London Authority Refuses ‘Inharmonious’ Plan to Allow Kohanim to Use Tube

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    LONDON (JNS) – One of several things that sets kohanim—often translated as “priests”—apart from other Jews is that those who trace lineage back to Moses’s brother Aaron, the high priest, must maintain higher levels of ritual purity.

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    Unlike their Jewish peers, kohanim cannot be under the same roof as a corpse, which is why Jews with that lineage often cannot visit many natural history and comprehensive art museums that house mummies.

    The estimated 1,500 kohanim who live in London thus cannot use the London Underground lines that stop at or run through South Kensington station, due to its proximity to the Science Museum. The museum has “4,351 human remains from many different countries and historical periods,” per its site, of which only a small number are on display.

    London Science Museum
    Humans skull on view at the London National History and Science Museums. Credit: Ioan Panaite/Shutterstock.

    Kohanim thus requested the addition of a “secondary roof” at the train station entrance, to create a physical separation from the museum, which would satisfy rabbinic legal requirements, permitting them to use the station without violating their religious beliefs.

    However, the Chelsea and Kensington Council’s planning committee recently rejected the proposal, which reportedly would have cost several million pounds. (One million pounds is equivalent to roughly $1.23 million.)

    The proposed structure would have featured an inscription at eye-level reading: “A Kohen (a person of priestly lineage) is forbidden to allow himself to become contaminated with negative spiritual forces, such as those emanating from a corpse.”

    Locals reportedly opposed the secondary roof as “inharmonious” design.

    The Knightsbridge Association, a local voluntary association that aims to “preserve and enhance the character” of the area, expressed its disapproval, deeming the addition “incongruous” and “out of keeping with the listed aspects of the original entrance to the tunnel.”

    Others expressed concerns about the archway potentially obstructing part of the public highway.

    While the rejection addresses architectural and preservation concerns, it also underscores the delicate balance between religious accommodations and urban development, leaving room for ongoing discussions on how to navigate such situations.

    Rabbi Josef Dünner, of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, an umbrella organization of London’s Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) communities, proposed concession, including removing the Hebrew script on the structure. Councilors still refused the plans.

    Non-optional

    Aaron Schimmel, a doctoral candidate in Jewish history at Stanford University, told JNS that the council’s decision to reject the plans amounts to “an expression of a more subtle antisemitism” at a time when anti-Jewish hate crimes of various stripes continue to spike across the world.

    The Metropolitan Police covering London recent reported a 1,350% increase in recorded antisemitic offenses in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel.

    “Many view Jewish observance, including the restrictions observed by kohanim, as optional,” said Schimmel. “Being a kohen is both an honor and a responsibility, passed down in families from generation to generation.”

    The commandment that kohanim avoid impurity “is not simply a meaningful ritual that kohanim benefit from spiritually,” he said. “It is a central and non-optional feature of their way of life.”

    That the council dismissed the concerns of kohanim, “especially when the requested solution appears so simple and non-obtrusive, reads as a belittling dismissal of Jewish ritual, and an obstinate refusal to make an effort to help Jews, which contributes further to the current environment of antisemitism,” he said.


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    20 Comments
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    Boruch
    Boruch
    2 months ago

    I maybe in the minoirty who thinks that… We Jews keep nudging and shnoring from our respective governments, while in galus. And when we’re denied, or when the goim get annoyed with us, we’re quick to go for the anti-semitism card. I don’t think our behavior is the cause of sinas yisroel, but in many cases it cetainly doesn’t help.

    anonymous
    anonymous
    2 months ago

    Let the kohanim pay for it. End of story.

    The_Truth
    The_Truth
    2 months ago

    I thought only Jewish corpses had tumah after death, but non Jewish corpse would not? Unless they are saying that there are Jewish remains at the Natural History & Science Museums?
    Is this a new exhibit? Those museums have been there for 150 years and those bones probably similar time frame!

    C R
    C R
    2 months ago

    What is the likelihood that there are the remains of Jews among the collection? As I understand it, much of the inventory are of different humanoid “species.” Think Nephilim and the like. And for certain all the “homo sapiens” are from before Avraham’s time so for sure non-Jews. Given that, what is the need for a secondary covering to be mafsik the ohel? All you need to do is not touch the remains; something which very few would have difficulty with. This argument seems a bit much.

    Biden funds the terrorists and undermines Israel.
    Biden funds the terrorists and undermines Israel.
    2 months ago

    I dont think it’s an anti Jewsih decision it probably is an aesthetic decision. Saying that, I think they should make a pact with the muslims, have the muslims claim some religious reason for the added roof, the council will bend over backwards to approve it and build it as quickly as they can.

    Moone
    Moone
    2 months ago

    I think it’s okay to ask, they don’t have to comply, and we cannot hold them as owing it to us — however it would be a nice gesture.

    Hee Haw
    Hee Haw
    2 months ago

    Kohanim, leviyim, zorim, get out and come Home already. You’re there because you’ve been getting every handout British program. Stop whining, make Aliyah.