LONDON (Dec. 27)
Orthodox Jews are harder hit than most other Jews here by the economic crisis that has gripped the British Isles as a result of the fuel shortage. This is because the three-day working week introduced by the government, beginning Jan. 1, in order to save energy, will, in some zones, fall on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This means that observant Jews, who normally close their shops and business establishments at noon Friday during the winter months will have only a day-and-a-half work week.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Chief Rabbinate have been in consultation with government officials but there is little the government can do. The system of zoning–staggering the work week so that the working days are different in different parts of the UK–was de- signed to prevent a breakdown in the electricity supply. It is therefore technically impossible to make exemptions.
While it is possible for observant Jews to work Sundays, wages are double for Sunday work. It is feared that many enterprises run by Orthodox Jews will not be able to survive. As for the majority of Britain’s 450,000 Jews, they are affected no less than the general population. The government has made it clear that the unprecedented fuel-saving measures were adopted because of labor disputes in the coal and power industries and not because of the reduction of Middle East oil production.