Simon Rocker's blog



The United Synagogue and free speech

By Simon Rocker, October 20, 2015

On the Richter Scale of communal controversies, it may have registered low. But you might still catch the tremor if you put your ear closer to the ground.

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Advance for women at Hampstead

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2015

Hampstead Synagogue’s new scholar-in-residence ought to prompt more than passing interest.

Dina Brawer,who will teach at the US congregation over the coming year, is an experienced educator.

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Sacks and Violence

By Simon Rocker, June 29, 2015

Simon Rocker is Judaism Editor for the JC

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Experts failed to see this school-places shortfall coming

By Simon Rocker, June 25, 2015

The competition for Jewish secondary school places has clearly caught the community's educations leaders by surprise. With little over two months to go to the start of the new school year, you might have found a handful of children still waiting for places at this stage in the past few years. But there appear to be at least a classful this year.

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JW3's pop-up learning

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2015

There are probably more people involved in the serious study of Jewish texts than ever before. But you don’t have to have gone to yeshivah or sem to enjoy it.

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Gay cakes and women drivers

By Simon Rocker, May 29, 2015

In Northern Ireland, a Christian-run bakery is appealing against a ruling that it broke the law when it refused an order to make a cake celebrating gay marriage.

It’s a case that tests the balance between equality and religious freedom.

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Come to the learning party this Shavuot

By Simon Rocker, May 22, 2015

Shavuot is often regarded as the Cinderella of major festivals that often slips by unnoticed. While shuls may be greened up and cholestorol levels rise with the proliferation of cheesecake, there are no home practices associated with it such as succah or Seder.

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Braced for benefit cuts

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2015

Most British Jews will be pleased or relieved at the election result, if our poll indicating that a significant majority intended to vote Conservative was accurate.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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