Thursday, 24 February 2011

On Community and Committment

Our Torah reading opens with the words ‘vayakhel moshe.’ The Hertz suggests ‘Moses assembled,’ but that isn’t quite right. There is no English verb ‘to community-ise,’ but if there was, that would be a much better translation. The people are not coming together as an assemblage of people clumped together, it’s a coming together in community. And then Moses says, ‘These are the things which God commands you to do.’


I’m interested in the relationship between community and commandment. We live in a world where Western philosophy and political culture has overstressed the value of individual autonomy (‘To your own true self be true’ suggested Peer Gynt as a operating philosophy for life.’) Judaism is less interested in personal autonomy and independence than it is interested in mutual dependence and obligation. Certainly Synagogues, communities, like our own are in terrible trouble if this doctrine of individuality pervades all else.


From the outside the option of mutual dependence and responsibility may seem unattractive; who, after all, would rather be obligated than free. But from the inside the sense of obligation that emerges in community is not a burden, it is the fulfilment of our humanity. My ability to be in a community with you is not about assembling in the same place at the same time as you, but about the way in which I become committed, obligated, commanded by you and you by me. This is the territory Levinas, the great French Jewish philosopher of the last century made his own. When we truly encounter another person, taught Levinas, we become bound to them, aware of their fragility and need, and in doing we discover what it means to live ethically. I think it is also only be being commanded by our ‘community-ising’ that we come to live well.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy

Monday, 7 February 2011

World leading speakers coming to New London Synagogue in the coming weeks

I’m delighted we have not one, but two of the most important scholars in world Jewry coming to New London in the coming weeks.

For me this is part of how I see New London as a centre for scholarship and excellence of the very highest order.

I also hope that those of us able to make either or both of these events are in for a real treat.

For those of you who are able to spread the word, please do


Shabbat 26th February, Shabbat Morning

Professor Susannah Heschel will be giving the sermon.


Dr Heschel is the Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College and has published on Abraham Geiger and is well known for her work in Jewish Feminist studies and also Jewish-Christian interfaith wrok.

She is also the daughter of Abraham Joshua Heschel ob’m, one of the most important thinkers, scholars and activist of the last century and will be speaking on the work of her father.

Susannah is a stunning speaker, I had the honour to chair a sell-out session at Jewish Book Week that she took by storm two years ago.


Sunday 13th March, 7pm

Professor Michael Fishbane, University of Chicago, will give the 2011 New London Synagogue Quest Lecture

'You Have Captured My Heart': The Song of Songs in the Jewish Religious Imagination


Michael Fishbane will talk about his work preparing a commentary based on the full range of Jewish interpretations on the most passionate of Biblical books.

The lecture will be chaired by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg.

Professor Fishbane is the probably the world’s leading Jewish academic Bible scholar. As well as his work in Bible (including authoring the JPS Bible Commentary on the Haftarot) he has also published on Rabbinics and theology.


(also coming soon –

Yom Masorti featuring leading British Masorti teachers and visiting scholar Rabbi Levi Lauer, 6th March at NNLS – more info at

and for those interested in advance notice, our world-class flagship lecture, the Louis Jacobs Memorial Lecture, will be given by Rabbi David Wolpe, dubbed by Newsweek as the most influential pulpit Rabbi in America, on Sunday 3rd July)


All are welcome.


Rabbi Jeremy



Rabbi Jeremy Gordon

New London Synagogue

0207 328 1026


Sermons, Blogs and Thoughts


Friday, 4 February 2011

No Shul is an Island - Yom Masorti 6th March.



I love Yom Masorti. I mean I love being part of New London, but there is something very special about these occasional opportunities to come together across the Movement, especially as the Movement is growing so rapidly. Since the last Yom Masorti Glasgow, Stoke Newington and Bournemouth have all formally joined the team. St Albans and Hatch End have appointed new Rabbis and the British Rabbinic team has been strengthened other terrific educators Rabbis and teachers.


But more than a chance to see one another these days are a chance to understand more about what it means to be an ‘our kind’ of Jew. At the upcoming Yom Masorti, on 6th March there will be opportunities to develop prayer-leading skills and think about how to create better and stronger Synagogue communities, but also opportunities to study not only traditional Rabbinic texts, but also engage in some of the most important issues of our age both as Jews and ‘world citizens.’ I’m particularly delighted that Rabbi Levi Lauer will be joining us, from Israel and Maurice Glassman will be sharing his insights into Civil Society, insights that have taken him into the heart of Downing Street, Millbank and have just recentl resulted in his being enobled.


There’s lots to celebrate, lots to think through and a wonderful day’s learning to be had. Unless you have a very good excuse (and I know there is an important Shul wedding on that afternoon), I can’t think of a more special way to celebrate what it means to be part of a thriving dynamic coalition of like-minded British Jews.


More information at


Shabbat shalom,



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