Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some comments about comments (or lack of them)

Before I installed the Hits counter I had no idea just how many people were reading my blog simply because no one bothers to leave any comments.

I was amazed at the figures! Between 30 and 150 people are visiting my blog every day. About half of them are staying more than a minute. (Many are brought here because of a Google search and conclude that I'm not really what they were looking for so they leave after a few seconds).

I thought first of all that maybe people weren’t leaving posts because by default, Blogger doesn't allow anonymous comments and people couldn't be bothered to go through the procedure of logging into an account. So I fixed that. I must admit I haven't received many anonymous comments after doing so. Then I thought, maybe people just don't want to leave public comments but they may want to contact me privately to let me know what they think so I added a private "Contact Me" button at the top of page. I don't think anyone has ever used this yet!

I added an instant feedback counter to rate the post from "Excellent" to "Rubbish". Hardly anyone has bothered to click on this line, despite the fact that it takes half a second to vote.

Nevertheless, I'm getting what I think is pretty good traffic. People are staying and reading even if they aren't leaving comments.

The Stat counter tool also keeps statistics on visiters so I thought it might be interesting to share some of these stats with you.

Looking at the stat tables:

The most popular posts by far are the ones about food. Also, 90% of the traffic comes from Israel.

Next come the technical computer related stuff but the traffic is mostly from people doing Google searches in chutz la'Aretz and finding their way here.

Regular (returning) Visitors

80% of my regular traffic in from Israel. I do seem to get a lot of visitors from Israel government office internet services for some reason. For example: The Israel Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Absorption Ministry, Israel Post Company. I have a regular reader from Israel Electric Company. I haven't seen the Prime Minister's Office yet though.

Foreign regulars:

Someone from Eschborn, Hessen, Germany pops in at least once a week.

Someone from Amsterdam, Noord-holland, Netherlands, seems to like my post on Kosher cheeses. He/she has been in and out of the same post for two weeks now.

I have a regular reader from Aix-en-provence, Provence-alpes-cote D'azur, France

Someone from Redbridge, United Kingdom British Telecom visits a lot.

Someone from Berchem, Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, Belgium got hooked on my sufganiyot.

Someone from Jamnagar, Gujarat, India sticks around.

Unusual Visitors

I've had visiters from Korea and Kuwait who have stuck around reading for a while.

I get a few visitors from the "Gaza, Palestinian Territory" but they aren't here to read my posts on aliyah or even my Jewish recipes. They only come to read about my advice on Bezeq wireless routers.

I was amused that my article where I criticised Lord Chief Rabbi Sacks received a visit from someone from the London Chief Rabbis Office Internet Service. Maybe the man himself? Who knows.

Popular Downloads

What photos have been downloaded from my blog? Well, the photos I took of the English countryside when visiting Constable Land are the most popular. Followed by photos of my Chanukia.. Also the picture of Elite regular and Elite Megadim chocolate side by side has been downloaded 6 times.

What's Next?

I was thinking of doing some product reviews next week. Maybe putting up some of my notes from my recent shuirim? Let me know what you think please. I know, I know, you aren't going to bother are you!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Little Things (Bamba and Chocolate)

On Sunday, The Fast of the 10th Tevet, The Jerusalem Post ran (what I'm sure they thought was) a humorous article about crazy things that happen in Israel entitled "Wild and wacky Israeli tales from 2009"

The authoress obviously thought that the centre piece to her hilariously (NOT) funny article was the story about the two Rabbis arguing over which bracha to say over Bamba. It obviously cracked her up although everyone I asked couldn't see the joke. She says that of all the crazy things that happen in Israel:

"From the religious world, a prize goes to the competition between the two sons of the former Sephardi chief rabbi, Ovadia Yosef, who argued over what blessing should be recited over the popular kids' peanut snack Bamba. "

The problem was that everyone I asked happened to be religious and that's why we didn't see the humour in it. I think what the authoress found funny was the fact that two great Rabbis would spend so much time and effort arguing over what was after all, a children's snack; an unimportant small insignificant item. I did a Google to try and find a bit more about this story and found that she had taken it from an anti-religious article in the Jerusalem Post (they feel they have to publish such articles every now and again to attempt to justify their secularism) from June 2009.

The author of this article begins:

"What blessing should a pious Jew make on the popular snack Bamba and its many surrogates? This arcane dispute, relevant to a religious minority of Jews, has been thrust to the forefront of a power struggle between two sons of Sephardi Jewry's most influential halachic authority - Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual mentor of Shas."

I'll challenge the author on two points.

1) the issue is not "arcane", that is: mysterious, esoteric, unfathomable. Had he bothered to ask a religious Jew then I'm quite sure he would have understood the issue in less than a minute. But then there'd be nothing to make fun of would there.

