tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:/posts Belovski 2016-05-18T14:16:42Z Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1052658 2016-05-18T14:16:42Z 2016-05-18T14:16:42Z Belovski on Individuality Radio 2 Chris Evans Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1050550 2016-05-12T22:18:09Z 2016-05-12T22:18:09Z Belovski on Mental Health Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1044587 2016-04-30T22:59:30Z 2016-04-30T22:59:30Z Belovski on Liberation Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1040637 2016-04-25T16:22:02Z 2016-04-25T16:22:02Z Belovski on Preserving Mother Earth Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show (Suzi Perry sitting in)


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1031091 2016-04-11T17:43:51Z 2016-04-11T17:44:55Z Belovski on Serendipity

Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/1001412 2016-02-25T23:53:20Z 2016-02-25T23:54:20Z Belovski at Stern Forthcoming 02/03/16

Join us if you're there

Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/979782 2016-01-27T20:18:12Z 2016-04-11T17:44:02Z Belovski on Learning from the Past Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show (Nicki Chapman sitting in)


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/976920 2016-01-23T19:45:42Z 2016-04-11T17:44:12Z Belovski on Mid-Winter Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show (Penny Smith sitting in)


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/970936 2016-01-14T17:55:39Z 2016-04-11T17:44:31Z Belovski on Guilty Pleasures Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/965937 2016-01-07T15:35:19Z 2016-04-11T17:44:38Z Belovski on Surprising Encounters Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/956681 2015-12-24T23:23:01Z 2015-12-25T11:40:54Z Beautiful Days, Holy Days: Review

Beautiful Days, Holy Days: The Majesty and Profundity of the Jewish Holidays

Avraham Peretz Friedman (Compass Books, 2015), 216 pages

This book comprises an eclectic collection of essays on the festival cycle, citing sources as varied as Aldous Huxley and the Belzer Rebbe.  Written by Rabbi Avraham Peretz Friedman (author of the excellent monograph ‘Marital Intimacy’) in memory of his father and in honour of his mother, ‘Beautiful Days, Holy Days’ covers the Jewish year in an engaging and original way.  Some essays are entirely new to this volume; others like his highly original study of I.L. Peretz’s anti-religious tale ‘The Pious Cat’, have appeared before.  Some, like ‘Why do we eat honey on Rosh Hashanah’, address narrow, ritual issues; others, for example, an intriguing piece on Sukkot, consider major existential themes.  The latter actually provided me with a trigger for my most recent Ne’ilah sermon, at which I addressed the theme of meaninglessness and fundamental values.

Friedman’s style is accessible and interesting, although I found that the essays themselves vary in quality.  Some, like the piece addressing the process of prayer, are insightful and source-rich, but others I found less engaging, focusing on topics to which I struggled to relate.  On reflection, this variation is actually part of the book’s charm.  I expect that the author is trying to reach a wide audience which includes scholars and lay people of a range of persuasions and backgrounds:  those who are looking for intellectual stimulation and those who are seeking inspiration.

‘Beautiful Days, Holy Days’ should find a broad readership and is a welcome addition to the corpus of recent works on the festivals.

Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/911774 2015-10-01T13:59:10Z 2015-10-21T21:09:15Z Belovski on Harvest Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/909187 2015-09-24T17:12:31Z 2015-09-24T17:12:31Z Belovski on Autumn Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/906466 2015-09-17T23:35:08Z 2015-09-17T23:35:09Z Belovski on Judgement Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/903585 2015-09-10T20:20:34Z 2015-09-10T20:20:40Z Belovski on India Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/896311 2015-08-21T16:11:46Z 2015-08-21T16:17:09Z Summer Reading 2015 As in previous years, some people have asked me what I've been reading during the summer.  For those interested, a list follows, in no particular order:

