Judaism features

JCoSS is non-Orthodox, not ‘cross-communal’

By Rabbi Harvey Belovski, June 25, 2009

The scheduled opening of JCoSS (the Jewish Community Secondary School) next year has generated unprecedented interest. Adorned with the slogan “excellence, choice, openness, inclusion”, its website describes it as “the first cross-communal Jewish secondary school in the UK”. JCoSS takes pride in its admissions policy, which “will treat on an equal basis all pupils recognised as Jewish by any of the UK’s mainstream movements” and its intention to deliver Jewish studies “while being non-judgemental between the various mainstream Jewish traditions”.

More..

What future for the Jews left in Ethiopia?

By Rabbi Sybil Sheridan , June 10, 2009

The synagogue is packed. The chazanim slowly take the scroll out of the ark and process back to the reading desk. They open the scroll but read the portion from a Bible… in Amharic.

We are in Gondar, Ethiopia, working with what is left of the Jewish community. It is a rather different community to the old-style Beta Yisrael (Falasha) congregation. Known as Falash Mura, the people consider themselves Beta Yisrael; part of the original Ethiopian Jewish community, but ones whose grandparents converted to Christianity.

More..

Why the Talmud can’t be left to the yeshivah

By Rabbi Dr Norman Solomon, June 4, 2009

Never, in the history of British Jewry, has so much Talmud been studied by so many people with such enthusiasm. It is studied in the yeshivot, it is studied in the universities, it is studied on buses and trains. I once got in a lift in a hotel in Warsaw and by the time I reached the first floor, a brief glance revealed that the man standing next to me had his eyes glued on the daf yomi, the daily page (available online, with commentary) for those who read Talmud on a roughly seven-year cycle; a friendly greeting, and I picked up his Mancunian accent.

More..

A Shavuot mystery: the angels with four faces

By Mordechai Beck, May 28, 2009

The opening chapter of the Book of Ezekiel, with its mysterious image of a heavenly chariot of four-faced creatures, is read as the haftarah on the first day of Shavuot. But the reason is not immediately apparent.

More..

Why the rabbis worried about criticism of Israel

By David Aberbach, May 14, 2009

The idea that, as William Blake put it, “opposition is true friendship”, has been one of the faint consolations in Jewish martyrology. Opposition by the ancient pagan world, by Greece and Rome, by Christian Europe and Islam, though often painfully unjust and criminally destructive, has in some ways fructified Judaism and enabled it to adapt to change, and to survive and grow.

More..

The troubling questions that remain after Gaza

By Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, May 7, 2009

The war in Gaza leaves many wounds, the grief of the bereaved, the pain of the wounded and the trauma of the displaced on both sides.

More..

Never mind the bullocks - just heed the prophets

By Rabbi Pete Tobias, April 30, 2009

It is a beautiful spring morning. The months (years?) of planning are over and the barmitzvah boy is about to be called up to read from the Torah, the book at the heart of the Jewish faith in which he is symbolically taking his place this Shabbat. Nervously, he lifts the piece of paper on which is his dvar Torah, his explanation of the portion he is about to read, and its significance for him as he becomes a Jewish adult. Glancing at the congregation, he begins to read words he has prepared on the subject of … menstruation. Or leprosy.

More..

Let’s think big. Shabbat can save the planet

April 16, 2009

There is a strong scientific consensus that humanly-caused climate change is real. It is already contributing to flooding in Bangladesh and drought in Mali. Alaskan villagers have become the world’s first climate-change refugees: tragically, they will not be the last. The human and planetary costs of our extravagant behaviour are becoming clearer to us and the prospect is alarming.

Environmental challenges are today at the top of the public policy agenda in most Western countries. But why is environmentalism still a marginal concern in Jewish thought and practice?

More..

We must learn to share the bread of freedom

By Jonathan Wittenberg, April 7, 2009

Stories need careful handling. Stories may be the secret of survival; stories can also kill. The way we tell our people’s story, how we cast our national narrative, the place we give to self, to others and to God, not only reflects but determines our destiny.

Seder is the great night of the Jewish story. We have always been mindful of how we tell it. The Haggadah is Judaism’s most frequently printed, most variously interpreted, and most fascinatingly subverted, text.

More..

The Pesach question: how does it feel to be hated?

By Rabbi Jeremy Rosen, April 2, 2009

Nothing typifies the ambivalence of Jewish life today more than the famous midrash repeated in the Talmud. Rebbi Shmuel Bar Nachman, in the name of Rebbi Yonatan, said at the Red Sea: “The angels wanted to sing a song before the Holy One, Blessed is He, but He rebuked them, saying ‘My handiwork is drowning in the sea and you want to sing to me?’ Rebbi Yose Ben Hanina said: ‘Even if He will not rejoice, He allows others to’” (Sanhedrin 39b).

More..