2) The author is under the misapprehension that religious Jews are a tiny irrelevant minority and that Torah, kashrut and brachot are irrelevant to the vast majority of Israelis. This is not born out by the statistics from every poll ever carried out in this country.

In the last elections, more than 25% of the population went as far as to vote for parties dealing with exclusively religious issues. Parties like "Gimmel" (Agudas Yisrael / Degel HaTorah) and Shas. If you add the Zionist religious parties such as "Ichud Leumi" (another 17%) to this list, (where the line between religious issues and national political issues blurs), then the figure goes up to a whopping 42% of the electorate.

Some 55% of the population define themselves as "traditional" (not to be confused with the American Masorti movement). These Jews are from many backgrounds but most are Sephardim from the Mediterranean or Islamic world. Although they would not consider themselves religiously observant, Judaism (of the Orthodox kind) remains an important ingredient in their lives.

(Tables taken from the site of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs:

So it seems that our Jerusalem Post authors are actually the ones in the minority. It's just that they are too arrogant (or insecure) to admit it.

For the majority of Israeli Jews, recognising that the source of blessing in our lives comes from Hakodesh Baruch Hu is important. That's why it is a common occurrence to see Israeli women in jeans and t-shirts and men temporarily cover their heads and taking the trouble to say brachot before they eat and drink.

Meseches Brachos teaches that there is a hierarchy to foods and their appropriate bracha. From "HaMotzi" over bread, "Mezonos" over cake, "HaAitz" over tree fruits, "HaAdama" over foods that come from the ground and everything else which is covered by "She HaKol". The greater the food, the higher we praise Hashem. Therefore it would be a shame if we mistakenly said "SheHakol" over a food which actually deserves a higher bracha. We would be denying Hashem sufficient praise and recognition. The more popular the food, the greater the shame if we repeatedly say the wrong bracha. So which bracha to say over the most common everyday snacks like Bamba become important.

It’s the little things sometimes that make the difference. Is that so difficult to understand?

Like Bamba, there is discussion regarding the correct bracha said over chocolate. Bamba is primarily made from corn but the corn has been processed and is not recognisable within the snack. Therefore the majority opinion is to say "SheHakol". It could be argued though that the corn was grown especially for the snack and therefore it should be "HaAdama". Although a minority opinion, according to Rav Ovadia Yoseph, it would not be wrong to follow this opinion. Likewise there are those who say the bracha of "HaAitz" over chocolate as even though the cocoa bean (which comes from a tree) is not recognisable within the chocolate, nevertheless it is the primary use for these beans. The majority opinion however is to say the bracha "SheHakol".

I remember my Rav telling me many years ago, that even though Meseches Brachos is one of the first Mishnaos taught to little kids as it deals with basic issues of Judaism, the Gemara is in fact one of the hardest to learn.

The Little Things (The 10th of Tevet)

Chanuka in Britain is an entirely different experience to Israel. In Israel, it is a pleasure to walk in the streets just as it's getting dark to see all the chanukiot. Large, small, some with candles, most with golden olive oil burning brightly outside people's homes; there is spiritual warmth in the streets that unless you have experienced it, is impossible to describe.

In chutz LaAretz, anyone who places their Chanukia in the window feels that they are facing an impossible battle that they will surely lose. Their little chanukia with its tiny candles, against the mass of festive lights emanating from the front of every non-Jewish house.

Sometimes however, it is the little things that matter most.

Take this little half a day of fast we just had yesterday for instance: The 10th of Tevet. You could hardly notice it. Ok, so you'd have to get up at 5:00am to eat breakfast and drink before the fast began at 5:18am. However it was all over by 5:04pm. Hardly worth mentioning is it? In fact for the majority of Jews, they would have never heard of the fast, let alone observed it.

The 10th of Tevet is a Jewish national fast day, established 2,500 years ago. It is the time we commemorate the beginning of the siege of Yerushalayim that led up to the eventual destruction of The holy Temple.

It is also the yartzeit of Ezra HaSofer who brought thousands of assimilated Jews back to Israel and also brought them back to Judaism.

It also commemorates the Greeks who forced the Rabbanim to translate our Torah into Greek which was eventually corrupted and intentionally distorted into what the Notzrim call the "old testament". They use the term "old" to signify that Hashem's Torah as given to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai has been superseded by their "new testament" (sic) making the Notzrim the new "chosen people". This book has been used as an excuse to persecute and murder Jews for 2,000 years.

In Israel, the Rabbanut have decided that it is an appropriate day to observe the yartzeit for all those who perished in the Shoah and were never identified. It is a day to remember those Jews who otherwise would not be remembered.