Anthony Trollope, The Warden

Aaron Ross, CEOFlow

Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational

Simon Sinek, Start with Why

Anthony Trollope, The Way we Live Now

Otto Kroeger & Janet Thuesen, 16 Ways to Love your Lover

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day

Jon Katzenbach & Douglas Smith, The Wisdom of Teams

Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth about what Motivates us

Jonathan Sacks, Not in God's Name

Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing about Hard Things

Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor's Handbook (Meditations)

David Kantor, Reading the Room

Jennifer Michael Hecht, Doubt: A History

Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/881085 2015-07-14T17:38:43Z 2015-07-14T18:12:24Z Transition and the Beautiful Sound of Children Sermon Notes 11/07/15 - Pinchas 5775

The three recent parshiot – Chukat, Balak and Pinchas are texts of transition.  Chukat includes a chronological transition, in which the narrative skips from the second year of the Israelites’ desert sojourn to the 40th, in which remainder of the Torah takes place.  Balak is a transition of perception, in which our ancestors emerged from the bubble of the wilderness to experience the hostility of others, presaging much of Jewish history.   And in today’s parashah, Pinchas, the people are prepared for leadership transition – Moshe knows that he will not enter the Land of Israel and hands the reigns to Yehoshua some months before his actual demise.

This has stimulated me to think about recent transitions in our community.  There have been so many changes, not least to the physical infrastructure and the way we deploy the space for davening (more of this in a future sermon and post).  But I’d like to focus on the fantastic growth in the number of young families and small children attending the Shul on Shabbat morning.  In a few years, we’ve changed from a community with just a handful of youngsters to one swamped with babies and children every week.  This is a tremendous blessing, but also a challenge, as it represents a completely new demographic reality for our community.  And it’s one that we  must get absolutely right to ensure that this growth continues and everyone, without exception, feels welcome and loved.  Periods of transition are fragile and must be handled extremely carefully.

Many of the new families enjoy participating in tefillah, but others come along only for the children’s programmes or to hang around with their friends.  I am delighted that we can provide a range of Shabbat morning experiences that attract the widest range of people and this means that there’s lots of unfamiliar noise every week – the beautiful sound of children playing and babies crying.  We’re doing our best to try to ensure that davening and children’s programmes are synchronised and to encourage parents to look out for their children, but it doesn’t always work.

Some of us may be troubled by the new sounds around our building, but I have one clear message – when there’s a baby crying during the sermon, exuberant children whooping outside during the kedushah or the announcements are drowned out by chatter, love it!

Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/878918 2015-07-09T05:44:37Z 2015-07-09T05:44:37Z Belovski on Human Resilience Radio 2 Vanessa Felz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/876053 2015-07-01T14:46:52Z 2015-07-01T14:46:52Z Belovski on Faith in Actions Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show (Nicki Chapman sitting in)


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/873314 2015-06-24T11:35:37Z 2015-06-24T11:35:37Z Belovski on Facing my Fears Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/873021 2015-06-23T16:59:41Z 2015-07-14T17:31:23Z Dunstan Road's Three Embraces Centenary Sermon

GGS 20/06/15

Shehecheyanu, Vekiyamanu, Vehigiyanu Laz’man Hazeh

I know that everyone here joins me in thanking God for having brought our community in good health to a vibrant 100 years young.

As well as marking our centenary, this week has seen the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta.  It is noteworthy that 100 years ago as we were founded, the 700th anniversary Magna Carta celebrations were cancelled due to the First World War.  That sobering thought provides an opportunity for reflection on how the world has changed in the 100 years that have circumscribed the life of our community to date.

This is not merely a curious coincidence, but a matter of great significance in the context of our community.  The importance of Magna Carta can’t be overstated: it had many flaws and foibles, but it remains the basis for the common freedoms, justice and fairness which have long characterised this wonderful country, the epitome of malchut shel chesed – a kind, benevolent jurisdiction within which we and other minorities can practice our religion freely.

