Tuesday, 11 June 2013

England v Israel

England, admittedly ‘only’ the U21 team play Israel in the European Championships this Saturday.

I wrote on the ‘problem’ this raises for English Jews for the JC last time there was a similar clash, in 2008.


Would you pass the Tebbit Test?
Jeremy Gordon 

“A large proportion of Britain’s Asian population fails to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for?”

Norman (now Lord) Tebbit’s words echo 17 years after he spoke them. It has always been a good question for Jews to ponder, wherever we have lived, but now — for the English at least — it has become very concrete. With England due to take on Israel in the Euro 2008 qualifier on March 24, which side should an English Jew support?

The rabbis of antiquity did not have much time for football, especially on the holy Sabbath (truth be told, the rabbis had a distaste for public games of any sort). Nevertheless, we can look to them for some guidance.

First we should consider England’s claims.

Jeremiah might have cheered on Steve McClaren’s boys. He demanded that Israelite exiles living in Babylon should “seek the welfare of the city to which I [God] have exiled you and pray to the Lord in its behalf” (Chapter 29). However, I am not that sure he meant “at the expense of Israel”.

Rabbi Hananya, a rabbi in the time of the Romans, called on the people to “pray for the welfare of the Kingdom [Rome], for without the fear of it, a man would eat his neighbour alive” (Avot
 3). But his rationale seems to have more to do with one’s self-preservation than with national identity.

Similarly, the basic structure of the traditional prayer for the Royal Family — “May the One who gives salvation to Kings” — has been part of British Jewish liturgy since the time of Manasseh Ben Israel, 350 years ago, and would seem to imply that we should be supporting England. But it does call for “leaders and advisers… to deal kindly with the House of Israel” — not exactly blessing English midfielders and strikers looking to capitalise on weaknesses in the Israeli defence.

Now for the Israeli case. A rabbinic teaching on which charitable causes we should support says: “The poor of your city take precedence over the poor of another city, but the inhabitants of Israel come before those who dwell outside the land” (Shulchan Arukh
 YD 251). This would be a good reason to support Israel, but trying to learn something about cash-soaked footballers from the laws of charity is stretching the rabbinic system beyond its limits. Hillel is perhaps the clearest cheerleader for the Israelis: “If I am not for me, who will be for me?” (Avot 1). It is a message Jews have come to understand again and again, no matter where we have wandered, but it is hardly a decisive call one way or the other.

Several months ago, my European Masorti rabbinic colleagues and I were invited to meet with the German Interior Minister, Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, to discuss Germany’s offer of citizenship to around 150,000 Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Dr Schäuble wanted to talk about what was and was not necessary in order to be considered a good German. I took the opportunity to present the minister with a German version of Tebbit’s test. If Germany played Turkey at football, which side would he expect a German citizen of Turkish origin to support?

“In this case, Turkey,” came the surprising response. My memory of Dr Schäuble’s exact wording is vague, but he went on to say something like: “Of course, if Germany were playing anyone else, I would expect they would support Germany, but it makes no sense to expect a person to turn away from their ethnic origin, even to support the country where they live.”

It was a remarkable thing to hear from a minister with responsibility for immigration and a truly remarkable thing to hear in a re-united Berlin, of all European cities. More than that, I doubt any rabbi could have put it better. So, in the absence of any clear rabbinic precedent, I’ll be relying on the words of a German minister as I cheer on Israel, against England — once Shabbat goes out, of course.

Jeremy Gordon is rabbi of St Albans Masorti Synagogue



Monday, 10 June 2013

The Cheder at New London Synagogue Needs More Staff

is this you?

The thriving and expanding Sunday morning Cheder at New London Synagogue is on the lookout for more creative and energetic teachers to join our merry band. Could this be you?

·        Do you enjoy the company of children and young people? Do you want to help them grow Jewishly?

·        Are you keen about working within a strong Masorti ethos, which values the best in both Jewish tradition and modernity—and the interaction between them?

