Friday, 27 June 2014

What's It All About Louis?


What is it all about, Louis?


50 years of New London and so what?

Next Sunday, 6th July, I have the honour of giving our annual Louis Jacobs Memorial Lecture.

Rabbi Jacobs was the founding – and multi-decade serving – Rabbinic leader of this special community. He was also, in the opinion of more or less everyone, the greatest scholar in the history of Anglo-Jewry. Personally I think he was the scholar who made the most significant contribution across the broadest range of disciplines within the history of contemporary Jewish scholarship. That’s a mighty achievement – bearing in mind his day job was tending to a congregation with the very day-to-day religious needs that would drive most academics to distraction.


What is his legacy?

In many ways it’s us; in our strengths and our weaknesses. But by ‘us’ I don’t merely mean the weekly chevreh at New London, or even our full membership. There are ripples that have extended from New London to begat a British Masorti Movement. Tentacles have extended into the Reform, Liberal and even – let it be whispered – the Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox worlds.


In the Jacobs Memorial lecture I want to look at who we are, what we have become; where are our successes and where are our failures? It’s a chance to understand who we are, what we are and what we might yet become.


I do hope you will join me.

The lecture follows the Synagogue’s AGM, earlier in the afternoon. More information below,  but I encourage members also to take this opportunity to play a democratic role in guiding the future of our community.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Some thoughts on Death and Morocco

I offer these words in honour of our member, Ester Bloomberg, who passed away this week.


Josephine and I spent much of last week in Morocco, celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary, and doing the thing that Jews so often do in far flung corners of the world – visiting the Jewish quarter. We were staying in Marrakesh. The Synagogue was indeed beautiful, but truly moving site was the old Jewish cemetery.


There are the classic Sephardi, horizontal, stones, no vertical stones in Morocco lest the wind erases the marking of the graves. There are occasional mausoleums; eternal resting places of the ‘Zaddikim,’ the ‘Gedolim’ and the ‘Mekubalim.’ But the most remarkable feature of the cemetery is the presence, closest to the entrance to the burial grounds, of the graves of children. There is a photo [here -]


Whenever I do a funeral, I’m always struck by the journey to the grave. You walk past lives evoked by brief engraving – lives of others’ lost loved ones – and somehow it contextualises the loss of the life you accompany to the grave. We say, ‘May God give you comfort amongst the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem,’ we want mourners to know, even at the bleakest moments of their own loss that others have lost too. That has to be why the path to the adult graves at the cemetery in Marrakesh leads through the tiny graves of tiny children. It’s heartbreaking and somehow in that brokenness one finds the edge of one’s own loss.


Some religions, and even some voices within Judaism, respond to any loss or pain by desperately assuring that everything is all right, and certainly will be all right, but that’s not my faith. The kind of Judaism that calls me is the one that meets me in my brokenness. None of the images of God as a mighty warrior move me at all, but hidden in the Talmud, God is described weeping along with those who mourn, a ‘companion in sorrow.’ And that works for me.


Shabbat, please God, will be cheery. We have much to celebrate with not one but two Bat Mitzvah celebrations, one in the morning in an egalitarian service and another at Minha. To those celebrating I hope we can celebrate with every ounce of joy and vigour. To those mourning I offer this broken companionship.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy


Friday, 6 June 2014

Welcome to a story already underway



My thanks to all who took part in a wonderful Shavuot celebration. Moving onwards ...


New London is a Synagogue held in a tension between tradition and modernity. It has always been thus. Perhaps the issue that most marks this tension is the respective roles of men and women in public prayer. For those newer to this saga, it goes something like this. Before I arrived at New London, as Rabbi, a decision was made to count women in the Minyan and offer English language prayers to women. As a Rabbinical student I would fly in from New York to lead a parallel egalitarian service – the Minyan Hadash, but the main service remains led only by men with Torah reading and Aliyot performed only by men – and separate seating.


Seven years ago there was a General Meeting held to discuss the possibility of changing this balance. It split slightly in favour of making no change. Four years ago at another General Meeting, the Synagogue tweaked a couple of roles – Gelilah and Anim Zemirot are now open to both genders – and made a decision that in certain circumstances boys and girls celebrating a Bar or Bat Mitzvah could do so in the sanctuary in an egalitarian service, with the Synagogue running a parallel non-egalitarian service in the Kiddush Hall. I believed, at the time, that we would have three or four of these services a year. In the first year we had two, then none. And now there are several.  We will be celebrating an upcoming Bat Mitzvah on the 21st June with an egalitarian service in the sanctuary – and a non-egalitarian service in the Kiddush Hall, and similarly we will be celebrating egalitarian services six further times in the coming year (other dates listed below).


For those interested in the Halachic underpinnings of these positions, please click [here -] for a piece on women reading the Torah and [here -] for a piece on women leading services.


To those of you who want to see more egalitarian participation in the main service, please do come to these egalitarian services. To those of you who want to see the non-egalitarian tradition of the New London preserved, please do come to the non-egalitarian services to be held on these days. And to those of you who feel that this careful balancing of hopes, fears and aspirations represents something which you cannot support, I urge you to appreciate the single greatest truth of what this community represents. New London is a Synagogue held in a tension between tradition and modernity. It has always been thus.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Jeremy


(Dates of upcoming egalitarian main service Bnei Mitzvah celebrations:

21st June

1st November

20th December

17th January 2015

7th March 2015

28th May 2015

30th May 2015)


Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The New London Synagogue Tikkun Leyl

Shavuot arrives this evening.

Maariv is at 6:30, followed by the dinner for those who have already booked.

Open to all, no need to book, no charge, our Tikkun leyl starts at 8:15pm and we will be learning through the night.


8:15pm-9:30pm    Rabbi Jeremy "Reset, Recharge"

9:30pm-10:45pm   Angela Gluck "Makorot for Sh’mittah" (‘Makorot’ are sources or resources.)

10:45pm-11:15pm  Lester Kershenbaum "Counting in the Jewish Tradition"

11:15pm-11:30pm  Cantor Jason Green "Share a Prayer: Y'tziv Pitgam"

11:30pm-12:30am  Student rabbi Natasha Mann "I Will Give Grass in Your Fields: Who Owns the Land?"

12:30am-1:30am   Elias Kupferman "Lord Rothschild and the Sh’mittah Dilemma of 1888"

1:30am - 1:45am   Cheesecake Break

1:45am-2:15am   Cantor Jason Green

2:15am-2:30am   Ice Cream Break

2:30am-3:00am   Joanne Kosmin "The Torah as a Garden"

3:15am-4:30am   Rabbi Jeremy - Guided Chavruta sessions, etc.

4:30am               Hashkama minyan led by Rabbi Jeremy, Alex Games


You can stay for as long or as short as you like. Bonus points for those who help us make Minyan.


Yom Tov Services in the Sanctuary will be at the normal times throughout the Festival (9:15am Wednesday and Thursday and 6:30pm Wednesday).

All support ensuring strong Minyanim for our services is warmly appreciated.

Yizkor will be recited during on Thursday morning.


Chag Sameach,

See you at Sinai,


Rabbi Jeremy

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