Author Archives: David Du Parc Braham

  1. From the Steppes of Russia to the bright lights of Paris

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    Trioka, the Klezmer Hot Club take Hampstead on a klezmer journey

    Hampstead Synagogue’s 125th year kicked into full swing on Sunday 19 March, with a lively Klezmer Jazz Concert from Troika.

    Troika 2
    Over 130 people packed into the community centre as Wally Fields (piano) and his band took the audience on a musical journey from Paris and the USA of
    the 1930s, to the wild Steppes of Cossack Russia and into the 1920s Jewish Odessa. The audience were swept away with the exciting sounds of klezmer, expertly delivered by Wally, with Paul Gregory (Jazz Manouche guitar), Mathew Heery (guitar and mandolin), Mark Armstrong (Trumpet) and Allan Straton (bass guitar). A big thanks to them, our sponsors and in particular Tony Ostrin for pulling it all together.
    Troika 1
  2. What’s Rabbi Michael up to?

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    This article appeared inthe Hamodia newspaper on 16th February. It is about the Dayanut Programme which I began studying on a few months ago. The Programme is proving very stimulating and enjoyable and I hope to share in Shul some of what I’ve learned soon. So far, we have been focusing on issues in Jewish family law such as how Jewish status is established nowadays, the status of kohanim and special laws applying to them, and how Jewish Law developed from allowing polygamy to an insistence on monogamy in the Middle Ages.

    Making History. Hamodia

  3. New Communities Minister visits Hampstead Synagogue

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    On Thursday (4th of August 2016), the Board of Deputies organised a visit of the new Communities Minister Lord Bourne to the Hampstead Synagogue in West Hampstead. The visit was part of a day of engagements for the Minister with faith communities across London.


    During the visit, the Minister was shown the features of the synagogue by Rabbi Dr Michael Harris and Co-Chairs Adrienne Rosen Powell and Michael Helgott.

    The minister was also briefed on issues facing the Jewish community by the Board of Deputies’ Gillian Merron, the Jewish Leadership Council’s Adam Langleben and the Community Security Trust’s Jonny Newton.

    Commenting on the visit, Board of Deputies Chief Executive Gillian Merron said: “Explaining Judaism and the Jewish was of life to our leaders in Government is a key part of the work that we do and it was an honour to arrange this visit for the new Communities Minister.”

    Communities Minister Lord Bourne said:

    “We are greatly enriched by the diversity of faiths that call our Country home.

    “Within an hour you can visit places of worship representing our largest religions, through to our smaller faiths, all of whom play an integral part in communities.

    “I was delighted to visit Hampstead Synagogue to learn more about Judaism and hear about the important work the Synagogue does for the wider community.”

    Read Lord Bourne’s own words about his day  in the Jewish News.

  4. Rabbi Harris at Limmud

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    Having first attended Limmud Conference in 1994 at the then Oxford Polytechnic, and subsequently attended as Limmud  migrated to Worcester, Manchester, Nottingham and Warwick, I was excited to see how things would be at this year’s brand new venue, the hotels surrounding Pendigo Lake in Birmingham. (more…)
  5. 13th Isaiah Berlin Lecture

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    A sell out crowd heard Sir Brian Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division, deliver the 13th Isaiah Berlin Lecture on Security and Justice.





  6. Shabbat UK at Hampstead

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    The second Shabbat UK was one of firsts for Hampstead Synagogue – the first shiur by Dina Brawer, the first of Josh Zaitschek’s Minyan@the Den and the first time in the last decade that Hampstead’s local MP came to address the community.

    The celebrations kicked off on Friday night as Dina Brawer led us through an exploration of the holiness of Shabbat – is it intrinsically holy, or is it a day which is holy because of what we do? From the ultra rationalist Rambam to the mysticism of the Zohar, Dina Brawer gave plenty of us food for thought before more traditional Friday night fare.

    On Saturday, the lower hall of the Community Centre was packed out as Josh’s  first ever Minyan@the Den service was held for 20s and 30s. With a mid-morning Kiddush (involving plenty of whisky!) and an intimate atmosphere, this was the first of hopefully many such services at Hampstead. It was great to see so many young people engaging in the Shabbat morning service.

