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
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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
Rosh Hashana Day 2 Sermon – On Being a Stranger
When I was in my first year of University, back in 1991, I soon became Chair of my Jewish society. It wasn’t exactly a big task to become chair. Only one other Jewish student wanted the position – and we shared it for the year. I had a great year. Lots of speakers. Lots of student politics. Lots of angering the Socialist workers students. I had followed Dave Rich, who is a member of our Shul, who helped me and advised me greatly. Dave even worked a way that we could jointly propose a motion to our union together with the Palestine Society, which supported the Madrid Peace conference. The motion was not earth shattering – but proposing a motion… read more
Rosh Hashana Day 1 Sermon – Believing in Humanity
I have to tell you all that I have had a most gratifying year. Obviously at the top of the list was seeing our oldest daughter Hodaya reach Batmitzvah a few days ago. A moving, emotional and exhilarating family experience and I am sure you will all agree that Hodaya did so well! Another gratifying experience high up the list is the studying of a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies. Although I must say that I have read, researched and studied a lot more about conflict than about its resolution. It could be quite demoralising at times to learn about how many deep conflicts exist and how difficult it is to solve them. In fact many conflicts… read more
‘Remembering’ the Holocaust
Let us be clear at the outset – remembering the Holocaust is hard. The passing of time is often cruel, as it turns and transforms memories of the actual, into remembrance. Actual memories are fading and are affected by the subjective mindsets of the individuals who share these memories. Those who survived the Holocaust are passing on from this world; and those survivors that are still with us talk of their own perspective shone on the memories of those dark times. But, as the writer Marc Auge writes, ‘Memories are like plants; there are those that need to be quickly eliminated in order to help the others burgeon, transform, flower’ . In other words, it is not simple to learn… read more
The Pesach Hagada – Telling the story as yourself
The Pesach Seder is often a long evening, and to remain aware and connected to it is hard. But after the meal, I am often ‘awakened’ by the paragraph we say before we open the door for Elijah. We all stand up and say ‘Pour out your anger on the nations that do not know you’. Hard words indeed and words that many will feel uncomfortable to say. We probably mutter them in the Hebrew and not in their English – but we are meant to understand what we are saying.
I would argue that as with other sections of the Hagada that we read, these words have a context. In other words, the Hagada is an accumulation of different… read more
Back to University!
Twenty years ago, I left the LSE having studied a BSc and MSc in Econometrics and Mathematical Economics. Little did I know then that twenty years later I would be passing LSE again regularly – to attend its rival, King’s College. I have been studying for an MA in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies now for 2 terms of a 2 year course. It really has been an eye opening experience. A great group of students, a great group of teachers in the Middle East Studies Department and so fascinating courses. I have been a Hamas delegate in a mock Israel/Palestine negotiation, preparing now to be a UN mediator in a Syrian civil war mock negotiation, have studied conflicts that… read more
Parashat Noach – What’s in a nation?
Click here for a downloadable version of the Parasha Blog.
If one takes a look at the list of nations that today makes up the United Nations, and compares this with the list of nations that the Torah list as developing from Noah – one will find very little similarity at all. Maybe one or two are recognisable names – China, Greece and a nation known as Ashkenaz, the name later given by Jewish sources to the German lands. But not many more are recognisable. The only similarity maybe this – the very existence of the concept of a nation.
We take the idea of a nation for granted. It is a given facet of existence that people are part… read more