Simon Rocker's blog



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”.

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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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.”

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Moral capitalism and the collapse of Jabe

By Simon Rocker, February 15, 2012

It is ironic when Prime Minister David Cameron and others have been talking of the need for moral capitalism that the Jewish Association for Business Ethics has folded owing to lack of funds.

JABE successfully exported Jewish ideas on ethical practice to schools and offices well beyond the Jewish community.

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Vegetable Men and Mystery Monsters

By Simon Rocker, January 25, 2012

The mind boggles at what some Jewish children are taught. Take a look at this blog from Rationalist Judaism (Rabbi Natan Slifkin).

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“The most interesting thing happening in Jewish life”

By Simon Rocker, January 24, 2012

Read David Hazony, guest at last month’s Limmud conference, on why the event is not just a winter retreat, but a revolution with far-reaching implications for the Jewish world.

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Should batmitzvah girls be called to the Torah?

By Simon Rocker, January 23, 2012

You may have read our story in Friday’s newspaper about a United Synagogue member asking the London Beth Din whether there are circumstances in which a woman could be called to the Torah.

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Sacks challenged over interfaith views

By Simon Rocker, January 20, 2012

A number of rabbis here have been talking about an article in the latest edition of Tradition, the American journal of Orthodox thought published by the mainstream Rabbinical Council of America.

It is written by Alan Jotkowitz, who is director of the Jakobovits Centre for Medical Ethics at Ben Gurion University, and is a critique of the interfaith views of Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.

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'The Orthodox World is Being Overtaken by Extremism'

By Simon Rocker, January 6, 2012

A very powerful statement on the recent religious clashes in Israel from Rabbi Shaul Robinson of Lincoln Square Synagogue, New York (considered one of the favourites for UK Chief Rabbi, should, of course, he be interested in the job).

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An Israeli yeshivah head’s view of Limmud

By Simon Rocker, January 6, 2012

Rabbi Herzl Hefter, head of Harel Yeshiva in Israel reflects on his recent appearance at Limmud in his weekly email letter:

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Secular Israelis like ‘Mixed Multitude’

By Simon Rocker, January 5, 2012

A very disturbing post on the latest religious unrest in Israel on the website Failed Messiah.

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Intermarriage down in the USA?

By Simon Rocker, November 22, 2011

For as long as I can recall, intermarriage rates have been assumed to be rising in the West.

But an American demographer, recrunching the data, suggests they could have dropped in recent years. You can read more here.

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Picking the Chief

By Simon Rocker, November 17, 2011

The United Synagogue has, predictably, decided not to take the radical step of holding a ballot to elect its next Chief Rabbi after Lord Sacks retires in September 2013.

But it has set up an tripartite structure to make the selection process more representative of the Chief Rabbinate’s constituents and, notably, women will play a greater role than they did in previous years.

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Name games

By Simon Rocker, October 31, 2011

In the past couple of weeks, we have read about the Creation and the Flood in the Torah portions of the week. But for all the drama of the stories, both sedarot end on a seemingly anti-climactic note with a list of names detailing the generations from Adam to Noah in the first sidrah, and then from Shem to Abram (he does not become Abraham until this week) in the second.

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The Honey Trap

By Simon Rocker, October 3, 2011

I have a seasonal confession to make: I don’t like honey.

From early years, I have avoided spreading it on my challah or dipping my apple in it.

As a child, I used to sprinkle sugar on them instead.

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Metal gurus

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2011

Earlier this year I ran an article about an enigmatic collection of lead books which, it was being argued, were ancient Jewish mystical texts.

Immediately, rival theories began to appear all over the media here and abroad that these were early Christian codices.

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Struggling to pay the bills

By Simon Rocker, September 2, 2011

A poignant letter in this week’s Jewish Tribune reveals one family's battle to keep their head above water in these hard economic times.

The anonymous writer used to raise money for Jewish schools, then he lost his job, home and became bankrupt. Life is now a constant struggle.

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The next Chief Rabbi?

By Simon Rocker, August 23, 2011

It’s anyone’s guess who will be the next Chief Rabbi after Lord Sacks retires in two years.

But two rabbis from abroad tipped as possible successors will be visiting next month and teaching on the London School of Jewish Studies High Holy Days programme.

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