R' Dovid Smith was an Ilui.
    Leeds long suffered from lack of leadership, and while it once competed with Manchester to be the largest Kehilla outside of London, it has now dwindled to about 10,000 Jews, very few of whom are Shomer Shabbos. I wonder if it the largest Kehilla without a Kollel?! R' Turetsky and R' Babad were 2 of the Rabbanim that did try, though many couldn't care less!

  22. Hi,

    I am currently working on a project with a friend of mine, producing a survey of English poskim. This is going be primarily looking at their works - the nature and way at which they looked at questions. I am working on Lev Aryeh, the teshuvot of Dayan Grossnass. As there are clearly posters here with a lot of knowledge of the history of British Jewry, especially of the period in which he was on the Beis Din, I'm wondering if anyone could help! I am looking for primarily his role in any big communal issues, especially if it is reflected in his books.


    Garry Wayland

  23. I came across this blog as I was searching a name that appears in one of the letters. The name is "Rabbi David Smith" and I wanted to know whether this was the same Rabbi Smith that operated the "chofetz chaim" movement in Edgware, during the 1970s. Although I went there as a teenager, looking back I felt there was something strange compared to other organisations, including those that align to a chareidi hashkafa. I'm curious to find out more.

    Before I continue, I want to mention that I have lived in Israel now around 30 years, and grew up in the UK in a semi-traditional family. What I write in my comment is from this perspective.

    Concerning this interesting blog. It is nowadays well known that mixed dancing is against halacha. The biggest issue is, I think when it comes to ballroom dancing, is dancing with one's wife if she is a nidda. Since we do not want to make any public issue of her status, it is disallowed Rabbinically at any time. I did not get a chance to read every newspaper letter copied into this blog, but I think I saw the most prominent. Did anyone mention this issue in any of the letters?

    With this, and maybe this is why the Rabbis at the Leeds' meeting did not denounce mixed dancing for young singles - was that if they did not allow this on the synagogue premises for the Jewish members - h"v - the already not so religiously attached youth would go to Non-Jewish clubs.

    But with this, having a situation - sometimes allowed/sometime not allowed without understanding the circumstances can cause a lot of confusion among most of us.

    Also - among many dati [religious] modern Jews of our parents' generation - who kept shabbat and kashrut there was not an awareness of all the halachic demands, and it was not seen so terrible that boys and girls hold hands in the same circle.

    In my generation it was already acceptable that boys and girls should have separate circles (and sometimes there was a compromise of concentric circles if the girls were on the outside).

    From a clip I recently saw of a United Synagogue video, now girls and boys dance on separate sides of a mechitza (but girls were allowed to hold a sepher tora on their side).

    Thus, British Jewry has b"h gone a long way since the "reverends" of the previous generations until now, and it is also good to hear of more and more families coming on aliya.

    David Ziants

  24. Hi David,

    Thanks for writing. Re the niddah issue, only one respondent raised it, but more generally rather than specifically with regards to one's own wife. Although the harchakot are only observed with one's wife, the prohibition of touching applies to any woman who is a niddah. Since the assumption is that all single women never go to the mikva, then they are always a niddah. Thus the point is raised by your rabbi Dovid Smith [he signed "Dovid"] that dancing with women is against the Torah itself, Leviticus 18:19.

    Thanks for your perspective about what religious life was like. Sounds pretty similar to the United States during the same period, although without revealing my exact age, it had mostly changed or was in the process of changing here by my childhood.

  25. To S.
    When I said the "biggest issue is" in relation to ballroom dancing, I was obviously assuming that only married couples would dance together thus although it is not allowed for the reason I stated, a "liberal" orthodox couple might decide to permit themselves to dance together if she is permitted to him at this time. (A bit like married couples being allowed to hold hands in public, when they are permitted to each other, if it is a general accepted practice for the community.)

    Thus the idea that mixed dance functions are not so terrible was prevalent, although it is more known these days that it is not allowed halachikly.

    As we are talking about the early 60s, I also assume that it is ballroom dancing was what took place, and not disco.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. Rewriting my previous comment from 5:52 PM .

    Re: Rabbi Dovid Smith
    S - I saw his newspaper letter now from 23rd December 1960 - (Rabbi) Dovid Smith , Youth for Tora. Are you saying that it is the same Rabbi Smith that I mentioned? He also gave public lectures in West End hotels during the early 1980s, and later became the Chief Rabbi of Vilna.

    Is anyone able to confirm this?

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