In fact, the 10th of Tevet does not commemorate any great tragedy. Nothing was destroyed on that day. It does however commemorate the first, perhaps small actions that led up to so many terrible things.

It’s the small things that we often overlook that turn out to be important.

There is a story, dating back some 200 years of a Jew who left his family and went to seek his fortune in the city. Just like his family, he also left his Judaism behind. He was successful and became a wealthy businessman with a large house and servants. His butler, although obedient on the outside, was aware that his master was a Jew and secretly hated him. One evening he decided that he'd simply had enough and prepared his master a juicy steak to which he added enough poison to kill an elephant. The butler entered the dining room as usual and placed the steak in front of his Jewish master, smiling inside. The Jew looked at the juicy steak and was just about to tuck in when he realised that tonight was the first night of Chanuka - the festival of lights. He had no intention of lighting a chanukia but somehow, without understanding why, he had continued, even after all these years to observe the silly insignificant minhag of his family of eating a milky meal in the evening*. He decided not to eat that steak and asked his butler for some cheese instead. When his master refused the steak, the butler panicked thinking that the master knew of his plan. He rushed from the room screaming about filthy Jews and their conspiracies. The Jew, in a state of confusion, dropped the steak on the floor which was eagerly gobbled up by his dog. Then the Jew saw his dog let out a howl and rive in agony as it frothed at the mouth and died a painful death. From this the Jew made his way back to his family and his Judaism.

It’s sometimes the small things that end up being so important.

In my post about Jewish foods (Fried Fish Balls), I made fun of the little kosher department at Tesco's (sandwiched between the seafood and pork section). Actually thinking back I remember that every time I stood in front of that narrow shelf space of kosher products, more often than not, someone would react to my presence. At the minimum there would be a totally secular Jew who, seeing an observant Jew standing there proudly (that's me!), dressed in black and white, big kippa on his head with tzitzis hanging down the outside of his trousers, would look at me and give me a knowing nod or even a small smile. Then, when I walk past them in the next isle I'll notice that they've taken that little gold Magan David from under their shirt or blouse and placed it outside for me to notice. Sometimes the greatest act of kiruv you can do is to simply smile back at them; A little thing that to them might mean so much.

* Minhag of eating cheese on Chanuka. "Halachos of Chanukah" By Rabbi Shimon D. Eider

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fastest Dozen Biegals

Wow, my last post about English Jewish foods certainly caused a lot of internet traffic today.
My daughter read my post and was inspired to such an extent that she decided, even though she was fasting, to bake some English style biegals for us to break the fast (of the 10th Tevet) over. When I got home from work I was greeted by this wonderful aroma of baking bread. The whole family sat down to eat our first meal of the day at 5:20pm with my daughter’s biegals taking centre stage. I have to say, they were scrumptious. So its only fair that I give you my daughter’s English style biegals recipe. The recipe is actually (after some experimentation on my daughter’s part) an amalgamation of an Israeli Bagel recipe and one taken from page 280 of the Florence Greenberg’s “The Original Jewish Cookery Book” (1988 Edition).

There is one puzzling thing about Mrs Greenberg’s recipe. She wants us to put milk in the mix but that would be forbidden according to halachah (Jewish law).
Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 97 states "It is forbidden to knead dough for bread with milk, in case a person should (accidentally) eat it with meat...It is similarly forbidden to bake bread in the oven with meat fat…"

(There is a way around this though and that is to bake the bread in a special shape or place a symbol on it so that the community knows it is chalavi (milky). However Biegals wouldn’t be biegals if they weren’t the classic round with a whole in them. The name Biegal comes from the Hebrew "B'Igul" meaning "[baked] in  a circle". Everyone would assume they were pareve so sorry Mrs Greenberg, no milk).

Recipe for Fastest Dozen English style Biegals
Total time: Less than 1½ hours
1½ Tsp dry granules yeast
1¾ cups warm water
2 Tsp sugar
5 cups flour
2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten.
1 Tsp oil
Mix yeast with ½ cup of warm water in a large mixing bowl.
Then add the rest of the warm water, sugar, flour, oil and salt.
Beat the egg and add that to the mix.
Mix well and knead until dough is soft and flexible.
Cover the bowl and leave for 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 12 balls. Mould each into sausages, about the thickness of a finger and join together to make the biegal rings.
Prepare a greased baking tray and place the 12 rings on the tray.
Cover the tray and leave for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile warm oven to 180 degrees.
Take a large saucepan and fill ¾ to the top with water. Bring to the boil and then turn it down to simmering.
Uncover the biegals and place 3 to 4 beigals at a time in the boiling water. The biegals should float to the top. Continue boiling for 3 minutes and then remove them from the saucepan, drain and place back on the tray. Repeat until all biegals are boiled.
Optional stage: Sprinkle sesame seeds, poppy seeds or salt crystals over the biegals.
Place in oven for approximately 35 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with …well I think you all know what to serve them with!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fried Fish Balls

One of the mysteries of the known universe is the fact that you cannot find a decent Anglo-Jewry style biegal (pronounced “bi-gall”) in Israel yet the first thing any Israeli does when he makes yerida to the UK is to open up a Biegal bakery. Where did they learn this skill? Perhaps it’s something the chutz la’aretz malachim that he acquires as he leaves the borders of the holy land teach him as one of the survival techniques for living in galus?

