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

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Recordings from the past

ProductImageHistorical recordings of a service of thanksgiving held 58 years ago at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London, in celebration of the 300th Anniversary of the resettlement of the Jews in Britain are now available online, and on an inexpensive CD. For more details click here.

Recordings from the service held 50 years later, for the 350th Anniversary, can be heard here.

Beha’alotecha: Black is beautiful

black is beautifulWas the biblical Miriam guilty of racial prejudice?

We feel uncomfortable with that idea somehow.

Rashi as he often does, tries to resolve the problem by adding things into the text or deleting things from the text, or re-reading the verse. He has no problem with changing a word’s meaning to solve a problem. For example in this week’s parasha when Miriam talks about Moshe’s Kushi wife, and Rashi does not understand who the Kushi wife is, since the only wife we know about is Tzipora, a Midianite, Rashi changes the meaning of the word. Continue reading

Keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries

THUMBNAIL_IMAGEProblem keeping track of birthdays and anniversaries that use different calendars?

There are apps that help, but I wanted a physical book – like the birthdays books that used to be popular in my Gran’s day, but with Hebrew and Gregorian dates. I also needed more space than Gran’s little book had. So I designed this. Open it at the Hebrew end for Hebrew dates; English end for Gregorian dates. Problem solved! (Yes, you’ll need TWO bookmarks.) 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

Voo-Jew?

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

Roasted or boiled?

eggIn the early seventies there was a marvelous British TV advert by the Egg Marketing Board. It involved a lodger who comes down for breakfast to a harridan of a landlady who asks him sourly, “How do you want your eggs, fried or boiled?

He drifts off into a fantasy of eggs cooked in all sorts of delicious, exotic ways, asking himself in his mind: “or scrambled?, or poached?, or en cocotte…?” Responding to her from within his fantasy, he says out loud: “Eggs Risotto please, Mrs. Burridge.” She shocks him back to reality with the caustic retort: “Is that fried or boiled?”

My question is a little different. Should the egg on the Seder plate be roasted or boiled? Continue reading