The white smoke has gone up. Ephraim Mirvis is to be the seventh Chief Rabbi since the office was established in 1845. He is an unusual choice. He is 10 years older than most of his predecessors were when they started and is known as a pastor rather than a scholar. However, that brings certain advantages.
Many years ago, my elderly aunt was desperate to know why so many of her friends were abandoning the United Synagogue and defecting to Reform communities. Hearing that the head of the Reform Movement would be speaking at a public meeting, she went along to pose her question: “How are you enticing so many Orthodox Jews to join your movement?”.
Chanucah is the easiest festival to keep. What’s not to like about lighting candles and eating doughnuts? You don’t even have to go to the trouble of reading a book, as you do with Megillat Esther on Purim.
In 1964 ITV launched a groundbreaking documentary, 7 Up, which interviewed a group of seven-year-old children from across Britain; seven years later the programme-makers went back to see how they were growing up and returned for subsequent series. Now comes what UJIA research director Dr Helena Miller is calling “our Jewish 7 Up”.
Michael Walzer is one of the world’s leading political philosophers. What has consistently given his work special interest for Jewish readers is the way he often uses biblical and rabbinic sources to illustrate and even formulate his arguments.
When rabbis deliver their sermons tomorrow, many will take a passage from the weekly Torah portion and make some link with a contemporary issue or event. The assumption that the biblical texts have something to say to us thousands of years after they emerged is so natural to us that we hardly give it second thought.
British Jewry is currently enjoying the race for the chief rabbinate, but it should be more concerned about the foot soldiers of the rabbinate than the field marshal. The mainstream Orthodox community in Britain is haemorrhaging rabbinic talent and unless that trend is stopped, it will sap our religious vitality for decades to come.