Simon Rocker's blog

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.


'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).


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


The Sacks Chumash

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

The Chief Rabbi’s eagerly-awaited new Rosh Hashanah machzor should be reaching the shops within a week or two.

It is published by Koren, who have already produced a version of his (green) Singer’s siddur for the international market.

It should be followed by a new Yom Kippur machzor next year and the complete festival set by the time he leaves office in 2013.


The Next Chief

By Simon Rocker, July 15, 2011

A typically forthright contribution to the debate about the next Chief Rabbi from Rabbi Jeremy Rosen on his blog, who writes: "Not one Chief Rabbi since Hertz has stood up to the Beth Din. No new one will be any more likely to than his predecessors. The hounds of the religious right are already baying.


The US presidential election

By Simon Rocker, July 6, 2011

All too often elections to Anglo-Jewish organisations are a formality, with one group of leaders slipping unopposed into the seats vacated by their predecessors.

So it’s worth applauding the fact that there will be a contest to lead the community’s largest organisation, the United Synagogue, for its next triennial.


Jewish Schools and Israel

By Simon Rocker, May 24, 2011

Last year’s survey on the attitudes of British Jews towards Israel pose interesting questions for Jewish education, according to Jon Boyd, director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, which ran the survey.

Let me quote from part of the synopsis of his presentation at last week’s UJIA education conference:


The Synagogue and the Naked Lady

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2011

On the way to shul last Shabbat, I mused upon a mystery: how is it that some synagogues come familiarly to be known by the roads in which they are located, while others do not.


Engaging with Israel

By Simon Rocker, May 11, 2011

Sunday’s “We Believe in Israel” conference has been billed as the largest advocacy of its kind in this country. But if you go to the conference home page, you’ll notice that the word “advocacy” does not appear.


The tale of the lead books

By Simon Rocker, April 8, 2011

A few weeks I wrote about a cache of lead books from the Middle East that has been claimed as a significant archaeologist discovery.


Are schools bad for shuls?

By Simon Rocker, March 29, 2011

The seemingly unstoppable rise in the number of Jewish schools is widely regarded as one of the most positive features of British Jewry.

But not everyone agrees. Here is a dissenting opinion from an unusual source – the United Synagogue.


Remembering Debbie Friedman

By Simon Rocker, March 24, 2011

There is a memorial concert on Saturday night (March 26) for Debbie Friedman, the influential American Jewish singer who sadly died in January aged 59, shortly after her last appearance at the Limmud UK conference.