At first glance, this seems scarcely worth mentioning, but throughout history, Jews have experienced prejudice and disadvantage in their host countries.  As we give thanks today to God for 100 years of the Jewish settlement and religious life in Golders Green, we owe much to the religious and lay visionaries who founded this congregation – and bless their memory today – yet we also give thanks for the conducive, loving and nurturing environment in which our great community has thrived.

I am often asked why wine is used to celebrate special occasions in Jewish life.  Whether it’s at a major life event such as a wedding or a brit or to mark the passage of time (kiddush to commence Shabbat and Yom Tov; havdalah when they conclude; seder night, etc), wine plays a major role.  The Vilna Gaon (d. 1797) offers an illuminating explanation for this.  He notes that there are two ways to understand our relationship with time.  The first recognises that everything in the physical world, including human beings, have a period of vigour after which they slowly decline into oblivion.  The second offers a more otherworldly perspective, in which we start life relatively ignorant and undeveloped and as we age, increase our spiritual capacities, and sensitivities.  The second, of course, is a Jewish way to conceive of the passage of time – as each Shabbat, festival cycle and major life-event passes, we ought to be aware of our growing spiritual capabilities.  As the only thing in the physical world that improves as it ages, wine represents our aspirations and encourages us to bear in mind Judaism’s mission for the spiritualisation of the material world.  In short, wine is perfect to convey the message that we get better as we get older.

It is in that vein that I invite everyone present to join me in celebrating the fine, delightfully-aged wine that is the Golders Green Synagogue, our beloved Dunstan Road community.  I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s an unpretentious but full-bodied vintage, one worthy of our love and gratitude.  We all feel deep appreciation for a century of Jewish history, tefillah, Torah study, fine leadership and inspiration.

What then are the unique selling points of our community?  How have we managed – with God’s help - to re-energise our congregation over the past few years?  What has enabled us to witness major membership growth, oversee the refurbishment of our infrastructure, build the wonderful Rimon School, and with a Shul bursting with young families on a Shabbat morning have been delighted to appoint Rabbi Sam and Hadassah Fromson to partner in developing the community?

I expect that every congregant past and present will have a different answer to this.  However, I will just mention three.  I’ve called them the three embraces:

·        First – the uncompromising embrace of serious, authentic Torah ideas. Communities that embrace learning and demand very high-quality content from their rabbinic leaders, thrive.  Torah lies at the heart of Dunstan Road.

·        Second - absolute embrace of a non-judgemental inclusivism.  We are delighted to welcome and provide high-quality Jewish life in all senses of the word for people of every level of commitment, belief, involvement and knowledge.

·        Third – the willingness to embrace tensions and recognise that we live within complex realities.  We recognise that our lives are characterised by competing demands: spiritual vs. physical; traditional Jewish life vs. modernity; subordination to community needs vs. expressing individuality.  Rather than denying these tensions or pretending that we can resolve them all, we acknowledge and embrace them and appreciate the creativity they engender.

We are proud to embrace these ideas, and I am proud to commit us to constantly bettering our provision in them all. And I am confident that they lie at the heart of our success.

It has been an extraordinary privilege to stand at the helm of this community for more than 12 years.  And it has only been possible in partnership with a host of remarkable individuals.  In my role as a rabbinic mentor, I’m often asked for advice in handling difficult lay leaders, but I can’t offer any, at least not from experience.  Vicki and I salute you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts; may God bless you all with health, success and the energy to do even more for our community.

Join with me in wishing our community lechaim, arichat yamim and a hearty mazal tov as we start our second century.  Thank you.

Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/870588 2015-06-17T21:03:24Z 2015-06-17T21:03:56Z Belovski on Freedom and Justice Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/840958 2015-04-15T11:39:31Z 2015-04-15T11:39:32Z Belovski on Liberation Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/837819 2015-04-08T15:42:12Z 2015-04-08T15:42:13Z Belovski on What Would I Change About Myself? Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/834290 2015-04-01T17:06:58Z 2015-04-01T17:06:59Z Oneg Haggadah Companion הגדה של פסח
Please enjoy / download this compilation of essays on the Haggadah.  It was edited by Vicki and includes a piece I wrote this year for the Shul.  Printed copies available in Shuls in North West London.
Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/834286 2015-04-01T16:57:37Z 2015-04-01T16:57:38Z Belovski on Holy Week Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/830173 2015-03-25T14:08:08Z 2015-03-25T14:08:08Z Belovski on What is Power? Radio 2 Vanessa Feltz Show


Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/824748 2015-03-15T12:07:55Z 2015-03-15T12:52:24Z Anti-Semitism and Jewish Europe Belovski Articles in Jewish Action

Spring 2015

Jewish Action, the Magazine of the Orthodox Union in the USA, commissioned this articles, which have just been published:

Rebbetzin Vicki Belovski (contributer) - Do Jews Have a Future in Europe?

Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski - Anti-Semitism: The Longest Hatred

Some may recognise my piece from Kol Nidre 2014 and a recent guest drashah in Toronto.

Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/820979 2015-03-12T18:51:12Z 2015-03-20T06:02:30Z A Flawed Partnership A Look at Partnership Services


Please scroll to the bottom of this article for an endorsement by the RCUS

‘Partnership’ services have existed in some places in Israel and the United States for a while, but have only recently appeared in the UK.  They offer orthodox liturgy and traditional seating – genders are separated by a partition – but differ in that women, as well as men, lead parts of the prayers and read from the Torah.

Identifying and implementing halakhically-viable alterations to existing practice demands courage.  The orthodox world is innately change-averse, although innovation and creativity are possible within certain boundaries.  Yet since observance is defined and regulated by Jewish law, substantive modifications are only possible if they withstand halakhic scrutiny and conform to meta-halakhic (guiding philosophical) principles: supported by broad consensus among acknowledged halakhic authorities for the originator's credentials and methodology, as well as positive peer-review of his or her arguments.

From a halakhic perspective, a ‘partnership’ service includes several distinct practice-modifications, each of which deserves separate evaluation.  This is unrealistic in a short article, so I will focus only on the central and emblematic issues – women reading from the Torah on behalf of a mixed gathering and receiving aliyyot - being called to the Torah to make a blessing.

Halakhic validity for this innovation is claimed by the prominent expert in Jewish practice and Bar Ilan talmud professor, Rabbi Daniel Sperber, lately chancellor of a non-affiliated Canadian rabbinical school.  Although a few authors have written in support of Sperber, none shares his reputation and none has offered a significant alternative argument.

The essence of Sperber's reasoning follows.  Some early sources (notably a view in the Talmud with RaN's 14th-century gloss) opine that women may be counted among the seven called to the Torah on Shabbat.  Although this is cited in the 16th-century Shulhan Arukh, it is not known to have been practised; indeed, in the same talmudic passage, the anonymous 'sages' disallow the practice because of ‘dignity of the community'.  Sperber acknowledges that this has defined normative conduct from time immemorial.  Yet he notes that today, women study Torah to a high level and are as involved as men in many areas of religious and public life. Applying 'dignity of the community' to exclude women from aliyyot causes considerable distress, and, as such, can be overridden by the demands of 'human dignity', something highly prized by Jewish law.

While pastorally, Sperber's argument is appealing, it is halakhically flawed.  An exhaustive and widely-cited critique of Sperber was published in 2013 by Rabbis Aryeh and Dov Frimer.  Among their comprehensive technical rebuttals, the authors discuss Sperber's confusion of aliyyot with the Torah reading itself and his misappropriation of the notion of 'human dignity.’  Sperber's approach also evinces methodological irregularities.  Halakhah works on a system of antecedents - rulings built on an existing corpus of law and rules for its application.  As with all legal systems, it includes a wide range of views: some have been incorporated into the body of law; others, for whatever reason, have been excluded from it by the halakhic process.  One cannot simply disregard centuries of process and re-integrate marginalised opinions as the basis for practical innovation.  This equates to claiming that a long-disused judgement in 15th-century English property law could be validated as the basis for contemporary practice.  Yet this is precisely what Sperber does.  In fact, his approach suggests the untenable stance that any action not explicitly proscribed by halakhic sources is permitted.  Such claims undermine the very system within which Sperber purports to operate.

