Simon Rocker's blog

A new voice in Israel

By Simon Rocker, February 22, 2013

Diaspora Jews generally pay little attention to what Israeli politicians say in the Knesset.

But one speech has won the admiration of many in the Jewish world.

It was the maiden parliamentary address by Ruth Calderon, one of the MK’s for Yair Lapid’s new Yesh Atid party.


Gove’s Philistines

By Simon Rocker, February 14, 2013

The Department for Education’s decision to ignore Jewish protests and refuse to recognise Hebrew as an official language for primary school teaching can only be described as an act of philistinism.

It makes absolutely no sense to include Latin and ancient Greek (along with French, Spanish, Italian, German and Spanish) on the list of seven – but not Hebrew.


Rabbi David Hartman

By Simon Rocker, February 12, 2013

The death of Rabbi David Hartman in Israel on Sunday has deprived the Jewish world of one of its most forward-looking thinkers.

The Shalom Hartman Institute he founded endeavoured to find bridges between rabbinic tradition and the pluralism of contemporary Jewish life.


Nothing like a good argument

By Simon Rocker, January 24, 2013

The British-born Israeli Talmud scholar Daniel Sperber – who is speaking at South Hampstead Synagogue on Sunday night – is one of the most eminent Orthodox academics.


Taking care of business

By Simon Rocker, January 18, 2013

Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has just issued a strong ruling on business ethics which you can find more about on the Failed Messiah blog.


Beans, not burgers

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2013

Should the 21st century ideal of kashrut include giving up eating meat altogether? A recent article in the JC has reignited the debate between veggies and fleishniks.

In a letter in this week’s JC, Masorti’s Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, puts the meat-free case.


Out of touch in Stamford Hill

By Simon Rocker, December 28, 2012

The United Synagogue’s decision to allow women to chair synagogues has been largely welcomed but not everyone is applauding.

In the Jewish Tribune, the Stamford Hill- based Charedi weekly, columnist Ben Yitzchok calls it a "most regrettable and major step backwards”.


Masorti on the fence over gay marriage

By Simon Rocker, December 13, 2012

The Reform and Liberal movements have both welcomed the government’s promise to press ahead with the introduction of gay marriage.

The Chief Rabbi has made his opposition known, but he has certainly not been as vocal about it as Catholic leaders.


We have an archbishop, but not a chief rabbi

By Simon Rocker, November 8, 2012

The new Archbishop of Canterbury will be formally named tomorrow - who is expected to be the Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby.

It took the Anglican Church eight months to choose their next head after Rowan Williams announced he was stepping down in March.


Making the case for the Bible

By Simon Rocker, October 11, 2012

It’s back to Bereshit this week as the Torah reading cycle begins anew. While the stories may be familiar, what has kept them fresh is the belief that there are always new insights to be gleaned.


Orient, here we come

By Simon Rocker, August 24, 2012

Next month's strictly Orthodox rally in London on the dangers of the internet has proved so popular that the organisers have had to move it from Alexandra Palace to Leyton Orient's football stadium.

American Charedim have used sports stadia to stage events in the past but this is the first time I can recall that one has been hired in the UK.


Kosher Mistress?

By Simon Rocker, July 19, 2012

Israel Hayom reports: “The Chief Judge of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel, has ruled that in cases where a man has not fathered any children, and his wife cannot or does not want to bear children, the man may take a concubine.”
Click to read more


Why rabbis should get on their bikes

By Simon Rocker, July 16, 2012

The first Rabbis Relay Ride which ended recently appears to have been a great success, raising £30,000 for charity.

More than 20 rabbis took the saddle at various stages along the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

What was significant is that the participants embraced representatives from across the board, Orthodox, Reform, Liberal and Masorti.


The Chief Rabbi on gay marriage: silence not an option

By Simon Rocker, July 6, 2012

The Chief Rabbi has come under fire for his opposition to civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples (see our front-page story this week).


Should the Chief Rabbi stay on?

By Simon Rocker, June 19, 2012

An online petition has been started calling for the Chief Rabbi to stay on beyond his scheduled retirement date. Lord Sacks is planning to move on after 21 years in office in September 2013, six months after his 65th birthday.


GCSE antisemitism: the hidden question

By Simon Rocker, June 1, 2012

There has been a sharp divergence of opinion among Jewish educators about the wisdom of the question set in a GCSE religious studies exam this year, “Explain, briefly, why some people are prejudiced against Jews”.


Should Orthodox deputies cover their heads?

By Simon Rocker, May 24, 2012

One of the novelties of the vice-presidential elections at the Board of Deputies on Sunday was that they were live-streamed, enabling web spectators to follow events.


Deadly comments

By Simon Rocker, May 14, 2012

Last week’s Torah portion of Emor ended with the unhappy of a story of a man who was stoned for cursing God.

Despite the biblical precedent, however, the rabbis, always reluctant to impose the death penalty, later made it extremely difficult to convict for blasphemy.


Keep me a seat in the Lords

By Simon Rocker, April 26, 2012

A parliamentary committee this week backed the government’s proposal that in future members of the House of Lords should be restricted to a maximum 15 years’ service.

But in his submission on Lords reform, the Chief Rabbi Sacks says that those chosen to represent faith communities should be made life peers “so as to encourage continuity of contribution”.


Lord Sacks and the Whale

By Simon Rocker, March 13, 2012

I’ve heard quite a few people comment on the Chief Rabbi’s recent Jewish Book Week conversation with mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

I can't see that the Chief dropped any theological bombshells, although he did say, when asked about Jonah and the Whale, “No one has ever read these stories in the Jewish tradition literally.”