Simon Rocker's blog

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.


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.