Halakhah is a complex, multi-chromatic system, so doubtless both Sperber and his detractors could muster additional arguments for their respective positions.  However, this is effectively irrelevant, given the total lack of support for women's aliyyot in a mixed service from significant halakhic authorities of any stripe.  In fact, there is a rare consensus within the orthodox rabbinate against this innovation.  In the USA, the senior halakhic authorities of Yeshiva University categorically dismiss its credibility.  Speaking to his rabbinate (February 2014, re-iterated February 2015), Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis cited the Frimers' analysis in his unequivocal rejection of the halakhic validity of 'partnership' services.   In Israel, Rabbi Yehuda Herzl Henkin, a leading halakhist known for his sensitive and creative approach to contemporary women's issues, offers the most damning repudiation: 'women's aliyyot remain outside the consensus, and a congregation that institutes them is not Orthodox in name and will not long remain Orthodox in practice.'  As such, the practice lies beyond the parameters of halakhah, its implementation a new denominational reality; similar reasoning applies to women’s Torah reading in a mixed gathering.

For many, this will be a disappointing outcome and I remain acutely aware of the sense of disempowerment and frustration that some feel at the male-oriented leadership roles in orthodox services.  Notwithstanding these sensitivities, the cloak of authenticity provided by Professor Sperber's reputation and undeniable good intentions can only impede the genuine collaborative partnership required to generate halakhically-credible alternatives.  In a recent interview for the JC, Chief Rabbi Mirvis advocated developing Shul-based women’s prayer groups, something I consider a positive step, while acknowledging the need for other strategies.  But however we address this challenge, it is among the issues that will define the future of centrist orthodoxy.

A version of this article first appeared in the Jewish Chronicle


Talmud Bavli Megillah 23a

תנו רבנן: הכל עולין למנין שבעה, ואפילו קטן ואפילו אשה

אבל אמרו חכמים: אשה לא תקרא בתורה, מפני כבוד צבור

Commentary of RaN (Rabbenu Nissim) ad loc.

ומיהו השתא דתקון רבנן שיברכו כולם אשה וקטן קורין אפילו ראשון ואחרון וכיון דקורין ודאי מברכין

Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim 282:3

הכל עולים למנין שבעה, אפילו אשה וקטן שיודע למי מברכין

אבל אמרו חכמים: אשה לא תקרא בצבור מפני כבוד הצבור

Sperber, D. (2003). Congregational Dignity and Human Dignity: Women and Public Torah Reading. The Edah Journal, 3(2).

Frimer, A. & Frimer, D. (2013). A SPECIAL SUPPLEMENT: Women, Keri’at ha-Torah, and Aliyyot. Tradition, 46(4).

Henkin, Y. H. (2001). Qeri'at Ha-Torah by Women: Where We Stand Today. The Edah Journal, 1(2); Tradition, 47(3) [subscribers only].

Interview with Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, JC, September 2014.


Endorsement from the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue

The position outlined above by Rabbi Dr Harvey Belovski regarding Partnership Services is unanimously supported by the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue.

Rabbi Baruch Davis

Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue

Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski
tag:www.rabbibelovski.co.uk,2013:Post/821214 2015-03-08T23:48:49Z 2015-03-09T16:49:56Z Are there British Values? A Religious Perspective A Chaplaincy Public Lecture

Nottingham University, 03/03/15

The following is a version of the talk I gave as part of a recent major interfaith event at the University of Nottingham - see here for event details.

My name is Harvey Belovski.  I'm the senior rabbi of Golders Green Synagogue in London and the senior rabbi of University Jewish Chaplaincy which places Jewish chaplains on campuses all over the UK. I'm also the principal of a faith-based free school and an interfaith activist. 

