Tu b’Av, which falls today, is probably the least-known festival on the Jewish calendar. Probably only regular daveners of shacharit will notice because the prayers of supplication which would normally be said that morning are omitted.
The roads are blocked with broken masonry, the paths through the city are twisted: this sounds like a war-shattered city in the 20th century; in fact, it's Jeremiah's depiction of the desolation of Jerusalem 2,500 years ago. The Hebrew Bible, which opens with a majestic paean to creation, is not afraid to describe the brutal realities of destruction.
Earlier this month the Unite union passed a resolution denouncing Israel as an apartheid regime, supporting boycotts against it and accusing it of "feeling able to commit war crimes with complete impunity". When Israel launched its latest operation in Gaza, the union issued a statement to "unreservedly condemn the continuing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people".
We never give up. No matter what is done to us, however horrific, demeaning or undermining, we struggle on. Hope surely is at the heart of Jewish survival. And yet, after the Second Temple was destroyed almost 2,000 years ago, there was a moment when some Jews thought it really was not worth continuing.
Twenty-five years ago, two lesbians were ordained under the auspices of London's Leo Baeck College: Rabbi Sheila Shulman and me. Until then, there was only one gay rabbi in Britain, Lio nel Blue. Since then, a further 12 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rabbis have received semichah from LBC, and four others, ordained elsewhere, have become part of the Progressive movement.
When assuming the mantle of leadership of Lubavitch in 1950, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who escaped war-torn Europe, confronted the inevitable problem faced by Jews in a post-Holocaust world. Many despaired, believing the world was a dangerous place to live.
Long gone are the days when Jewish prophets would appear in our communities with a message and a mission from God. The sight of a tall, bearded man draped in robes, galloping through Golders Green Road on his white horse, we just don't see that happen.
The sheer passion of football supporters was famously expressed by the former Liverpool manager, Bill Shankly. Explaining his attitude to the game, he said, "Football isn't a matter of life and death, it's much more important than that."
David Cameron and Eric Pickles say we should be proud that Britain is a Christian country. Many prominent, mainstream Jewish leaders agree and, presumably, with the implication that religious values should be brought to bear on public life.
The latest stir in America’s modern Orthodox community has come from an article by Jay Lefkowitz in Commentary, called “The Rise of Social Orthodoxy”. Lefkowitz considers himself to be social Orthodox, which means that he largely observes halachah, but not because he (necessarily) believes that God commanded him.