Simon Rocker's blog

What to do about intermarriage?

By Simon Rocker, July 7, 2016

When the Institute for Jewish Policy Research launched its report on marriage this week, there was surprise among the audience.

Although the intermarriage rate, at 26 per cent, has reached an all-time in the UK, many had expected it to be higher. If it has not quite plateaued, it has risen only slightly in the past couple of decades.


Torah and cheesecake

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2016

Next weekend we’ll be celebrating what a friend the other day referred to “the cheesecake festival”. While Shavuot remains probably remains the least observed of the five major festivals in the calendar, it has been undergoing a revival in recent years.


Was the Chief Rabbi right on Zionism?

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2016

The Chief Rabbi made his strongest public statement since coming into office two and a half years ago when he intervened in the Labour antisemitism controversy, warning that the party had a “severe problem”.


End the beans ban now

By Simon Rocker, April 28, 2016

More Conservative Jews in the USA have been eating beans and rice this Pesach after the movement’s rabbinate lifted the ban on Ashkenazim eating kitniot, legumes.

Among the factors cited for ending a centuries-old tradition were the growing number of mixed Ashkenazi-Sephardi families or the need to cater for vegans or people on gluten-free diets.


Missing boys in Charedi schools

By Simon Rocker, April 1, 2016

Last night Newsnight ran a lengthy report on the “missing boys” – the hundreds of Charedi youngsters in Stamford Hill being taught in unregistered schools.

I am not quite sure how “exclusive” it was since we have been reporting on this for years, and other media have picked up the issue too.


'Reform scumbags'

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2016

The plan to establish a new egalitarian section at the Kotel in Jerusalem was meant to solve a long-running dispute. But the compromise has now precipitated an ugly round of religious polemics as the Charedi political establishment tries to defend the state against the encroachment of the non-Orthodox.


Why the Purim story is one for the ages

By Simon Rocker, March 23, 2016

Purim is the joker in the pack of Jewish festivals. It is the closest we get to carnival, with the fancy dress, the mayhem of the megillah reading, the alcohol – it’s a mitzvah to get tipsy if not paralytic – and the Purim spiels.


Schools lottery

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2016

Spare a thought for the parents waiting to know next week whether their child will have won a place at a Jewish secondary school this autumn. The chances are that many will have to wait a little longer until a satisfactory offer comes up as the places merry-go-round spins again.


Are pop-up minyans the answer to prayers?

By Simon Rocker, February 16, 2016

A friend of mine who is shomeret Shabbat recently confided that she has stopped going to shul on Shabbat morning because she finds the service boring. I suspect there are other people who think the same way but continue to drag themselves out of the house from a sense of duty.


Schools, places and politics

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2016

We have devoted a fair amount of space this week to the announcement of plans for a new state-aided Orthodox Jewish secondary school in Barnet.

The Kedem High School proposal seems to fit perfectly with the government’s free school scheme.


Ofsted and a question of stoning

By Simon Rocker, January 21, 2016

The government’s attempt to nip extremism in the bud is having an increasing knock-on effect on strictly Orthodox Jewish schools.

Its “British values” agenda is intended to promote respect and tolerance for other cultures and faiths among children – in contrast to sectarian ideologies seen as a stepping-stone to militancy.


Next year in Birmingham

By Simon Rocker, December 31, 2015

An Israeli acquaintance, taking an early morning dip in the Hilton pool at Limmud, remarked that the water was so pleasantly warm that it was like swimming in chicken soup.


Life at Hotel Limmud

By Simon Rocker, December 29, 2015

By the end of the first day of Limmud, it felt like a simchah without a function. I’d run into a cousin, cousins of my wife and some old acquaintances I had not seen for 20 years or so.


Get texting - Limmud style

By Simon Rocker, December 24, 2015

War and peace may shortly be starting on BBC but Limmud has got there first.

After all the recent debate over military intervention in Syria, there could hardly be more apposite theme for the chavruta - one to one - study programme at Limmud conference than that of war and peace.


Where have all the Israelis gone?

By Simon Rocker, December 17, 2015

Charedi MK Rabbi Yisroel Eichler of the United Torah Judaism party was in town recently.

In an interview with the Jewish Tribune, he set out his view why there was "no place" for a yeshivah student to be in the Israeli army.

Whereas the number of soldiers was important in the past, today technology made it possible for an army to fight with fewer people, he argued.


Where have all the (US) rabbis gone?

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2015

This is something I imagine I’d not be writing about again.

But first some figures.

Number of United Synagogue rabbis listed to speak in the Limmud UK conference programme:
2013: 10
2014: 9
2015: 1


Home alone without a Jewish school

By Simon Rocker, November 22, 2015

Last week we ran a feature about an 11-year-old Hertfordshire boy being kept at home by his parents because he had been unable to gain a place at a Jewish secondary school.


The heresy hunt comes to Europe

By Simon Rocker, November 19, 2015

Two years after a brave young American rabbi published an online essay, the row it provoked continues to rumble.


What to do about the children of intermarried couples?

By Simon Rocker, November 17, 2015

Inreach or outreach? It’s a continuing dilemma for policy-makers in Jewish communities.

Do you target your educational efforts on those who are already within the communal loop – synagogue members, Jewish day school pupils etc? Or do you try to engage the widest spectrum of Jews, or even potential Jews? If money were no object, of course, you would not have to choose.


Israel, British Jews and the religious divide

By Simon Rocker, November 12, 2015

The findings of the City University survey on British-Jewish attitudes to Israel will no doubt be talked and argued about over Friday night tables, Saturday morning kiddush and elsewhere over the next few days.