We learn this from parshas Vayeitze. As Yaakov leaves Eretz Yisrael he witnesses the changing of the guards so to speak as his Eretz Yisrael melachim climb the ladder back to shamayim and his chutz laaretz malachim come down. (See Rashi).The fact that Yaakov sleeps on twelve stones (Midrash Raba) could well be a remez to his first taste of a dozen biegals which every real biegal baker knows should be boiled until they are as hard as rock. This is in stark contrast to the stodgy puffy doughnut like monstrosities the American’s call “beigels” (pronounced “bai-gels”).

Another rarity in Israel is real Shmaltz Herring, matured in salt for about the same amount of years as a bottle of Islay Laphroaig single malt (which coincidently happens to be the perfect accompaniment to this delicious black delicacy). Alright, so I’m exaggerating slightly but it is the maturing process of a few months that gives the herring its wonderful flavour and texture. No wonder Israelis and Americans fuss over sushi. They’ve obviously never tasted matured herring like this.

In England you buy the herring wrapped up in paper. The slices of fish meat are browny black with the consistency of soft toffee and just like toffee; the herring melts in the mouth. Here in Israel they sell herring which they call “matyas” (from the Dutch “maatjes”).

It is bright pink and grey and covered in, what looks and smells like linseed oil whose only use that I was aware of until I made aliyah, was to harden new virgin cricket bats. The maturation process consists of the time it takes to cut the fish into squares, drown it in oil and pack it in tubs.

The correct term for Shmaltz Herring in Lashon HaKodesh is in fact “Dag Maliach”, which is mentioned in Meseches Brachos, Perek vav, mishna zayin. I doubt that our Tanaim as mentioned in this mishna were talking about these squares of pink slime when they asked the servant for some bread to help the salty herring go down. It’s much more likely they would have recognised the regal black Shmaltz Herring of England.

The English Jewish community prefers to eat their Shmaltz Herring either with a biegal or on a cracker which is common to all United Synagogue Kiddushim, along with bridge rolls and chopped herring and cocktail fried fish balls. It is of course a minhag at every Kiddush to recite the following joke over the black stuff: You hold a cracker up to your ear and ask “What’s this?” to which you are supposed to reply “a herring aid”. (Boom boom).

As just mentioned, there is one Jewish food which is guaranteed to be found in every kosher food outlet in Britain. The classic fried fish ball. This basic Jewish food stuff of Anglo Jewry is incredibly versatile, suitable for any occasion and perfect for picnics. It can also be bought from every Tesco supermarket kosher department. Well I say department, it’s actually one foot of shelf space, squeezed between the seafood and the pork section. If you are lucky they’ll have some cheddar cheese, tubes of Swedish roe and some Blooms vieners. However you can always guarantee they’ll have a packet of fish balls. These balls which for some are the last connection they have to Judaism before they sink into the abyss of assimilation are of course no where to be found in Israel.

An English friend’s wife (also English) decided to make boiled and fried fish balls, English style, for a Kiddush she was hosting for her extended family. During the Kiddush, her daughter spoke to her and told her that the daughter’s mother-in-law (an Israeli) wanted to know why her mother was serving cold kneidalach and cold falafel balls with chrain at the Kiddush.

In my opinion, a Shabbos Cholent is not complete without Kishkeh, as Ashkenazi as Gefilta fish. The good news is that you can buy Kishkeh in Israel. The bad news is that the Israelis seem to think that it’s a good idea to put Sefardi style hot spices in it. Why? It’s like eating Gefilta fish with Schug!

Of course Ashkenasim eat their Gefilta fish with red chrain. It’s a tradition to write “Extra Hot” on the label even though it’s as sweet as strawberry jam. This exclusively Ashkenazi relish is the subject of much frustration when Pesach arrives. Try and find a jar of chrain in Israel that doesn’t say “le ochlei kitniot vilvad” – for those who eat kitniot only, i.e. only the Sefardim! Someone’s idea of a joke obviously.

Anyway, enough of this banter. I thought I’d leave you with some easy English recipes, adapted for the Israeli supermarket.

