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Embarrassed to be Israeli?

This week I met someone just back from the Greek islands who told me that they kept on meeting Israelis who confided to them that they were embarrassed to be identified as Israelis and preferred to hide it. (I have hard that Americans abroad, ashamed of their government, do the same, preferring to be known as Canadian!) It reminded me…

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Charlie Gard and Life

You may have read about the battle in London over the final days of life for a baby called Charlie Gard. He was born with a form of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome that causes increasing muscle weakness and brain damage. There is no known cure. The doctors in Great Ormond Street Hospital in London diagnosed this fatal condition. They put…

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Fasting on the 9th of Av

The fast of the Ninth of Av, Tisha B’Av, falls this coming Monday night and Tuesday. All other so-called “minor fasts” in Judaism run from dawn to dusk—like Ramadan. Unlike Ramadan, which lasts for a month, we have many fewer fast days. But we also have two fasts during the year that run for over 24 hours—Yom Kippur and Tisha…

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Nicknames

My father loved giving nicknames. My younger brother Michael was called Mickey, and my youngest brother was called Buster. I was Rooky. That came from my Hebrew name, Yerucham. The English could not pronounce the guttural Chet sounds so it became Yerookam, and from that came Rooky, which stayed with me until my first rabbinic position, when I thought that…

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Fritz Haber

I went to a very good Jewish school in England, Carmel College (the one my father founded), which was known for the strength of its sciences. In those days they were divided into three separate faculties—chemistry, physics, and biology. The senior master and head of sciences was a brilliant chemist and pedagogue, Romney Coles. He had written several textbooks on…

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Going Mad

I do not want to come across as a rabbi-basher or an opponent of Haredi Judaism. Most things are like curates eggs—there are parts that I love and parts that I do not. And I like to vary my subject from week to week. But something happened this week that I simply cannot let go without comment. It is not…

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