Category Archives: History

Elegy on the Holocaust

Rabbi Simon SchwabRabbi Simon Schwab (1908-95), sion of Hirsch’s “Torah and Derekh Eretz” Community in Frankfurt, and leader of Khal Adath Jeshurun in Washington Heights, USA, composed a moving Elegy on the tragedy of the Holocaust, for inclusion among the others traditionally chanted on the Fast of Av, the saddest day of the Jewish Year.

R. Schwab’s elegy is structured like the well-known kinah “Betseiti Mimitzrayim” (also known by its opening words “Esh Tukad”), and intended to be chanted to the same chant. The S&P chant for “Esh Tukad” also fits the R. Schwab’s kinah well. Continue reading


Never Again

Candles_0Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) in Israel. The date was chosen because of it’s position between the Anniversary of the Waraw Ghetto Uprising and Israel Independence Day, and indeed in Hebrew the full name of the day is Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day). There is a clear “angle” here, but then different points of view are fine as long as we recognise them as such.  Continue reading


schlissel challasA little-known Chassidic custom has been gaining momentum. For the last few years I’ve been finding two opposing kinds of posts on my Facebook wall just days after the end of Pesach.

Some of them proudly show photographs of a home made challah in the shape of a key (with an accompanying wish to friends for “prosperity”); while others include derisory memes berating the “Christian or pagan” custom of “Schlissel Challah” as yet another “segulah” that cheapens God into a sort of “vending machine for superstitious people”.

So what is it really? Continue reading

Sephardi origin for “Fish and Chips”?


The important “discovery” of the S&P origins of the iconic British meal of Fish and Chips got a brief notice in the Jewish Chronicle today (The Diary, p 45).

Although it has been known for years that fish fried in batter was introduced to Britain by Portuguese refugees, the new discovery was an associated recipe for Potato Shavings, in a recipe book “The Jewish Manual: Practical Information in Jewish and Modern Cookery,” published anonymously in 1846 by Judith, Lady Montefiore.  Continue reading

HomerDuring the seven week period between Pesah (Passover) and Shavuot (Pentecost), we count the “Homer” (18th C. S&P spelling of “Omer”) each evening after Arvit. The source for this is Lev. 23:15-16:

“And you shall count to yourselves from the day after the day of rest (1st day of Pesah), the day that ye brought the omer [of barley] for waving; seven weeks shall there be complete; until the morrow after the seventh week you shall count fifty days; and then present a new meal-offering [of wheat] to the Lord.” Continue reading

Tricorn revival at Bevis Marks?

City-of-London-20130223-000882It is many years since tricorn hats were worn regularly at Bevis Marks Synagogue, but I reintroduced this Purim as Visiting Rabbi.

When their use was discontinued in favour of top hats, some 200 years ago, certain members were so upset with this “pandering to modernity” that they formed a breakaway tricorn minyan. However, it has been made clear that this new development does not represent a regression, and that from now on both tricorns and top hats are equally acceptable. Continue reading