    Following all services, the main hall was packed for a fantastic lunch prepared by Josh and Yocheved. During the lunch, Tulip Siddiq MP spoke about how she got involved in politics and the experiences and difference that faith communities can bring to public life and getting things done. Following her talk, Tulip took questions on all manner of topics, including mental healthcare, interfaith relations and  (bravely) the relationship between the Jewish community and Jeremy Corbyn.

    As co-Chair Michael Helfgott said in wrapping up the occasion, Hampstead’s approach to Shabbat UK aimed to symbolise its approach to Judaism and life – outward looking, open to debate, and welcoming of all.”


  7. Faith Without Fear – Book launch report

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    It was standing room only at the launch of Rabbi Dr. Michael Harris’ new book, “Faith without Fear: Unresolved Issues in Modern Orthodoxy”, held in the Community Centre of Hampstead Shul on Monday 19th October, 2015.

    Book launch 4

    Over 200 people packed out the hall to hear a panel discussion on the new book. The panel, chaired by Dr Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya and comprising Rabbi Harris, Dr Tamra Wright, the Director of Academic Studies at the London School of Jewish Studies and Dr Simon Hochhauser, former President of the United Synagogue, engaged in a lively and fascinating discussion and took questions from the eager audience.

    The book was summarised by Rabbi Harris as examining key unresolved issues in the Modern Orthodoxworld, but not a book for those seeking easy or neat responses. He explained that it was his first attempt to write for a non-academic audience, and hoped that the intellectual style was accessible to the lay reader. Rabbi Harris explained the title “Faith without Fear” referred to three areas where Modern Orthodoxy needs to be fearless -fearless in self-confidence, and discarding the “inferiority-complex” that has developed in Modern Orthodoxy in the face of Charedi Orthodoxy; fearless in tackling key issues head on, for example the “Torah from Heaven” debate, the reclamation of mysticism and also in acknowledging the changing roles and rights of women in Modern Orthodoxy; and finally, fearless in giving precedence to one strand of Judaism, again linked to the issue of self-confidence.

    Book launch 2

    Questions were then posed to the panel on themes highlighted in the book, first from Dr Julius, and then from the audience. Among many issues, Dr Hochhauser spoke about the increasing trend of Rabbinic authority over matters outside halacha and the dangers of the United Synagogue failing to engage with outside debate. He agreed with Rabbi Harris that the United Synagogue is behind in addressing the role of women in Modern Orthodoxy, noting that it took years of hard work toconvince the Rabbinic authorities to allow women as Trustees. He also touched upon the controversial topic of the moment – partnership minyans. Dr Wright answered questions on the divisions between approaches to Judaism and expounded upon how the richness and diversity https://www.cialissansordonnancefr24.com/ within Jewish thought offered a response to the different challenges Judaism faces. Rabbi Harris also fielded questions on the Askenazic character of Modern Orthodoxy and lack of similar divisions in Sephardi tradition, on challenges to the idea of “Torah from Heaven” (noting the issue was less the Documentary Hypothesis and more addressing recent discoveries of written content pre-dating but similar to the Torah),  the challenges faced with training new Modern Orthodox Rabbis and the disparities between Charedi and Modern Orthodoxy.

    ThBook launch 3e panel discussion gave a current and unique view of the state of Modern Orthodoxy and the challenges individuals and institutions face within Judaism. Rabbi Harris explained just enough to entice the audience to buy his book and find out more (the long queues at the end of the evening certainly proved its appeal!), but also posed many important questions that the wider Jewish Community and the authorities that support them need to address themselves.


  8. Faith Without Fear – Preview

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    This Monday (19 October 2015) sees the launch of Rabbi Harris’ new book addressing key issues of Modern Orthodoxy. Marc Nohr interviewed Rabbi Harris on the book for our shul magazine. As a preview for Monday’s event, the interview is reprinted below.

    Q: The title of your new book is Faith without Fear. Which suggests that “faith” and “fear” usually come as a pair. Is that right and how should we understand the title?

