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The Importance Of The Siddur Party To The Bar & Bat Mitzvah

One of the least surprising, yet amusing things I experience as a rabbi is when I encounter a young person approaching bar/bat mitzvah and ask them, “what is bar/bat mitzvah?” Yes – I'm sure you've already anticipated it. They almost invariably say, “that is when I become a man/woman”. This answer is almost standard irrespective of whether the child attends a Jewish day school or not.

Families Reunited

Celebrating Purim With The Jews Of Manipur
I celebrated Purim with the Bnei Menashe in Mumbai in 2010

I recently reflected upon all the current news about the "lost" tribes of Israel around the world suddenly being found. It seemed to me to have become a world-wide development - villages and groups in Africa, Asia and even South America, discovering Jewish descent or coming out of obscurity to show their practise and commitment to Judaism over centuries and even millenia. I saw it as an amazing example of the attraction, longevity and power of our Jewish tradition, and even perhaps a demonstrable example of "klal Yisrael"; the ongoing embrace of our world-wide "family of Israel". In light of growing anti-semitism in recent years, and particularly over the last year, I saw the desire to reconnect with our Jewish family and a yearning to have the freedom and ability to live a dedicated Jewish life, as a sign of hope for the coming secular year of 2013:

Why We Really Weep At The Western Wall

My Bat Mitzvah girl, Emily Wolfson, wrongfully detained at the Kotel for wearing a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl)
My Bat Mitzvah girl, Emily Wolfson, being wrongfully detained for wearing a tallit at the Kotel

Just as the new Chief Rabbi was announced in the UK, and just as he gave positive sounding comments about repairing the often damaging stand-off between the Orthodox movement he represents and the modern egalitarian Reform and Liberal traditions, many were shocked and disgusted to hear that two eighteen year old girls from the UK were arrested at the Kotel (Western Wall) in Jerusalem for the supposed "crime" of wearing a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). The reality is that no such crime exists either in Israeli law or in Jewish religious law - the law concerning a tallit is that men are obligated to wear one, but for women, it is an optional commandment; they may choose to wear or not wear one as they personally feel is appropriate for them.

Challenging Issues In Torah

Starting in January, I will begin my next series of Adult Education classes on Wednesday evenings.

We will be discussing some of the most challenging and controversial issues raised by Torah and Jewish tradition, in a series called "Challenging Issues in Torah". We will look at the context and Jewish thought behind some of these issues that continue to inspire interpretation and vex rabbis to this day. The subjects we will be looking at are:

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