Fried Fish balls

1 kg Minced Bakala fish. (Also called dag Argentini). If you happen to find a fresh fish shop then you can ask them to mince it for you. Otherwise you’ll have to do this yourself.

1 large onion, minced.
2 large eggs.
Matza Meal to bind
Salt and pepper and sugar to taste.

Squeeze out as much water as possible from the minced fish. Place in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs and onions. Stir in the matza meal until you are able to make a ball with you hands without it disintegrating. Add salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

Leave mixture for 15 minutes. Meanwhile pour up to an inch (2 cm) of oil into your frying pan and heat. Place a few drops of mixture into the pan and wait for them to start sizzling as an indication that the oil is now hot enough to fry. Prepare a tray and cover with kitchen roll paper or some white serviettes to place the cooked balls into. The paper will soak up the excess oil.

Wet your hands and make balls approximately the size of a kneidelach and gently place in the pan. Remove when dark golden brown on all sides.

Serve cold.

Chopped Herring.

500g of pickled herring (including skin) and onions in vinegar liquor. (Keep the liquor)

1 Large sour apple
Sliced white bread
2 tsp sugar. (If the liquor already contains sugar then reduce amount).
2 hard boiled eggs for optional topping.

Remove the herring and onions from the liquor and blend with the apple.

Place mixture in a mixing bowl. Place two slices of bread (after removing the crust) on a plate. Mix in just enough of the vinegar liquor so that bread becomes a thick paste. Mix this into the fish. If the herring mixture is too runny then add another slice of bread.

Add sugar to taste.

Some sprinkle with chopped boiled eggs. Some serve on a bed of lettuce.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who should decide who is a Jew?


I read today in The Jerusalem Post the shocking news that the High Court in Britain has ruled that it now decides the matter of who is a Jew and not the Rabbinate.

"Britain's Supreme Court said on Wednesday that a Jewish school discriminated against a child when it denied him admission because it did not recognize his mother as Jewish."

The case was brought by a Jewish man whose son was not given a place because his wife was not regarded as Jewish under rules set by the Chief Rabbi.

The parents were angry that their Jewish status was being questioned."

This is obviously far more than an individual father feeling victimised because an Orthodox Jewish school that teaches Jewish law would use those same laws to determine that the man's wife and child are not Jewish. Why would he even bother sending his son to a school that teaches Orthodox Judaism that he, by his own admission totally rejects? Wouldn't it be far more likely that there is an anti-Orthodox organisation such as, err let me think….the Masorti movement perhaps? whose agenda is to undermine the legitimacy of the [Orthodox] Rabbinate and at the same time seek legitimacy for themselves! They have no idea that their plan is in fact totally evil and that the future might show that they will be the cause of the destruction of Judaism in Britain.

In the BBC website we read:

"The 12-year-old boy was refused a place at the JFS (formerly known as the Jews' Free School) in Brent, north London, despite regularly attending a Progressive [Masorti] synagogue.

While his father is Jewish by birth, his mother is Jewish by conversion.

However, the conversion ceremony was conducted by a Progressive [Masorti] rather than an Orthodox synagogue, which is not recognised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

The children of atheists, and practising Christians, were allowed to attend the school as long as their mothers were considered Jewish. "

Hmm, I wonder where the BBC got the notion that Xtians would be allowed into the JFS as long as they were born Jewish? It sounds much more like the kind of nonsense that a spokesman for the Masorti movement would have told them but the article does not attribute the statement to anyone.

Julian Kossoff, a secular Jew who writes on religious matters in The Daily Telegraph, previously a senior reporter at the Jewish Chronicle and sympathetic to the non-Orthodox movements in Britain , says "Mazaltov! to the Supreme Court"

He tells us that:

"In a five-to-four decision the top judges ruled that the school illegally refused places to pupils it did not consider ethnically Jewish, by applying the strictest interpretations of Halacha (”Jewish Law”) which considers only the child of an Orthodox Jewish women to be Jewish.

The absurdity of this (un) reason is that a child of a militant atheist would get preference over that of a pious convert."

For an intelligent person, I doubt he is speaking from the rational side of his brain when he says he finds the situation absurd. Would he find it equally absurd that the British legal system defines a Britain hating, Union Jack burning Marxist who was born in Britain and has a British passport to be a British Citizen where as a Chinese person who fly's the flag outside his home, puts up posters of the queen and insists on having tea at four like a religious ritual would, under British law, not be considered a British Citizen just on the basis of his adopted British customs?

Like the Jew who accepted his piece of bread and jam to board the train to Auschwitz, Mr Kossoff has no idea what awaits his Judaism "further down the line". (Was that a mixed metaphor or a continuation of one?)

Ed West, a Catholic commentator on religion at The Telegraph has a much better grip on the issues than his secular Jewish counterpart.

