Judaism features

Let go and join the Simchat Torah dance

By Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer, October 8, 2009

The scene that plays itself out on Simchat Torah each year in synagogues across the country is invariably the same. A small hard core of dedicated men with Torah scrolls in their arms do their best to circumvent the bimah against a riotous backdrop of noise and out-of-control kids fuelled by too much candy and fizzy drinks. Off to the side stand the rest of the adults, mostly parents and the occasional indulgent grandparent. Some are mildly amused. Most are bored stiff and cannot wait for the whole thing to be over.


Why we go camping with our best china

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, October 1, 2009

‘How can you watch heart-rending scenes of the contorted bodies of starving people dying in Africa, then switch off the television, pour yourself a cup of cocoa and go off to bed, oblivious to everything you have just seen?” The challenge of balancing a well-attuned conscience with the humdrum of day-to-day life was first put to me by my history teacher, Mr Neville Ireland and it has haunted me ever since.


Who is a Jew? The great debate

September 30, 2009


● Jeffrey Cohen, emeritus rabbi of Stanmore United Synagogue
● Jonathan Freedland, writer and journalist
● Naomi Gryn, filmmaker
● Howard Jacobson, novelist and broadcaster
● Chair: Gerald Jacobs, JC literary editor


Can God really love us when we suffer so much?

By Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, September 24, 2009

At the cemetery recently I caught myself unconsciously doing something which took me by surprise. I was reading the inscriptions on the graves of friends, many of them young, among them children, when I heard myself quietly singing the melody which forms the leitmotif of the Yom Kippur prayers: “God, God, merciful and gracious”.

The second I became aware of what I was doing, I thought to myself: “Stop! How can you sing about the God of love here?” Yet I continued to do precisely that.


Why Rosh Hashanah is the world's birthday

By Rabbi David Lister, September 17, 2009

On Rosh Hashanah, the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, we celebrate God’s reign over us and His creation. But the great Chasidic leader Rabbi Nachman of Breslav suggests that this event is as much a handover as a coronation. Just as God created the universe with divine utterances, so He would have us recreate ourselves and our worldview during the Aseret Yemey Teshuvah, the Ten Days of Repentance, that begin on Rosh Hashanah and culminate with Yom Kippur.


Getting our spiritual fix

By Alex Kasriel, September 17, 2009

If the thought of sitting in synagogue for hours on end this New Year leaves you cold, take inspiration from others who are searching for a spiritual experience in the days ahead.

Some are finding ways to connect with the synagogue service, while others are abandoning the traditional place of worship altogether to pray in alternative groups.

Indeed, many Jews in this country are looking for more than just an excuse to get together with the family and indulge in honey cake over the chagim.


Why I gave up my job to become a rabbi

By Alex Kasriel, September 9, 2009

● Ariel Friedlander, 45, grew up in Wembley and west London, where her father Rabbi Albert Friedlander was rabbi at Westminster Synagogue. She used to work as a sports photographer before training to be a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College in New York. She has since worked in Toronto, Virginia and New York.


Why the land of Israel has a border problem

By Mordechai Beck, September 2, 2009

For most Israelis, and even more so for its politicians, it is axiomatic that the prime source for Israel’s existence in the land is the Bible. At a recent talk at Bar-Ilan University, for example, Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu observed: “The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3,500 years. Judea and Samaria –– the places where Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, David and Solomon, and Isaiah and Jeremiah lived –– are not alien to us. This is the land of our forefathers.”


The rabbi who turned detective as a mitzvah

By Rabbi Leonard Book, August 27, 2009

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his
sheep go astray… You shall surely return
them to your brother”
Deuteronomy 22:1

Many years ago, while living in Cardiff, I met a young man called David L Marks. We shared a common interest in classic cars, in particular Jaguars. David has a hobby — collecting old clocks and watches. One day he phoned me as he had seen a pilot’s watch on eBay he wished to buy, which had reputedly been worn by a pilot during the Six-Day War in 1967.


Who will carry the torch for Jewish unity?

By Simon Rocker, August 13, 2009

In his typically forthright way, Gerald Ronson, the president of the new Jewish Community Secondary School, explained the reason behind its opening next year: “It is important that in our community we do have a first-class faith school which will take on board non-halachic, together with halachic, children,” he said in a YouTube interview, adding: “It’s not me that makes the issue of whether you are halachic, non-halachic… You want to go to a Jewish school? You should be able to go to a Jewish school.”