Judaism features

Offence: The Jewish Case

November 26, 2009

Offence: The Jewish Case
By Brian Klug
Seagull Books, £12

If they agree with nothing else in Brian Klug’s essay, many will ruefully nod in recognition when he says: “It sometimes seems that an entire people… are perpetually broiges”.

The urbane Oxford University philosopher certainly knows about broiges since he was at the centre of one nearly three years ago as a co-founder of Independent Jewish Voices, which was set up to challenge the default solidarity with Israel adopted by mainstream Jewish organisations.


How the Talmud can be a road map to peace

By Daniel Reisel, November 19, 2009

‘Two are holding a garment,” begins the Talmud in tractate Baba Metzia. Each claims they found it. “One says, kulo sheli — all of it belongs to me. The other says, kulo sheli — all of it belongs to me.”

The first chapter of Baba Metzia presents a well-known scenario. Two people claim an object. The nature of the dispute is such that the original ownership cannot be established. Both claims are emotional, exclusive and absolute.


The rabbi who created the rainbow tallit

By Simon Rocker, November 12, 2009

As the Jewish delegates strolled to the opening of last week’s interfaith conference on the environment at Windsor Castle, one in particular would have caught your eye: a man with a white beard, black hat and a multi-coloured tallit. Its wearer is one of the true innovators in contemporary Judaism, the neo-Chasidic rebbe who gave birth to the Jewish Renewal movement, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, over here on a rare visit here from the United States.


Lord Chief Rabbi - but is it good for the Jews?

By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, November 5, 2009

For much of our history, it was perilous for observant Jews to engage in politics. Successful statesmen risked jealousy from within the Jewish community and almost anyone who accepted the patronage of a gentile knew that at some stage, they would be forced to compromise their religious beliefs or endanger their lives by upsetting their political masters.


Do the disabled get a raw deal in the Torah?

By Joseph Mintz, October 22, 2009

When I was 18, some 20 years ago, I worked for a summer doing Camp America in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. But this was a camp with a difference: it was run by an Orthodox Jewish organisation which catered for children with physical disabilities and learning difficulties (or “mental retardation” as it was referred to at the time).


Prayers you can say when times get tough

By Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain, October 15, 2009

The problem with Jewish prayer books is that they are full of the statutory prayers, such as the Amidah and Alenu. To be fair, that is their job. But most Jews come to synagogue with other matters weighing on their minds, whether business, family or health issues. It is to fill this vacuum that a book of specially-written prayers has been produced by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK to cover specific everyday situations from miscarriage to bankruptcy, insomnia to retirement, suicide attempt to drug addiction. They offer words to say when you don’t know what to say, or pray.


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.