I’d like to thank the organisers, particularly Canon John Bentham and his team for arranging this important event.  It’s delightful to have a chance to share a discussion about British values and their complex relationship with religion.  It’s wonderful to actually meet Canon Bentham and Professor Canon Oliver and to work together again with my good friend Shaykh Mogra.   The shaykh and I travelled here together this evening and you can feel reassured that we've now set the world to rights.

On that theme you may have heard that a rabbi, an imam and a canon walked into a university together.  The receptionist looked up in surprise and said 'what's this, some kind of joke?'

I am a British Jew or a Jewish Brit, I'm never quite sure which or if there's really any difference.  My wife and I have enjoyed the incredible privilege of living in what is called in Hebrew a 'malchut shel chessed' - a benevolent, tolerant and wonderful country.  We have benefitted from the very best of British education, cultural experiences and complete equality in the law, opportunities that for most of history for Jews and other minorities were an impossible dream.  All this while living a full and rich Jewish life, dressing as Jews and educating our children in the ways of our ancestors.  The UK has always been and continues to be an absolutely marvellous place for a Jew to live.  I am a proud, happy and profoundly grateful subject of Her Majesty.

But with those incredible opportunities come weighty responsibilities, ones that orthodox Jewish leaders take really seriously because they lie at the very heart of Judaism itself.  To be a Jew is to share responsibility for the building of society and to partner with those of other faiths and none to create a tolerant, respectful, safe and functional Britain.

Of course, like every topic, no-one can quite agree about what distinguishes British values from say French or Portuguese values.  Look around on the internet and you find lots of references to  British fish and chips (which I love) and to silly stories about Muslims and Jews standing in orderly post-office queues discussing the weather in Norfolk (which I don't).

Actually, the first people to think about these themes lived long ago, when Jews first experienced exile from their homeland and needed to grapple with the prospect of minority-hood.

The prophet Jeremiah, who lived at the end of the first Jewish commonwealth in the Holy Land, and faced the prospect of exile, encourages us to seek the peace and prosperity of whichever country we will live in.  He points out that we Jews can only prosper if our host nation, its values and aspirations are successful and functional for all people.  And we do not sit on the side-lines - we must be at the forefront of making that success possible.  These ideas have been repeatedly emphasised throughout Jewish history by thinkers, philosophers and law-makers.

In the first century CE, Rabbi Chanina insisted that we pray for the welfare of the country in which we live for ‘if it were not for government, people would eat each other alive’.   Remember that this was said about 1500 years before Thomas Hobbes noted that a society without stable governance would deliver lives that are ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’. 

On this theme, Jewish liturgy includes a prayer for the queen, the government and the armed forces.  In fact, all British synagogue recite a version of this prayer every Sabbath and festival.  It may seem like an anachronism, but it encourages us to remain focused on peace, order and stability for all.

This is my first perceived British value – loyalty to and love of the country and respect for its authorities.  Critically, this has nothing to do with whether we agree with current policies or our own political affinities.  It, well, just is - a basic feature of Jewish life.  And together with this are the importance of teaching and understanding British culture, national history and developing sensitivity towards its norms and expectations.  Of course, you won't catch me eating a black pudding or putting a Christmas tree in my house, but I want my children to know about the lives and loves of others as mature, contributing citizens.  And right now, I'm helping my children's high school to develop a high-level programme to do this really well.

