Comments Off on East and West, to the Ratline, and Beyond: On Memory and Identity.
The family of the late Sir Isaiah Berlin joined our synagogue after they moved to Hampstead in 1927. He remained a member all his life. A devout atheist, even after he moved to Oxford, he came to Hampstead each year on Yom Kippur for the day to sit and think, if not pray. When he died, his Memorial Service was held at Hampstead and his family agreed that we should hold an annual lecture in his memory. The first, in 2003, was delivered by the late Rabbi Lord Sacks, zt’l, and he has been followed by a very distinguished list of lecturers. The 19th lecture, given this year by Professor Philippe Sands QC on Sunday 6th December 2020, was unusual in that it was given online rather than in our building. It was entitled “East and West, to the Ratline, and Beyond: On Memory and Identity”.
Philippe Sands is a remarkable man, Barrister, academic and author, he regularly appears in International criminal courts and tribunals. His best known book, “East West Street”, is subtitled “On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity” and there is no one like him able to define and explain those laws in ways that mere mortals like the rest of us can understand. Apart from telling the stories of two Nuremberg Prosecutors, Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin, who both studied law at Lviv University – as did Philippe’s own grandfather, it also tells the story of one of the Nuremberg defendants, Hans Frank, Governor-General of Nazi-occupied Poland, responsible for the murder of Lauterpacht’s and Lemkin’s families in and around Lviv.
In The Ratline, Philippe tells the story of Otto Wachter, the Governor of Galicia, who was indicted by the end of the war as a mass murderer but who went on the run to avoid arrest. Having hid for three years in the Austrian Alps, he made his way to Rome, where, assisted by a Vatican Bishop, he intended to travel to Argentina on the Ratline, the method by which many Nazis escaped from Europe to save their lives. Before he could leave, he died unexpectedly.
In his lecture, Philippe compared the different approaches to their respective fathers by the son of Hans Frank, Niklas Frank, and the youngest son of Otto Wachter, Horst, both in their identities and in their memories. Niklas had faced up to the reality of what his father had done. Horst had convinced himself that his father was really a good man. Both born in 1939, they had had not dissimilar upbringings, their fathers both being very senior Nazi officials. Their memories, however, were quite different, as were their identities in later life. Philippe had spent a great deal of time with them both, but his relationship with Horst was vastly different from that he had with Niklas, mainly because Horst maintained that his father either was not aware of what was done in his name in Galicia and/or that his father disapproved of it.
Because of Covid, the lecture was given online, rather than in person in our building. That, however, did not prevent Philippe from capturing his, exceptionally large, audience, not only in the lecture itself but also in answering the many questions that came in from the viewers.
There is no doubt that Philippe Sands earned a place as one of the best Isaiah Berlin lectures, we have had. Please watch this space to discover who will follow him later this year.
Comments Off on Welcome to Jack and Rivka Cohen our recently appointed Assistant Rabbi and Rebbetzen
What a time to welcome new members to the Hampstead team!
Jack, our Associate Rabbi will focus (not exclusively) on young professionals and young families. He grew up in Mill Hill and, after studying for his degree in Philosophy at UCL, went on to Yeshivat Har Etzion for five years where he received Rabbinic ordination. Jack is married to Rivka who works as a computer programmer and has a degree in Maths and Philosophy from King’s College London. She grew up in Hendon and has spent time in both Nishmat and Midreshet Moriah Seminaries.
Jack and Rivka, along with their son Itzik, look forward to meeting and working with the community.
Comments Off on Hosting a synagogue visit for Imam Amir Khan
Imam Amir Khan heads up the large Mosque in Chichelle Road where they have 2000 people attend services on Fridays! We gave him a tour and had a lovely discussion about the similarities between the two religions.
Hampstead Synagogue’s 125th anniversary celebrations continued with a summer tea held at the home of Madeleine and Richard Abramson. Sunny weather enabled sixty members of the community to enjoy the delicious afternoon tea which was served in the garden. Co-chair Adrienne Powell whilst welcoming everybody explained that the event was an opportunity to reminisce the history of Hampstead Synagogue and its community. She said that these special memories and photographs would be collected and form an important part of the Synagogue’s archive.