In his piece entitled "The State now decides who is a Jew" he quotes Neil Addison of the Thomas Moore Legal Centre:

“What the decision means is that the historic Jewish definition of ‘who is a Jew’ is now illegal and Orthodox Jewish organisations and schools can no longer apply their own definitions of membership. As a lawyer I can understand the technical legal argument but as a human being I regard it as a profoundly dangerous extension of state power.  On the basis of this judgment an adult who Orthodox Jews do not accept as Jewish can apply to become an Orthodox Rabbi and the Orthodox synagogue cannot say no."

Ed West gets it, he realizes the danger of this ruling. The "Jewish" correspondent on the other hand, does not!

The truth is that the narrow minded and flawed British legal system that defined these Ethic laws some 40 years ago in order to stop racial discrimination, primarily against Blacks and Jews, is now being used as a tool by the Masorti movement to directly discriminate against those Jews who remain loyal to Torah and G-d, to deny us the right to define who we are according to our own Jewish legal system which has existed ever since we said "Na'aseh VeNishma" at Mount Sinai!

Secular Jews, even if they are 100% Jewish according to halacha (Jewish law) are not exactly qualified to decide who is a Jew. Most of them unfortunately are choosing not to remain Jewish in any case with 80% assimilation and intermarriage rates. It's not that they ever had a choice of rejecting Judaism. How can you reject something you have absolutely no idea what it is? Moreover, when I say secular I include Jews who are members of so called Masorti and reform movements. All these Jews must admit that they live their lives according to gentile secular values and morals. They therefore must admit that their outlook on life is not Jewish and therefore cannot determine what is best for Judaism or Jews who still remain faithful to Jewish observance according to Torah.

Melanie Phillips, quite often the only voice of sanity in the British media, even though not being an observant Jew, nevertheless gets the point. She writes in her blog post entitled "An illiberal and ignorant judgment":

"Lord Phillips [President of the Supreme] said in terms that the fact that the school had used a religious test of the child’s Jewishness was ‘irrelevant’ because Jewish identity also involved racial or ethnic origins – thus with extraordinary obtuseness missing the point altogether that religion, far from being ‘irrelevant’, was central to Jewish identity and thus to the JFS admissions criteria.

Lord Phillips thus appears to have laid down that religious criteria do not determine who is or is not a Jew. What astounding -- and sinister – arrogance for a judge in an English court of law to presume to strip Judaism of its ability to define itself in religious terms.

He also used an invidious circular argument in reaching this conclusion. For in order to decide that this was a case of racial discrimination against a Jewish child, he identified this child as a Jew – in order to determine whether or not the child was a Jew for the purposes of admission to the JFS.

The absurdity and incoherence of this decision were illustrated by the chorus from the majority judges that they were not suggesting for a moment that the JFS was ‘racist’ or had anything other than the most noble of motives in practising racial discrimination. This is therefore surely the first case of non-racist, noble and elevated racial discrimination on record."

I would suppose that even the majority of Anglo Jewry who belong to the United Synagogue would take the view that a reform Judaism is better than nothing. At least they would reason that these Jews will observe something resembling Jewish practice. I would beg to differ.

Who the Reform and Masorti movements really are

To start off, please take a moment to realise why they call themselves the "reform" movement. They themselves are admitting that they have reformed and changed the definition of Judaism as practiced in every generation and every place for over 3,000 years. The first reform synagogue in Hamburg which opened its doors in 1851 knew exactly what it was doing. They wished to be part of the gentile society around them and accept their morality and cultural practices yet at the same time, wished to keep some of the "feel good" religious ritual of their childhood. Those Jews who remained loyal to Torah and Judaism became known as Orthodox Jews.

Reform Judaism in a sense is far worse than secularism. At least a secular Jew is honest with himself and knows that he is not a practicing Jew, either because he was not brought up with any Jewish education and experience or has for whatever reason rejected Jewish practice. If he wishes to observe anything then it is according to Orthodox practice.

The Reform movements however define Judaism according to their own whim at any given time and place. This ever changing definition to suit lifestyle and current morality is in essence self worship!

Reform Judaism accepts any definition for "observance" that you care to define for yourself. They call themselves the "all inclusive" Judaism. For instance, if you don't believe in G-d, or do but don't believe that we received the Torah from G-d at Mount Sinai but you enjoy singing and lead the services every week in synagogue then you would be considered an observant religious Jew. (This example actually describes a good percentage of the so called "rabbis", the leaders of the reform congregations).

However, if you decide that to take the Torah plus 3,000 years of established Jewish law seriously and insist that Kashrus is not a life-style choice but a commandment from G-d then you will no longer be welcome in the reform synagogue. How inclusive is this? You are allowed to display signs of Jewishness, even observe some traditions when it suits you but "oih vevoiw" you cross the line of acceptability when you insist that Mitzvos are not just "good deeds" or suggestions but actually mandatory commandments from an eternal Divine being!