·        Do you believe that Jewish education is a life-long process and that a bank of positive childhood memories is its firmest foundation?

·        Can you take initiative? Can you also cooperate within—and contribute to—a committed and conscientious team?

·        Are you willing to develop as a Jewish educator, whatever your experience to date?

·        Do you thrive on challenge? And do you have a sense of fun?


If you do, we’re for you!

For more details and an exploratory conversation, contact our headteacher, Angela Gluck, on 020 8933 4588 cheder@newlondon.org.uk


Thursday, 6 June 2013

If ... A Campaign to End World Hunger


If different kinds of Jews could ever agree on anything.

If different religious faiths could ever come together on an issue.

If, even beyond the rag-tag coalition of religious folk, there could ever be a broad coalition of hundreds of charities and other organisations who could all plot a concerted, holistic campaign and actually attempt to make a difference in the world.


Well it’s happened.

It’s even broken through the barriers of media indifference to anything other than the economic gloom and the violence and celebtastic wall-to-wall usual diet. Though that may, in part be thanks to David Beckham, who is also on board.

The dream is this – the end of world hunger.

‘We should share our bread with the hungry, shelter those brought low, clothe them and not hide ourselves from our own flesh,’ railed Isaiah. A billion people, 1 in 8 of the world’s population, go to bed hungry and I hide from their suffering every day. How embarrassing to be skewered by Isaiah’s 3,000 year old turn of phrase.


This Saturday, in the run up to the G8 Conference to be held in this country, there is a mass coming together of people of every faith, and of none, to advocate for a more proactive approach to the relief of hunger. It’s a campaign which targets governments, international businesses and the global marketplace. It’s ambitious, but genuine, ‘grown up.’ It could save lives and even if it only saves a single life, it is worth a moment of our time.


If you care about world hunger, and you should – Isaiah says so, please do take a moment to check out the campaign. Google ‘Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign’ for more information. Send an email, show your support. There will be a mass demonstration in Hyde Park, for anyone who fancies a good walk after services. And we, at New London, are opening our doors to anyone on their way to that demonstration.


We shouldn’t hide ourselves from the suffering of our own flesh.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy


Monday, 3 June 2013

Freud's Moses and the Jewish Psyche - New London Synagogue This Sunday 9th June 19:15


Laurence Kaplan - "Freud's Moses and the Jewish Psyche"

Laurence Kaplan
 is Associate Professor in Rabbinics, Jewish Law and Philosophy at McGill University.   He received his BA from Yeshiva College, his MA and PhD from Harvard University, and his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.

About his subject:  Rabbi Louis Jacobs in his characteristically learned, lucid, and balanced discussion of psychoanalysis and religion in Chapter 4 ("Is Religious Faith an Illusion ?") of We Have Reason to Believe
 urges the reader "not to 'rend his garments' upon hearing" psychoanalytic explanations of religious ritual.   For Jacobs, to say that religious beliefs and  practices may meet some deep, indeed unconscious, psychological  needs is not to deny their truth value.   In this light I want to examine the changing story Freud tells in Moses and Monotheism and the, in his view, psychological impact "Father Moses'" choice of his "dear children," the Jewish people, played in forging the Jewish character.

Admission at the door:  £8.00 for NLS members, £10.00 for non members at the door.   Prior Booking not essential.



Rabbi Jeremy Gordon

New London Synagogue

0207 328 1026




Next Young Adult Dinner - This Friday 7th June

Come to Friday Night Service and then join us for dinner afterwards.   Think traditional/contemporary.  

Spread the word !

Tell all your mates and RSVP.    We need to know how many tomatoes to slice, you see.

A vegetarian meal, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic !) and all the Shabbat trimmings.

Online booking is now open atwww.newlondon.org.uk/Yaddinner.   Booking closes on 03 June 2013.

Any queries please contact our Programme Co-Ordinator, Nicola Kosmin


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