My next, related, British values are respect for law and knowledge of right from wrong.  By the year 200 CE, a Rabbi Shmuel was on the scene, advocating the core legal construct ‘dina demalchuta dina’ – the law of the land is the law, a principle that has been enshrined in Jewish law and practice ever since.  And to teach right from wrong, we needed a compulsory school system.  In fact, the first in the world was invented in the first century in a Jewish town called Yavneh.  Indispensable features of that Jewish education include respect for law and order, honesty in business dealings, and, most crucially, a recognition that every human being is equal before the law - in, as we might say, in the eyes of God and Man.  This last point can't be overemphasised - it starts right back in Genesis 1:27 with the phrase - betzelem Elohim bara otam (God created every human being in His image).  This notion has been repeatedly overlooked throughout history, yet it underpins everything we believe, and most importantly, how we conduct ourselves in relation to those whose beliefs we don't share.  Everyone, without exception contains the divine spark - and while I suspect the average Brit on the street wouldn't put it in quite that way, tolerance, mutual respect and fair play for all, all central British values flow from that basic, universalist biblical principle.

This may all sound very positive and most of the time it is, but we also subscribe to taking the rough with the smooth.  Over 20,000 Jews fought for the British in World War I and over 30,000 in World War II, many losing their lives to defend king and country.  My late father-in-law did his national service in the Army teaching literacy and numeracy to recruits.  My own father, he should live and be well, performed his in the 50s - as a radio operator in the RAF at Bridlington in Yorkshire, of all places.  He's never been able to explain to me why he couldn't have been posted somewhere warmer like the Caribbean!  See, I'm back to the weather again. Of course, we hope and pray that none of this will be needed again, but Jewish law and ethics require us to stick with our host country through thick and thin.

Thinking along those lines, you may know the story about a little boy who came to the synagogue on Saturday morning of remembrance week and saw a Union Jack on display.  He was bored rigid by the rabbi’s speech so he asked his mother why the flag was there.  She eventually said to him, ‘shush, it's for those who died in the service’.  He looked her aghast and asked whether this was on a Friday night or Saturday morning!

Continuing this theme, a quick brainstorming in the Belovski household produced another core British value - having sense of humour, especially not taking ourselves too seriously.  It takes a lot of confidence to do this, but it's a really British 'thing' to be able to poke gentle fun at oneself and one's national characteristics.  I am reminded of the occasion when a Frenchman, a German and a Jew were crossing a desert together.  As the temperature rose, the Frenchman said, ‘I’m ever so thirsty; I must have wine.’  The German said, ‘I’m ever so thirsty; I must have beer’.  The Jew said, ‘I’m ever so thirsty; I must have diabetes’.

Maybe the Jewish experience has been unique, but while we have many faults, we're quite good at poking fun at our national characteristics!  In fact, we were there before the British...  We have much to learn from other cultures and faith groups, but this is one that others might learn from us.

And speaking of this, what happens when our religious beliefs or practices clash with British values? Jewish sources are clear here - we can advocate for ourselves using only legitimate political means – i.e. within the system.  But at root, the ’t’ word – tolerance - is so enshrined in the British psyche that, with God's help, religious liberties for Jews and other minorities will continue to flourish.

And finally, a tough one to articulate and here I put myself out on a limb.  There are many reasons why religious and other minorities have succeeded in the UK and other Western countries, notwithstanding the occasional difficulties that will always arise.  That is, why members of minorities can wear their own clothes, build their own places of worship and are able to believe, pray and practice as they choose.  In previous centuries, and in many other places around the globe, when societies were more religious, they were also more closed-minded and intolerant.  I believe that the western liberal democracy of which the UK was one of the first and remains one of the best, is the reason.  Judaism, Islam, Catholicism - in fact all non-establishment religions - have flourished side by side because of the freedoms of the west.  And at the heart of those freedoms is free speech, the freedom to criticise, not necessarily the obligation, but the right to probe, expose, reject, disagree and, yes, sometimes offend.  I see hurtful, and often untrue things about Judaism, Jews and Israel, and I know that my colleagues from other faiths feel the same about the way their own faiths are portrayed.  But I will defend with great vigour the authors of those ideas and their right to express their views within the law, even when they deeply upset or even offend me.  This is my last, and arguably most important British value that I validate and embrace as a senior British Jewish, or is it Jewish British, leader.  Thank you.

Rabbi Dr. Harvey Belovski