Sephardi rabbi offers quick take on key topics


Traditional methods of Jewish learning are not as popular nowadays. People lead hectic lives and lack the time, or perhaps the inclination, to spend their free hours at shiurim or seminars.

That's why Joseph Dweck, senior rabbi of the S&P Sephardi Community in the UK, is placing his faith in a series of online videos offering quickfire explanations of key concepts in Judaism.

Perspectives, set to launch on Monday, features two-minute clips of Rabbi Dweck discussing issues including life, prayer, charity and God. "I wanted to keep the videos short because of people's attention spans," the minister explains.

"People have a lot of misunderstandings about Jewish ideas. They work on assumptions. The danger of not explaining these ideas is that people will continue to pass [misunderstandings] on to their children."

To make the videos accessible and engaging, he collaborated on the programme with young film-maker Adam Baroukh. "People can watch the clips on their iPad on a commute," Rabbi Dweck points out and are for all viewers, "irrespective of educational background and Jewish knowledge".

Adam Baroukh directed and edited the Perspectives series

But with subjects covered in rapid time, Rabbi Dweck has avoided controversial issues such as the role of women in Judaism, which "I would never explore in a two-minute video. These are more like short definitions."

As an example of the chosen topics, he says that "people ask me about prayer all the time. They think it's about a classic formula that has to be recited in a certain way. But that's not what prayer was originally meant to be about. It's not meant to be stressful."

He adds: "These clips are meant to be tasters to prompt further exploration. We are all busy but I do think it is important to maintain some level of connection to Jewish life. So, if you're not going to a shiur, are you watching YouTube?"

Mr Baroukh, 28, a Lauderdale Road Synagogue member, says he "wanted the films to feel like an intimate chat with the rabbi, so we shot everything in his office using natural light and a hand-held camera.

"Rabbi Dweck speaks clearly and intuitively on questions that my friends and I have often asked in a way that makes you want to know more. I wanted to document this to ensure that others could also benefit."

The music for Perspectives was composed by 17-year-old Hasmonean student Josh Daniel, who wanted to convey an inspirational theme for subjects such as prayer and a darker tone for issues like suffering. "I tried to keep the music as minimalistic as possible to keep the focus on the speaker."

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