    A: Traditionally in Judaism there is a type of “fear” which should go along with “faith”. This is what is known as “Yirat Shamayim”, “fear of Heaven”, i.e. awe and reverence before God.  Certainly I don’t want to argue in the book that that kind of “fear” is inappropriate. But I feel that too often Orthodox Jewish faith, particularly Modern Orthodoxy which is the focus of this book, is paired with different and unhealthy types of fear. One is lack of self-confidence. As the book tries to show, Modern Orthodoxy has at least as much claim as the main ideological alternative in the Orthodox world, namely Haredi Orthodoxy, to be considered a legitimate heir of pre-modern Jewish tradition. Sometimes Modern Orthodox Jews seem to have something of an inferiority complex vis-a-vis Haredi Orthodoxy. This is one kind of fear we should jettison. Another kind of fear we should do without is lack of courage. Modern Orthodoxy needs to have the courage to face up to the huge challenges presented by modernity such as the welcome revolution in the status of women in the modern world.

    Q: The book tackles a series of questions. What made you choose these particular topics rather than other potential candidates? Is it because you consider them to be relatively unexplored or because you think we have lacked the “courage” to date to tackle them head on?

    A: I chose some of the topics in the book, such as Modern Orthodoxy’s attitude towards mysticism and its messianic hopes, because I feel that these issues are relatively neglected in the oral and written discourse of the Modern Orthodox community both here and abroad. But although neglected, I think they are very significant because they shed light on some of Modern Orthodoxy’s deepest commitments such as its universalism, i.e. its emphasis on those strands of Jewish tradition which most value the non-Jewish world. In the case of other topics discussed in the book such as the role of women and Judaism’s attitude to other religions, much has been written about them, but they are unresolved within the Modern Orthodox world and I have views on these issues that I wanted to express just as another voice in the debate. In the case of one issue, Torah from Heaven, to which the longest chapter of the book is devoted, I do think that far too little attention has been given to it at least partly because of a lack of courage, and I want to encourage further discussion of it.

    That’s not to say that the book covers every major unresolved issue in Modern Orthodoxy. Two particularly important areas not discussed in the book which will continue to be debated are attitudes to homosexuality and attitudes to non-Orthodox Jewish denominations.

    Q: Why did you not decide to tackle those last two particularly given how contested those debates are within the broader Jewish community? Are we not crying out for some intellectual leadership on those issues?

    A: As Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, famously says: “lo alecha hamelacha ligmor”  –  one person can’t be expected to do the whole job! I honestly don’t think I’m qualified to deal with every major issue facing Modern Orthodoxy – I feel confident only to try and contribute to the debate on some of the issues. I find the issue of homosexuality particularly difficult to deal with adequately from a Modern Orthodox perspective and am still struggling with and thinking about it. My colleague Rabbi Chaim Rapoport wrote a very good book about Orthodoxy and homosexuality a decade ago – I don’t think it’s the last word on the subject but it’s a very helpful contribution to the debate. Regarding Orthodoxy and non-Orthodox denominations, actually I wonder if, especially in the UK context, we need not so much intellectual as practical leadership. That I have tried to play a part in by attending Limmud Conferences over the last two decades and engaging in public dialogue with non-Orthodox rabbis in different forums.

    Q: Courage is clearly one of the abiding themes of the book, as its title suggests. Why, in your opinion, has courage been so lacking on the issue of Torah from Heaven and how would you characterise the view you take in the book?

    A: I think that Orthodoxy, including Modern Orthodoxy, has tended to shy away from the issue of Torah from Heaven for at least two reasons: 1) The theological stakes are very high, as the idea of Torah as Divine Revelation is one of the most fundamental principles of Judaism; 2) Attacks on the idea of “Torah from Heaven” are rooted in parts of the academic world and in disciplines and vocabularies which are utterly foreign to the vast majority of the Orthodox world and which most Orthodox rabbinic scholars and leaders are unable and unwilling to respond to. In the UK in particular, an additional factor is the spectre of the “Jacobs Affair” of the 1960s which still haunts Anglo-Jewry. I argue in the book that shying away from the issue is intellectually dishonest and no longer even feasible in today’s society in which we can access the conclusions of academic biblical criticism via a few clicks on Google. To try and summarise in one sentence the view I present in the book, it is that our tradition contains resources which can allow us to be both intellectually honest and to propound a view of Torah from Heaven which may be unconventional but is still Orthodox.

    Q: What is your point of view on the role of women that you felt had not yet been adequately expressed elsewhere?

    A: I don’t feel that there have been enough Orthodox rabbinic voices putting forward the view that feminism is essentially a positive phenomenon, that all kinds of apologetics are problematic and that male and female halakhic scholars need to work to develop the Halakhah as it pertains to women in a way which is substantial but which is also gradual, responsible and faithful to the halakhic process. There have been enormous positive developments in women’s roles and opportunities within Orthodoxy in the last few decades and I believe that there are many more to come. The momentum is unstoppable and I welcome that fact.

