In a number of weeks, there will be commemorations, throughout the Jewish world for the signing of the Balfour Declaration, which was sent by Lord Arthur Balfour, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, to Lord Walter Rothschild, on November 2nd 1917. We look at this document of course as the rubber stamp given by Britain, Imperial Britain, for the Zionist cause. The tragic Jewish writer Arthur Koestler would write about the Declaration that it was ‘one of the most improbable political documents of all time’.
In fact, there is much intrigue around the genesis of the Balfour Declaration that has more to do with the trajectory of the First World War than a simple British… read more
It is not always good to want Utopia
Rabbi David’s Kol Nidrei Sermon 5778
Utopias are dangerous things. Well obviously, living in utopia would be amazing. Having and experiencing moments of utopia would be sublime. And they happen. Moments of connection and intimacy. Places we visit. Holidays. Success at work, at university, at school. But they don’t depict the fullness of our life. Our lives are not utopian. They are simply our lives. We build them up minute by minute, day by day, year by year. We experience them. We become through them.
So why are utopias dangerous. Well they are dangerous when we are sold them as a dream and a tantalising destination. The American dream has got to be one of the most hackneyed utopias of… read more
Judaism, Doubt and the Binding of Isaac
Rabbi David’s sermon Rosh Hashana Day 2 5778
When I had my second interview to become Rabbi of this community, about 40 members and past members of the Board of Management were invited to hear me and question me. That is a lot of Jews and a lot of opinions in one room – by the well known ratio that would have made 60 opinions I suppose. I remember distinctly one direct question – How will you answer halachic, religious questions that members ask you? My answer, was that if I could answer I would – but if I had a doubt which may well be the case, I would go and look it up in Jewish texts, or ask… read more
Teshuva, Psychotherapy and Mental Health
Rabbi David’s sermon Rosh Hashana Day 1 – 5778
When I was at University at the LSE, I undertook a process of becoming more religiously observant. I didn’t want to change in a radical way, more part of an organic process. I had been a good boy really as a child. I had been very actively Jewish. And then I went to yeshiva to study in 1993 where I saw many people whose shifts to religiosity were so quick and so sudden. I spent a number of years learning in yeshivot, and I remember the pressured atmosphere at this time of year. The word Ellul, the month leading up to Rosh Hashana, would already beckon in a period of worry… read more
Jonathan Arkush at Shabbat on the Hill
Last Shabbat we were joined in Shul by Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. After the service Jonathan provided an overview of the role of the Board in the context of the wider community and an update of what it has been up to over recent months.
Jonathan described how the Board had been set up in 1760 as a vehicle for Jewish representation in the UK. As an elected body it is embedded in the democratic fabric of the country, with close links to politicians and to Whitehall. Indeed, Jonathan suggested that the Board may have a higher profile outside the community than within it.
Jonathan extolled the vibrancy of the Jewish community here… read more
Meet the new Chair
Now that Rabbi Mason has upgraded and is using video to share his thoughts with the community, he has agreed that the board can use the blog on the shul website to share news and updates with the community. I wanted to take the opportunity to tell you a little more about me and my hopes for the next year.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Karen Ackerman, I have been a member at Muswell Hill Shul for about 15 years when we moved to this area. I am married to Warren Taylor, and we have three children , Nathan, who is 17 today (happy birthday), Noa who is 14 and Aron who… read more
Compassion and Violence – Sermon, Miketz
We are experiencing a wide array of conflicts in our world at the present, and as a result our tendency often is to simplify how we relate to these conflicts. People and groups either stack up on the side of good or evil. We call people terrorists without any other finesse of understanding. We generalise, stereotype. It makes things a whole lot easier for us. But of course life is a lot more complicated. Often what is difficult to grasp is that people who are capable of acts of terror, can also be capable of acts of decency. In my MA I have studies organisations such as Hamas, or Hizbullah, who on the one hand commit often to acts of… read more
Rabbi David in Ukraine – Jewish Responsibility
I wrote last week after the first day of a quite emotional trip to Zaporozhye in eastern Ukraine, an hour’s drive from Dnepropetrovsk. As I mentioned, on the first day we visited two homes, supported by the World Jewish Relief’s Home Repairs scheme, which does what it says on the tin. The great thing about this help is that it fills a real need for the many Jews who live in Zaporozhye and in other parts of Ukraine. WJR, and the Joint consider carefully how money that is raised can be used, in ways that maintain the dignity of the recipients of this money. And that is something that is so important to me as a Rabbi and religious Jew.… read more
Trip to Ukraine – Day 1
United Synagogue Rabbinic Trip to Ukraine – led by World Jewish Relief
Day 1 – November 30th 2015
A number of months ago, I felt that a story that was subsiding from media coverage was the conflict between Russian backed military groups, and Ukrainian military in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. I was having a conversation with Richard Verber of World Jewish Relief about our Shul’s twinning with Rovno and the Warm Home project there, when I asked about whether we could put together a Rabbinic trip to Ukraine to see how the conflict is affecting the lives of Jews who live there. And so here I am. I am staying in Zaporizhia with six of my Rabbinic colleagues, a town one… read more
Kol Nidrei – How Hard it Can be to Forgive
Click here for a downloadable version of the sermon
Nadine Collier lost her mother Ethel Lance this June in the killings in Charleston. Along with other representatives and relatives of those who were killed, she did something that many of us would find difficult. She forgave the killer. Here are her words which could be heard in court by the killer himself, Dylan Roof:
“I forgive you. You took something really precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. It hurts me, it hurts a lot of people but God forgives you and I forgive you.”
Here… read more