Simon Rocker's blog

The Chief Rabbi at Limmud

By Simon Rocker, September 17, 2013

Now that Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has taken the decision to go to the Limmud conference himself, it will be interesting to see how many of his rabbis follow suit.

The dearth of central Orthodox rabbis at British Jewry’s most celebrated education event has long been a gripe among United Synagogue Limmud-goers.


'Israel could learn a thing or two from British Jewry'

By Simon Rocker, September 9, 2013

That might come as news to Israelis. But the United Synagogue's Israel Rabbi, Gideon Sylvester, writing in Ha'aretz, argues that tolerance is a British Jewish virtue which Israel would do well to emulate.


Intermarried rabbinic students

By Simon Rocker, August 2, 2013

Equality laws may be having more effect on Jewish life than many anticipated.

As we report in this week’s paper, Leo Baeck College, the progressive rabbinical training institute has changed its entry rules, which would have previously disallowed intermarried candidates for its ordination course.


Grill Gove on Hebrew

By Simon Rocker, July 4, 2013

Education Secretary Michael Gove is speaking on Monday night at an event at Hasmonean High School.

He should be pressed to explain his department’s continuing refusal to admit Hebrew as one of the officially recognised foreign languages for primary schools.

Only seven languages are on the approved list: German, Italian, French, Spanish, Mandarin and classical Latin and Greek.


Man of mystery

By Simon Rocker, June 14, 2013

Kabbalah was once dismissed as medieval mumbo-jumbo that no self-respecting Jew in the West would give any time to.

Now the mystical tradition is widely recognised as the extraordinary product of the Jewish religious imagination and an enduring source of spiritual insight.


Chief Rabbi and gay marriage

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2013

Do the Chief Rabbi’s remarks on gay marriage this week represent a shift in United Synagogue policy?

Lord Sacks disputed the suggestion that he had “come out strongly” against government proposals to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.


Land of the Locust Eaters

By Simon Rocker, March 7, 2013

The swarm of locusts which, showing no respect for borders, arrived in Israel this week from Egypt has triggered a good deal of online comment about whether you can eat them or not (though how you catch them I don't know - perhaps with an aeroplane with a very large net).


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.