How to explain the definition of who is a Jew to a secular Jew

The problem is that the secular outlook only has narrow criteria for defining who a Jew is. To illustrate this, let's ask the following questions:

Do Jews define themselves as Jews by a minimum of religious observance? Obviously not as can be shown by the fact that secular Jews can become "Ba’alei Tshuva" (return to observance) and be fully accepted within the religious Jewish community.

Do Jews define themselves as Jews by racial criteria? Obviously not as there are Jews who look Russian; Jews who look like Asians and Jews who look Scandinavian. All are Jewish according to halacha.


kaifeng-jews-arrive-in-isra-300x225 barmirzvah

Could we (like the Secular Zionist Jew) define who is a Jew by calling us a single nationality? Using this definition we would need to have a unique language, culture and country of origin. Well you could argue the first two but the Torah, our definitive reference guide to all things Jewish, tells us that the Jewish people were conceived in Mitzrayim (Egypt) while slaves and were brought out by Hashem and moulded into a nation by G-d Himself in order to observe His Torah. The land of Israel was given to us us only after we accepted Torah at Mount Sinai, a present by G-d in order to have a perfect environment for observing His Torah.

So we don't fit the secular definition of a nationality either.

HerzlAdressingtheZionistConference Herzl addressing the Zionist conference

A working definition of who is a Jew

We can only define Judaism in spiritual terms. A Jew is a person who's neshama (sole or spiritual essence) was present at Mount Sinai where we, the Jewish people accepted the Torah from Hashem. (See Shabbos 88a)

This definition would include not only those who are biologically descendent from a woman who was present at Mount Sinai, some 3,500 years ago but also someone (or a descendant of a woman) who converted to Judaism by accepting the whole of Torah. If the conversion was successful then Chaza"l tell us that this shows that their neshama was present at Mount Sinai as well.

A Jew is only Jewish through the mother. However their yichus, mesora and nusach (their traditions, customs and mode of prayer) come from their Jewish father.

The source for this is found in Devarim 7:3-4. Rashi on the pasukim explains that if the son of a gentile will marry your daughter he will turn away your daughter's son. From this we learn that your daughter's son whose father is a gentile is considered Jewish. But regarding your son's son who is born from a gentile woman the pasuk does not say your because he is considered her son, that is, the gentile woman's son and therefore the child is not Jewish.

We also see this in Varikra 24:10-23 where the man born from a Jewish mother but an Egyptian father has no tribal affiliation. His mother makes him Jewish but he has no rights to her tribal membership.

In BaMidbar 1:4, the census categorises each person according to their father's family house. We learn from this that each Jew’s traditions go according to his or her father’s family.

How can any man made, secular legal system understand such a definition?

Once a country declares any part of Jewish practice to be illegal, whether it be Shkita, Bris Mila or Torah Education, then the writing is on the wall for continuation of a vibrant Jewish community in that country.

To any British Jew reading this, I have one more recommended link for you.

Flights to Israel

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The noble tradition of British Anti-Semitism

Last week it emerged that opposition leader Tzipi Livni had cancelled her trip to London due to a British court issuing an arrest warrant for her on the charges of war crimes. The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband said that the British government hadn’t known about it and they were actually really quit shocked. I can just imagine!


I have been proudly told by many members of Anglo Jewry that David Milband is Jewish. In fact, a little Googling revealed that Miliband is a self confessed atheist, was born halachicly Jewish although his parents were Marxists and his family had little or no connection with the Jewish community.

(See ).

That hasn't stopped the British media however from talking about his Jewishness as a facture in his job as British Foreign Secretary.

One choice quote from the BBC for instance as found here:

( From )

“The BBC website greeted David Miliband's appointment as British Foreign Secretary with the following comment: ‘[his] Jewish background will be noted particularly in the Middle East. Israel will welcome this - but equally it allows him the freedom to criticize Israel, as he has done, without being accused of anti-Semitism.' The assumption is clear; that there is some power out there ready to accuse anybody who criticizes Israel of antisemitism.”

Actually how much Israel will look forward to a British Foreign Secretary who’s father was a leading Marxist and Ant-Zionist, accusing Israel of imperialist aspirations after it won the Six Day war is debatable. The article continues:

“Anatol Lieven, a professor at King's College, London, claimed that ‘this accusation of antisemitism... has no basis in evidence or rationality.' Lieven said that it is ‘not the kind of accusation which in any other circumstances would even be allowed to be printed.' What is the power which licenses this accusation when other similar ones would not be allowed to be printed? ‘It is simply being used' he went on ‘as a way of trying to terrify, to frighten, critics of Israel and of American support for Israel into silence'. There is some powerful ‘Zionist' conspiracy ‘trying to terrify, to frighten critics...'”

