Judaism features

Review: A Brief Guide To Judaism

By Paul Lester, December 23, 2008

A Brief Guide To Judaism — Theology, History and Practice
By Naftali Brawer
Robinson, £8.99

If, like me, you are rusty on your religion, this is surely a Chanucah must-buy; a neat précis of the story and beliefs of — according to the jacket — one of the “least understood” major faiths.


Did Adam have a taste for mince pies?

By Rabbi Ariel Abel, December 18, 2008

As a child, I always wondered why mince pies were on sale in kosher supervised bakeries in my native Manchester. Was this food not themed on a strange custom — the celebration of festivals of non-Jewish origin? Why would this be “kosher” on a Jewish table?

These were the days before my rabbinic ministry. On Merseyside, I was to discover fruit loaf and yes, kosher hot cross buns at the Penny Lane Bakery.


There’s plenty of colour among the black hats

By Rabbi Harvey Belovski, December 11, 2008

The students of a prominent Eastern European rabbi were about to join him to light the Chanucah candles. The rabbi noticed a broom near the window next to his menorah and asked for it to be removed; apparently he was concerned that in their zeal to emulate him, his followers would place a broom by the window before lighting their menorahs too. There is a humorous (and definitely fictitious) end to the story: having visited the rabbi, each of his students went home, placed a broom by the window and then removed it before lighting his candles.


Become an entrepreneur by studying the Torah

By Simon Rocker, December 4, 2008

Moses has been hailed as many things: leader, liberator, lawgiver and, above all, teacher. But he was also “the most successful entrepreneur of all time”, according to a new book.


The cartoon Torah that’s getting teens animated

By Simon Rocker, November 27, 2008

Over the past decade, the internet has been pushing open the gates of Jewish learning to wider audiences. Online ask-the-rabbis field questions from around the world, teachers give shiurum via computer using voice-over technology and if you miss shul on Shabbat, you can still catch the rabbi's sermon the next day on a podcast. But a recently launched venture is taking virtual Torah to a new plane.


A treasury of sacred cloth

By Simon Rocker, November 20, 2008

When you think of prize Judaica, what probably comes to mind are antique books or the silver bells and breastplates that adorn a Sefer Torah. But a new Jewish Museum exhibition that has just opened in London features another type of religious artistry - the mantles in which the Torah is dressed.

Some of the "sacred textiles" that have been in the possession of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation for three centuries have gone on display at the historic Bevis Marks Synagogue in the East End.


How Chief Rabbis have battled against Reform

By Rabbi Dr Jeffrey Cohen, November 18, 2008

Faith against Reason: Religious Reform and the British CHief Rabbinate, 1840-1990

Meir Persoff
Vallentine Mitchell, £50, £19.95 pb

It may be coincidence that, within the past two years, three books have appeared on the subject of the British Chief Rabbinate. This perhaps indicates that religious hierarchy and authority are largely becoming relegated to the status of historical curiosity, with most committed young Jews owing allegiance to their own individual and charismatic spiritual gurus.


An Orthodox woman can lead the prayers

By Nathan Jeffay, November 6, 2008

Two Israeli scholars have put their necks on the line to try to answer one of the most controversial questions in Orthodox Judaism today: what role can women take in public worship?

In the last decade, around two dozen "partnership minyanim" have been founded in Israel and the USA. These congregations have tried to pioneer services that increase women's participation, while operating within the parameters of Orthodox religious law. But they have faced two major problems.


Is the Lubavitch book Tanya really racist?

October 30, 2008


The debate about the Tanya is about values rather than freedom of speech, as some have contended.

The Hebrew Bible and classical rabbinic sources contain texts which, for example, command us to look after the stranger within our midst as we were once strangers in the Land of Egypt. These sources inspire and provide a basis for living in today's society.

In contrast, other texts have, in common with almost all classical literature, the completely opposite viewpoint and clash with modern sensibilities.


Why the Creation story favours organic food

By Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah, October 23, 2008

This week we begin the cycle of Torah readings again, and read the account of Creation. All peoples have sacred narratives about the Creation of the world - but why do we turn right back to the beginning, again and again each year? Why don't we start our narrative with the first ancestors of our people, Abraham and Sarah?