Rabbi, I have a problem

Our late mother pretended to be Jewish. What do we do now?

April 23, 2009

Question: Our mother was married in an Orthodox synagogue in the UK and buried next to my father in a Jewish cemetery. However, we discovered that she was not in fact Jewish - she only pretended to be - and never converted. What should we put on her headstone and how does this affect my siblings’ and my Jewish status?

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Can't rabbis act to lower Pesach prices?

March 26, 2009

Question: Pesach is expensive enough as it is, but in these economically difficult times, many families will be finding it harder to pay their bills. Do products like coffee really need a kosher-for-Pesach label and can’t rabbis do something to make the festival more affordable?

Rabbi Naftali Brawer

Naftali Brawer is rabbi at Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue.

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Do synagogues makes life uncomfortable for single people?

February 26, 2009

Question: I am a single man in my early 40s and, as I get older, I am becoming more conscious that Judaism is a family-centred religion. My immediate family do not celebrate festivals. For many years I have gone to a synagogue on my own but I am finding the prospect is less alluring as the years go by. What can you suggest?

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Can one sit shivah for a dear friend that happens to be an animal?

January 29, 2009

Question: Can one sit shivah for a dear friend that happens to be an animal? My old horse has died at the age of 29. He was a faithful companion who won me many rosettes in shows, and I want to know how I can mark his passing.

Rabbi Naftali Brawer

Naftali Brawer is rabbi at Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue.

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Should we leave out the sixth verse of Ma’oz Tzur?

December 23, 2008

Question: Recent editions of the Singer’s Siddur have restored the sixth verse of Ma’oz Tzur, which prays for the enemy to be thrust into ‘the darkness of death’. I teach in a cheder and I find it hard to accept that this is suitable to be sung by adults, never mind children. Should we leave it out?

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Should a charity accept donations from someone with a stake in internet porn?

November 20, 2008

Question: I am a trustee of a charity and we are all worried about the impact of the current financial crisis. We were recently offered a significant gift for a particular project but we discovered that the prospective donor has a large stake in internet porn. Should we take it?

Rabbi Naftali Brawer

Naftali Brawer is rabbi at Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue.

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Can we drink whisky in shul on Simchat Torah?

October 17, 2008

Question: On Simchat Torah, our shul has always had kiddush early with whisky available for the rest of the service. But now our spoilsport new executive thinks the drink is causing too much frivolity and wants to stop it. Surely having a little fun is part of the festival?

Rabbi Naftali Brawer

Naftali Brawer is rabbi at Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue.

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Should I receive aliyot in shul if I have stopped believing in Torah min hashamayim?

September 19, 2008

QUESTION: I stopped believing in Torah min hashamayim [the Torah comes from heaven] many years ago, but have continued to receive aliyot in shul. But now I am beginning to wonder if I ought to decline the offers, as I don't believe the berachot that I'm saying.

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Is it forbidden for Jews to enter a church?

August 21, 2008

QUESTION: My rabbi says it is forbidden for Jews to enter a church. But if we can't participate in interfaith visits, how can we promote understanding between different faiths?

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Can a mother be barred from her daughter's wedding?

July 24, 2008

QUESTION: A friend of mine did not want her mother at her wedding. When the mother turned up uninvited, she insisted that the rabbi bar her from the ceremony.  Was she right both not to invite or allow her in on the day?

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