    Q: Modern orthodoxy can be reticent on messianic matters compared to Haredi Orthodoxy. What kind of messianic future does your book suggest should we might look forward to?

    A: I suggest that Modern Orthodoxy should anticipate a messianic future in which international peace and economic prosperity reign and all human beings are treated with dignity. This may sound like stating the obvious, but there are strands in our messianic tradition, often responding to terrible anti-Semitic persecutions in the Middle Ages, which perceive the messianic era as a time of Jewish supremacy and even revenge. We need to side with and promote the ethical voices in Jewish messianic thought.

    The last point touches on an overall theme of the book. The Jewish tradition we have been privileged to inherit is a very long, complex and rich one. It is no surprise, therefore, that on a wide range of major issues it contains different strands and opinions. Sometimes there is no alternative but to promote (or ‘privilege’, as philosophers would say) one strand over another.




  9. Dina Brawer – Scholar in Residence Visits in 5776/2015-16

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    We are delighted to announce that Dina Brawer will be with us as Scholar in Residence https://www.cialissansordonnancefr24.com/ on several Shabbatot and other occasions during the forthcoming Jewish year 5776, 2015-16.

    Dina is a well-known informal Jewish educator, and has previously visited and taught at our Shul where she was very well received. In her professional life, Dina delivers training to volunteers at Jewish Care. She was born and raised in Milan and studied in Jerusalem and New York. She obtained  a BA in Jewish Studies at LSJS and holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Education from the Institute of Education. Her academic areas of interest are Educational Philosophy and Women & Halacha. Dina will be engaged in a range of events at several points during the year. In particular, she will be delivering shiurim as Scholar in Residence on Friday 23 October (Shabbat UK) and on the Shabbatot of 5 December 2015, 23 January 2016, 27 February 2016, 12 March 2016 and 14 May 2016.

    We are thrilled to be able to draw on Dina’s talent and experience, and our intention is that in the future our community will have the opportunity to learn from many further women scholars.


  10. Hampstead vs Shomrei – match report

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    By the time the rain had stopped on Sunday afternoon, the Dennstan Devils,  Hampstead and Dunstan Road’s team, were raring to get one over their local rivals the Shomrei Sharks after a year’s break from the annual cricket derby.

    Shomrei Sharks vs Dennstan Devils 28 Jun 15 (2)

    After winning the toss and deciding to bat, two early wickets were lost cheaply. However, we were never going down without a fight.  Hampstead Harrier’s own Freddy Powell steadied the ship, going on to score a wonderful 82 in an innings that will live long in the memory of die-hard Hampstead fans, with some beautiful stroke play and powerful six hitting.  Freddy was ably supported by the sterling batsmen of Dunstan Road, and his brother, Barnaby Powell, coming in at number 7 and scoring a quick fire 44 not out. Together they helped Hampstead reach a mammoth total of 198 off 25 overs in a brilliant batting display on what was undoubtedly a bowlers’ wicket.

    The Shomrei Sharks were never going to give us an easy ride.  With their strength lying in their deep batting line-up, they put up a valiant effort.  Hampered by some excellent bowling from our own Benji Ross, Shomrei looked to be well off the pace when they went into bat.  However, despite solid bowling spells from Barnaby and Gabriel Mendel – with Gabriel grabbing two wickets and Barnaby frightening the batsmen with his fierce bouncers – Shomrei accelerated nicely.

    Yet, despite a few nerves in the middle overs, the result was never in doubt, with excellent bowling from Dunstan Road bowlers and Hampstead’s own Powell duo picking up wicket after wicket and restricting Shomrei to 175, a Hampstead and Dunstan Road win by 23 runs.

    A fantastic effort from all of those involved, including a honourable mention for the stalwart at the top of the order, Rabbi Michael Harris who provided incredible insight and mentoring for young and old players alike.

    Barnaby Powell

  11. Summer BBQ and illusionist show

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    The sun may have been absent, but that only meant it was a traditional British BBQ in all senses of the word at Hampstead on Sunday.
    Despite the lack of sunshine, we had a fantastic spread of food once again prepared by our very own Josh and Yocheved – from tasty burgers and hot dogs, to mouthwatering chicken, chips and salads.


