Thursday, 10 July 2008

Been a-publishing

It’s been a while since I posted.

I’ve been involved in a more primitive form of sending out Torah into the world.

I’ve edited a journal - Quest.

I’m really proud of it. There are some terrific articles and it takes forward the vision of Judaism I believe in. For more information see

The new volume contains contributions from leading Judaic scholars; Professors Marc Saperstein (Traditional Jewish Preaching on Social Justice), Neil Gillman (On Teaching Theology) and Alice Shalvi (The Plight of the Anchored Woman) as well as younger voices Rabbis Elliot Cosgrove (Rabbi Jacobs as The New Rabbi) and Melissa Weintraub (Does Torah Permit Torture?). The lead article is an important reassessment of the relationship between ‘Truth’ and ‘Faith’ by senior rabbi of the Assembly of Masorti Synagogues, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg.

Copies of the Quest Volume III are £5 (plus £1 p&p). To order contact the Synagogue office on 0207 328 1026. or email

Extract from Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg’s Article – Religion and Truth

There are many signs that religion is moving back in from the margins to the centre; it refuses to be confined to the invisible domain of the private conscience where it had been thought by some that it could be stowed away harmlessly at a safe distance from public affairs. From many corners religion is now on the way back, making its emboldened bid for the political centre stage, the military centre stage, even, something unheard of since theology lost its dominance to the natural sciences at the rise of the modern era, the central intellectual stage. In this turning tide I find myself in the strange position as a rabbi, whose allegiance should be clear, of asking myself who I’m more afraid of, the secularists or the proponents of the rising faiths.

Extract from Professor Alice Shalvi’s Article - The Plight of the “Anchored” Woman

Unfortunately, the rabbinical courts of Israel, which are only Orthodox and at present dominated by haredi judges (dayanim), very seldom avail themselves of the halakhic means at their disposal. Even before ruling that there should be a divorce (the least binding of the five options), they first recommend that the couple try to resolve their differences, on the grounds of domestic harmony (shalom bayit). Such a recommendation is seldom practicable and it becomes ludicrous when the grounds for demanding a divorce were primarily family violence and spouse abuse. In fact, it may place the wife in danger if she has nowhere to go other than the couple’s home (or to a women’s shelter). Yet the courts continue to bid the women to “Give him another chance!”

Extract from Rabbi Dr Elliot Cosgrove’s Article - Rabbi Jacobs as The New Rabbi

[While applying for the position of Rabbi] for the New West End, Jacobs had also submitted an application to serve as Rabbi of Golders Green Synagogue, a pulpit that would eventually go to Rabbi Eugene Newman. In a strained exchange, Halpern communicated the following to Jacobs: At the outset I ought to say that your preaching at the New West End made a bad impression here. They felt you should have not gone to such a shul – if you are genuinely interested in spreading the ideals of Jewish life. Not that community but you and your family would be changed if you went there - and not for the better…You know that I speak plainly with you and regard you as a member of the family …You have a very promising future in which you could B’EH [God willing] do excellent work. But you may be tempted to follow easier paths and false friends by allowing yourself to go after jobs that you should avoid. The New West End, in my opinion, is such a job….Think over what I have written, talk it over with Shula, and act for the best. Five days later, Jacobs withdrew his name from consideration at Golders Green, explaining that “after careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I would prefer the New West End.”

Extract from Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein’s Article - Traditional Jewish Preaching on Social Justice

On Yom Kippur, 10 October 1894, Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler, preached in the Great Synagogue of London on ‘The Sinners in Zion’ (referring not to the Land of Israel but to his own community). He began by contrasting contemporary preachers, who tend to deal ‘too much with generalities’, with the prophets of old who ‘spoke with a plain bluntness that could not be mistaken, aye, with a grand passion of scorn and hate for all that was evil and corrupt. It is this plain speaking, this direct practical application, which invests their admonitions with such undying sublimity’. After discussing his Text from Isaiah 33:14–17, he proceeds to the application, addressing very directly, with a vehemence and rhetorical power not generally associated with this diplomatic personality, the prevalent sleazy business practices of his time: Can they persuade themselves that they despise the gains of oppression, who try to exact the utmost toil out of their labourers and employees in return for the scantiest wage, the barest pittance that can keep body and soul together—not a living but a dying wage? Or they who take advantage of the necessities of their workmen and women, compelling them to labour on the Sabbath? Or they who are money-lenders, and who claim usurious rates of interest from the victims whom they have entrapped, who corrupt youths by advancing money and pandering to their vices and follies? Or they who defraud unsuspecting creditors who have trusted to their debtors’ honesty? Or they who remove goods before bankruptcy, and thus flagrantly defraud and rob? ‘I do know’, he goes on to say, ‘that there are unhappily Jews who are guilty of these practices, which are denounced in the public press and universally condemned. I should be shamefully remiss in my duty were I to forbear from severely castigating such practices. . . If Isaiah were in our midst, how would he thunder forth his denunciations!’

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