Simon Rocker's blog

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.


The Purim Horse Ban

By Simon Rocker, March 17, 2011

I have a brief story in this week's paper about rabbis in Stamford Hill clamping down on over-the-top Purim celebrations this year.

They were worried about people hiring open top buses or horse and carriages.

Why the concern about horses?

Here's an explanation, courtesy of the If You Tickle Us blog:


“Katzav is innocent”

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

Israeli ex-President Moshe Katzav awaits sentencing after being convicted of rape last month.


Faith schools back in court

By Simon Rocker, February 15, 2011

There is a new High Court looming next month involving a faith school…but at least this time it is not Jewish.

The Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, a highly-regarded Catholic comprehensive in west London, has been at the centre of a long-running dispute over admissions.

The oversubscribed school gave priority for admission to the children of Catholics who were active in the church, using a religious points system (as has now been adopted by Jewish schools).


The Neuberger “threat”

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2011

The imminent return of Baroness Neuberger to the rabbinate is continuing to cause a stir in the Orthodox world.
In the newly redesigned Jewish Tribune, enjoying a fresh lease of life after talk of its demise a few months ago, columnist Alex Strom sees a threat in her public profile.
“It would be disastrous if someone representing a movement that rejects Yiddishkeit and has brought about a spiritual churban [catastrophe] to Jewry became Jewry’s spokesman simply by default,” he declares.


The Baroness and the Chief Rabbi

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2011

I wrote last week that the appointment of Baroness Neuberger as senior rabbi of West London Synagogue would give the Progressive movement "a louder voice on the national stage" and that she "may even give the Chief Rabbi a run for his money".


Rabbi Julia

By Simon Rocker, January 28, 2011

Unless there is some unforeseen rebellion among West London Synagogue members, Baroness Neuberger will shortly be confirmed as the oldest British Reform congregation’s new senior rabbi.
West Londoners who wanted to have a high-profile spiritual leader must be delighted to see the return to the pulpit one of the few rabbis whose face is well-known outside the community. She will certainly give the Progressive movement a louder voice on the national stage – she may even give the Chief Rabbi a run for his money.


More on organ donations

By Simon Rocker, January 25, 2011

Controversy continues over the new guidelines on organ donation issued by the Chief Rabbi and the London Beth Din.
See, for example, this fresh attack on his policy from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Moshe Tendler.


What's the point of Hebrew

By Simon Rocker, January 24, 2011

Overheard from a luckless Ivrit teacher at a Jewish secondary school.

"What's the point of learning Hebrew, miss?" she was asked by one of her reluctant pupils. "All the Israelis can speak Engish anyway."


The Sacks Legacy – the Debate goes on

By Simon Rocker, December 31, 2010

The debate on the merits of the Chief Rabbinate has spread overseas following the announcement of Lord Sacks’s retirement in two and a half years.

Shmuley Boteach, writing in the Jerusalem Post, contended: “A chief rabbi is not principally an ambassador or a writer but a leader, and judged by this criteria Sacks, over the last two decades, failed to demonstrate the single most important component of leadership, moral courage.”