    Not only did he prepare the food, but Josh downed tongs to run a very special 1K on behalf of US Futures. Why was it special? Because it was a three legged run with none other than Rabbi Harris! While other Rabbis made their runs in the safety of Allianz Stadium, Josh and the Rabbi braved West Hampstead on a Sunday – running up and down West  End Lane, arriving back at the shul to cheers.
    And after they recovered it was straight on to the illusionist show with Rabbi Shisler, the only Rabbinical associate of the Inner Magic Circle. Rabbi Shisler wowed us all with fantastic slights of hand, card tricks, rope tricks and musical frogs, with the help of some Hampstead kids and the Rabbi (it was a busy day for him!).
    All in all, a tasty, magical day at Hampstead.
  12. Hampstead AGM 2015

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    The end of an era

    As always, the AGM looked back on the community’s successes, and looked forward to the next year. The Chairman’s report, delivered by Michael Haringman, emphasised just how much Hampstead has achieved – even limiting the report to the major highlights meant reviewing no less than forty different items! Highlights included:

    Madeleine Abramson ( our Financial Representative) gave a report on our finances, Amanda Ruback reported on the Board of Deputies (including  the recent elections) while Josh Zaitschek reported on a highly successful year for our 20s and 30s, including sell-out Friday night dinners and the justly renowned Den and Junior Den.


    This year however was a very special AGM, marking as it did the end of Michael Haringman’s amazing 18-year service as Chairman of Hampstead. Rabbi Harris spoke for the entire community:

     At this AGM Michael Haringman is standing down as Chair after 18 years of magnificent service to our community. All though there will please G-d be further and fuller opportunities to pay tribute to his work for our Shul I did not want Michael’s term of office to come to a formal close this evening without publicly expressing my deep thanks to him for everything he has done for Hampstead.

    The beautifully renovated main Shul building that we now enjoy and which attracts the admiration and sometimes the wonder of visitors is perhaps the most visible element of Michael’s legacy as Chairman.  It was he who drove and masterminded the project, showing incredible dedication, determination and persistence over a decade of fundraising, planning and building. I well remember the times when one difficulty or another with the project seemed insurmountable, but Michael found a way through them all. The result is a Synagogue chamber which we sometimes slip into taking for granted but which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the entire Jewish world. Of course other people donated most generously of their time, money or both in attaining this magnificent goal. But above all, it is Michael’s achievement.

    Much else has developed a great deal over Michael’s term of office. When Michael came into the “box” in 1997 and I was the very new rabbi of the Shul, our services and style were very formal and many would argue somewhat dated.  Inevitably, Michael and I did not always agree about the detail and timing of every change. But we worked together and under Michael’s Chairmanship we evolved at a sensible pace. I believe it is fair to say that Michael’s approach resulted in much positive change achieved over time in a way that took the community with us.

    The fact that we have become less formal has not meant a dip in the standards of running Synagogue services, and there again Michael is the central figure. Smoothly running services appear to involve little preparation, but those on the “inside” know that that is not the case at all. Michael’s hard work and attention to detail have immensely enhanced our services and made possible some truly memorable special services and occasions.

    So much else could be mentioned: the untold hours that Michael has devoted to all aspects of Shul life; my personal debt of gratitude to him for a long, harmonious and productive working relationship and deep personal friendship; and the United Synagogue award to Michael a couple of years ago recognising him as the outstanding Shul Chair of the entire organisation.

    We look forward to Michael’s continued close involvement with our Shul in exciting new ways and projects, thank Barbara for the long loan of her husband, and wish them both and the family every continued success and blessing.

    It is hard to sum up the contribution that Michael has made for this community, but, to paraphrase the famous tribute to Sir Christopher Wren: Reader, if you seek his legacy – look around you.

    We now look to the future, with our new executive led by Chairman Michael Helfgott, assisted by co-Chair Adrienne Powell, Wardens Tony Ostrin and David du Parc Braham, and Financial Representative Madeleine Abramson. We are also fortunate that Candice Janet will become our full time Community Manager, and that Josh and Yocheved will not only continue their excellent work with 20s-30s, but also extend their role to teens.

    With an immediate focus on the complete replacement of the Community Centre, the next phase in our community’s history will begin.