Simon Rocker's blog

Dawkins, Sacks and Jewish Nobel laureates

By Simon Rocker, February 20, 2015

A year and a half ago Richard Dawkins caused more than his usual stir when he tweeted that the entire Muslim population had won fewer Nobels than Trinity College Cambridge.


UKIP’s family-unfriendly benefit policy

By Simon Rocker, February 12, 2015

UKIP tied itself up in knots last week, after announcing support for a ban on religious slaughter, only for senior party members to indicate they were looking for a way to backtrack.

But it is not the only policy that would not go down well within the Jewish community.


Are old camel bones really a blow to Zionism?

By Simon Rocker, March 13, 2014

An investigation into ancient camel bones in Israel caused a good deal of excitement recently.


How far will the Chief Rabbi go on women?

By Simon Rocker, February 20, 2014

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis this week spelt out the reasons for his opposition to partnership minyans at the annual conference for United Synagogue rabbis.

Two months ago he announced that PMs – semi-egalitarian Orthodox services where women can read from the Torah – were inappropriate to hold on US premises.


Where were Lubavitch?

By Simon Rocker, January 10, 2014

Leading Orthodox outreach organisations gathered at conference in Watford last weekend, pledging to work more closely together in a spirit of unity.


Limmud - what the international Jewish media said

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2014

Here's the views of some guests from abroad at the Limmud conference published over the past few days:

"The weather was awful, and the food not much better- but everything else about this annual British-Jewish mega-event was fabulous” “Judy Maltz of Ha’aretz


The Gateshead Rav on Limmud

By Simon Rocker, January 6, 2014

The Gateshead Rav, Rabbi Shraga Faivel Zimmerman, has returned to the question of Limmud, in an article in last week’s edition of the Orthodox weekly, the Jewish Tribune.


The next chief?

By Simon Rocker, December 31, 2013

As we forecast last month, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, is set to come home to take the pulpit at Finchley United vacated in spring by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.


The chief rabbi and partnership minyans

By Simon Rocker, December 27, 2013

It was hardly a shock when Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote to his rabbis last week to rule out partnership minyans – Orthodox services where women can read from the Torah and lead certain prayers.

Whereas his recent decisions to go to Limmud or approve the election of women as trustees of the United Synagogue were welcome, they were not unexpected and hardly radical.


European Jewry alive and kicking

By Simon Rocker, December 27, 2013

There are some people in the Jewish world who have written off European Jewry as a lost cause. But not everyone regards us as basically only a pool for potential aliyah.


The Chief's Limmud triumph

By Simon Rocker, December 24, 2013

When Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis announced his decision to go to Limmud, he might have expected the odd murmur of disapproval to his right.

But he must have been taken aback by the stridency of the resulting Charedi attack on Limmud, a clear attempt to dissuade his rabbinate from accompanying him there.


Why I was blindfolded

By Simon Rocker, December 24, 2013

According to rabbinic lore, the giving of the Ten Commandments was almost fatal. The voice of God who uttered the first two was so powerful that it killed the Israelites and they had to be resurrected (after which, understandably, Moses took over).

So imagine my apprehension when I attended a session which sought to recreate the receiving of the Ten Commandments.


Thinking aloud

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2013

A leading Jewish philanthropist asked me what the value of Limmud was: it could hardly compete with the sustained,in-depth study, say, of a university course.

Firstly, Limmud is a gateway for many people, opening areas of Jewish interest which they might never have thought of exploring before.


Was Limmud right to ditch Kabbalah Centre?

By Simon Rocker, December 17, 2013

Limmud’s decision late in the day to drop a speaker from the London Kabbalah Centre, following outrage over his scheduled appearance at next week’s conference, has prompted debate over the limits of inclusion.


Limmud: to go or not to go, the argument continues

By Simon Rocker, November 25, 2013

Whatever else it has done, Chief Rabbi Mirvis’s decision to attend next month’s Limmud conference has reawakened the debate over Orthodox-Progressive relations and pluralism.

Here is one of the more thoughtful contributions from an Orthodox non-Limmud goer, Daniel Greenberg.


'A mitzvah to go to Limmud'

By Simon Rocker, November 21, 2013

See this contribution to the debate over Limmud from former Bnei Akiva shaliach to the UK, Rabbi Benjamin Lau of Israel.


An Orthodox response to the anti-Limmudniks

By Simon Rocker, November 13, 2013

Renewed attacks on Limmud this week have brought a sharp riposte from the United Synagogue rabbi who 17 years ago defied the London Beth Din ban and went to the conference.

Rabbi Michael Harris of Hampstead Synagogue has just posted a blog responding to Limmud’s critics on the right.


Gateshead v Limmud

By Simon Rocker, October 20, 2013

Will the Charedi attack on Chief Rabbi Mirvis’s decision to go to Limmud have any long-term repercussions?


A biblical cry from 1949

By Simon Rocker, October 17, 2013

This week’s sidrah of Vayera is one of the most memorable in the Torah, containing among other things the seminal episode of the near-sacrifice of Isaac, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham’s bold challenge to God to spare the doomed cities, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?”


British Jews - liberal, secular and not so shul-going

By Simon Rocker, October 11, 2013

The YouGov poll, which we report this week, offers fresh evidence that many British Jews regard themselves as secular or cultural rather than religious.