Comments Off on Daniel Taub delivers 15th Annual Isaiah Berlin Lecture
Daniel Taub, Ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2015, delivered the 2017 Isaiah Berlin Lecture (on Thursday 13 July) at Hampstead Synagogue entitled “100 years on: Lessons from the Balfour Declaration.”
In front of a packed hall of over 250 people, including Lord Balfour (great great nephew of Arthur Balfour), Lord Kestenbaum (chair of the Balfour 100 committee) and Lord Turnberg (who initiated the recent Balfour debate in the House of Lords), Taub gave a wide-ranging lecture, drawing on a range of diplomatic and literary sources. Taub, who currently works as Director of Strategy for the Yad Hanadiv (Rothschild) Foundation, was given access to the Rothschild archives and shared some behind the scenes insights about the intriguing background to the Declaration.
In the course of the lecture Taub identified a number of lessons which had relevance for today. One was that history was not carved in stone, but that it remained open to us to shape and influence it. “The Balfour Declaration was precisely that,” he said, ” – a declaration, not a binding document. As Lord Balfour himself said, ‘it didn’t give a land. It gave an opportunity.’ We were blessed to have had a leadership who knew how to seize this historic moment”.
Comments Off on Music for a summer evening with Robert Max and friends
More than 100 people attended the Hampstead Synagogue Community Centre on Sunday 9 July to hear a recital given by Robert Max (cello), Hana Mizuta-Spencer (violin), Tim Crawford (violin) and Alinka Rowe (viola).
They played Samuel Alman’s Fuga Fantastica for string quartet and was the first public performance of the quartet since the 1950s. The music of Alman has a special meaning for Hampstead Synagogue as he was the choirmaster of Hampstead synagogue from 1917-1947.
Beethoven’s string quartet in B-flat, op.130 was one of his ‘late’ quartets. Robert Max spoke about the work and Beethoven at the time of writing this quartet.
Refreshments were served after the recital when the audience was able to relax and speak with the musicians.
Comments Off on From the Steppes of Russia to the bright lights of Paris
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.
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.
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.
Comments Off on New Communities Minister visits Hampstead Synagogue
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.
Comments Off on Rabbi Michael takes part in the Maccabi Fun Run
Last Sunday 19th June I took part in the Maccabi Fun Run to raise money for Tribe and for youth projects at our Shul. I am very grateful to all those members who kindly sponsored me.
The run I participated in was the shortest, just 1km, but it involved being tied to another rabbi, Rabbi Alan Garber of Shenley United Synagogue. Various other US rabbinic colleagues were running similarly tied. Poor Rabbi Garber was wearing shorts and after about half the distance the rope was hurting his legs, so we ditched the rope and ran the rest properly.
It brought back happy memories as my previous run on that track (Copthall Stadium as it was then known) was the 800 meters for my House at Hasmonean School Sports Day some time in the late 1970s. I came second out of eight runners, which was the only sporting “achievement” of my entire school and university career (and indeed ever since).
The atmosphere at the Fun Run on Sunday was lovely – a real buzz with many people running for many different worthy causes.
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…)
Comments Off on Author Michael Mail visits the Book Club
The Hampstead Book Club held its last meeting of the year on Sunday 6th December, lighting candles for the first night of Chanukah and discussing Michael Mail’s book “Exposure”.
Based on a true incident from the late 1980s, it tells of a young Jewish photographer who, rediscovering her roots, takes an ageing Jewish community in the East End as the subject of a photographic study, and the explosive events that follow. We were privileged to be joined by the author himself, and a very interesting discussion followed on the book itself and the issues it raised. This was a first for the club, and we all enjoyed the opportunity to talk about the genesis of the book and the process of writing and publishing it, and we are very grateful to Michael for making the time to join us.
“Exposure” is available on Amazon, as are Michael’s other novels, “Coralena” and “The Three Graves of Samuel Braden”. Michael has also worked with the photographer Judah Passow on a photographic study of the Jewish communities of Scotland, recently published by Bloomsbury, and is currently working on a project to identify and conserve the architectural heritage of Jewish communities throughout Europe and beyond.
The book Club is now entering its third year of existence and has just agreed its programme for 2016. Anyone who is interested should contact Candice at the synagogue office for further details.
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.”
Comments Off on Faith Without Fear – Book launch report
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.