Simon Rocker's blog

Vanishing rabbis

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

As we report in our Community section in this week's issue, another United Synagogue pulpit is about to become vacant.

Belmont's Rabbi Daniel Roselaar is leaving his full-time post for a part-time role at the United's new Alei Tzion community in Hendon.

Belmont now joins Shenley, Hampstead Garden Suburb and Radlett in the search for a new rabbi.

I can't remember such a cluster of vacancies occurring that have not been caused by retirement.


Let them eat beans

By Simon Rocker, March 22, 2010

There is a growing lobby to rescind the ban on kitniot for Ashkenazim over Pesach - as this article which appeared in our Passover supplement explains:


The Bread of Affliction

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord....

They must have been doing their Pesach shopping.

"The bills are quite steep this year," Rabbi Julian Schindler, of the Chief Rabbi's marriage authorisation office, told the United Synagogue council this week. Having just been to the shops, he now understood the meaning of Ha Lachma Anya, the Bread of Afflication....


happy birthday

By Simon Rocker, March 17, 2010

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, who is regarded the world's foremost strictly Orthodox leader, is celebrating his 100th birthday in Israel.
A hundertundzwantzig!


Another attack on converts

By Simon Rocker, March 8, 2010

As if there were not enough controversy over conversions already, here is yet another way to make converts feel like second-class citizens.

Ha’aretz reports on a Knesset bill being proposed by David Rotem, MK for the Yisrael Beteinu.

“The bill proposes that the Law of Return only be applicable to Jews or their offspring, and not to non-Jews who opted to convert - even if the conversion follows Orthodox procedure in line with state religious courts in Israel,” the newspaper says.


The Choosing People

By Simon Rocker, March 5, 2010

“The traditional Jewish community, bounded by a combination of external hostility and limitations and internal comfort and familiarity, has had its walls battered, breached and broken, not so much by antisemitism but rather by the winds of sociological change. We are now free to come and go as we please.
“…In many respects, we are no longer a chosen people, compelled by God, or fate, or history to be part of the Jewish community, but rather a choosing people, deciding day-by-day, minute-by-minute whether or not we want our Jewishness to inform our lives.”


Sex, faith and Mr Balls

By Simon Rocker, February 26, 2010

Schools Secretary Ed Balls may have come under fire this week for making too many concessions to faith schools over sex education.

But the reality is, it doesn't seem all that clear precisely how the national guidelines will play out in the classroom.

While religious schools will not be able to opt out of requirements to teach "sex and relationships education", they will be able to present it according to their own religious values. However, Mr Balls stressed, they will not be able to teach their views of their own faith alone.


After book-burning comes computer-smashing

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2010

Sacred vandalism, 21st-century style: a rabbi destroying a computer, which you can watch on the website Yeshivah World.


An eye for an eye? A no for no.

By Simon Rocker, February 23, 2010

In a comment piece on Express Online, Chris Royford-Davis led the cheers for the Dubai assassination widely believed to be Mossad's handiwork.

His article, entitled “Why Can’t This Country Follow Israel’s Lead” included the paragraph:


The Pontiff and the Prophylactics

By Simon Rocker, February 12, 2010

My favourite headline from the religious press this week: "Vatican shelves 200-page condom study."
(from the Catholic journal, The Tablet)


New Israel Fund under fresh attack

By Simon Rocker, February 8, 2010

A second front has been opened against the New Israel Fund, the progressive philanthropic organisation.
NIF has already been under fire in Israel for funding organisations whose critical comments on the IDF’s conduct in last year’s Gaza operation were included in the controversial Goldstone report.
Now an article in the latest English-language edition of the strictly Orthodox newspaper, Hamodia, lays into the group for fostering pluralism in Israel.


The Pope, JFS and the transsexual rabbi

By Simon Rocker, February 2, 2010

Now the Pope has turned his pontifical guns on the government’s Equality Bill, saying it is interfering with religious rights.
Even before his intervention, the bill was having a tough time in the Lords, where last week peers inflicted a defeat on the government.
One of the bill’s aims is to consolidate laws which, for example, make it illegal for a religious organisation to refuse to employ a gay person – although there are exceptions.


A rabbinic ghostbuster

By Simon Rocker, January 29, 2010

From the initimitable Rabbi William Wolff’s “Last Word” column in the new edition of Manna magazine:


The Messianic Jew, the Anti-Zionist Vicar and the Police

By Simon Rocker, January 26, 2010

Joseph Weissman, third-generation Messianic Jew, reveals how his exposés of Christian anti-Zionism on the blog Seismic Shock earned him a visit from the police. You can read more about his exploits on Harry’s Place.


What turns young American Jews on

By Simon Rocker, January 12, 2010

Reasons to be cheerful: leading social scientist Steven Cohen highlighted some of the positive trends within American Jewry during a recent visit to London. You can now read a report of his observations here.


Never mind the dybbuks, go see a doctor

By Simon Rocker, January 12, 2010

Here’s a new twist to the story of the Brazilian man supposedly possessed by a dybbuk, who recently underwent an attempted internet exorcism by a kabbalist.
Now a leading strictly Orthodox rabbi has offered an alternative, and rather less mystical, remedy: try a doctor.


Airport scanners are too revealing, say Euro-rabbis

By Simon Rocker, January 11, 2010

When there was talk of deploying full body scanners at airports, I wondered if any rabbinic objection would come on the grounds that the machines would be too revealing.
Well here it is, according to Ha’aretz.


Sand’s anti-people book is taken apart in The Guardian

By Simon Rocker, January 11, 2010

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg delivers a damning verdict on Shlomo Sand’s controversial book “The Invention of the Jewish People” in a Guardian review.
He writes: “Its sweeping attempt to take apart the entire history of the Jewish people from its origins to present-day Israel and prove it to be a wilful fabrication is marred by tendentious premises, the misreading of key events and the ignoring of central texts and insitutions.”
For more, read here.


Religion is sick

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2010

The headline to Rabbi Jeremy Rosen's latest blog says it all. Never one to mince his words, this reflection on some of the scandals that have broken out in the Jewish world over the past year is outspoken even by his standards.


American Orthodox Rabbi Attacks Hardline Conversion Trends

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Rabbi Marc Angel, writing in The Forward, criticises the trend towards stricter conversion policies."Good, talented and well-intentioned Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora have been eliminated as recognised gatekeepers to the Jewish people," he says. For more read here.