The notion that Jews will scream “anti-Semitism” if anyone dares to criticise Israel is very common in Britain. The truth is actually quite the opposite. Anglo Jewry is nauseatingly low-key and rarely make public criticisms. They are too scared of the anti-Semitic back lash. In fact anti-Semites use this claim to protect themselves when they do make blatantly anti-Jewish comments in the cheap guise of anti-Zionism.

I myself heard this accusation being made with my own ears on the 15th June 2009 when a leading radio presenter on LBC radio, James O’Brien used it to great effect.

Obrien He complained on air that it was very difficult talking to these ‘fanatics’ (he meant Jews / Zionists) because if they disagreed with you and your British enlightened way of thinking then they would immediately accuse you of being anti-Semitic. This, he said forced fair minded people who would have otherwise supported the Palestinian cause to keep quite out of fear.

He went on to say that it was clear that the Israelis don’t really want peace because they insist that Israel remain “armed to the teeth” yet demand that the Palestinians have no army and no control of their air space. He simply couldn’t see how anyone could disagree with this assessment and called his comments “a no brainer”. He agreed with the Palestinian spokesman who said that, by denying the Palestinians a proper army, Bibi had destroyed any chance of peace.

Anyone who phoned up that day and suggested that peace could only be achieved if the Palestinians were prevented from launching terrorist attacks against Israel was cut off and insulted. He said something like “How can you even have a rational conversation with people like that?” He abused his position as radio host, badgering, interrupting and bullying anyone who tried to present Israel’s view point.

His introductory speech at the beginning of the show effectively gave him a free license to be as anti-Semitic as he liked having just “proved” that any accusations of ant-Semitism against him were the desperate acts of fanatical Zionist/Jews.

Getting back to Tzipi’s arrest warrant. I was particularly impressed with a statement made by an “expert” that I read here:

"[Legal ] Experts said the legal concept would face decisive scrutiny if, instead of targeting Israelis, a judge's arrest warrant targeted a past or current American or European head of state."

That's right, while its just those Israelis (read Jews) who are probably guilty of war crimes, poisoning wells and putting Xtian blood in their Matzot in any case, let's not bother changing the law.

“Pro-Palestinian activists in Britain long have hoped to capture Israeli officials in the same net that once held Pinochet [when he visited London].

"We cannot talk tough on terrorism and be weak on war crimes," said Chris Doyle, director of a lobbying group called the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

"Parties in Israel must realize there is a consequence to their behavior. For decades they've violated Security Council resolutions and international law with little or no consequence," Doyle said.”

I would guess that Mr Doyle and his gang used a list of false accusations against Israel in order procure the arrest warrant. This list ought to be scrutinised to see if there are grounds to prosecute Mr Doyle for slander, done with malicious intent.

I wonder why no one is doing this in Britain?

According to The Jerusalem Post:

British Foreign Secretary is "shocked" at the warrant issued for Livni.

"According to diplomatic officials, the British - from former foreign secretary Jack Straw onward - have all pledged to close the gap in British law that allows for this type of occurrence, but nobody has actually taken action.

Since such a move necessitated legislation, one official said, the British have always said it was not the right time. "They said this in 2006 after the war in Lebanon, and again earlier this year after the Gaza operation," one official said. "

This kind of British response reminds me of that great Political Comedy "Yes Prime Minister" which politicians admitted was truer to life than was generally realised.

In answer to a Yes/No question whether the government intended to act upon an issue, Sir Humphrey Appleby answers:

'Oh yes, Prime Minister.' (By yes he [really] meant no). 'Indeed it is, beyond question,………at the appropriate juncture, in due course, in the fullness of time.' (Yes Prime Minister I, p. 190)

Yes Prime Minister was called to mind again today when I read Melanie Phillips’ blog post on Britain's non-action on the threat of a nuclear Iran.

From the episode "A Victory for Democracy"

Sir Richard: Standard Foreign Office response in a time of crisis.

Stage One, we say that nothing is going to happen.

Stage Two, we say something may be going to happen but we should do nothing about it.

Stage Three, we say that maybe we should do something about it, but there's nothing we can do.

Stage Four, we say maybe there is something we could have done, but it's too late now.

Britain 1942-2009


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Add a Menu to your Blogger page

I thought it would be a nice idea to add a horizontal menu to the top of my Blog page. I was thinking that the tabs should consist of a “Home Page” to take the visitor to the newest page, an “About me” that would jump to the Google Blogger About me page and a “Contact me” tab for those who do not wish to leave a public comment on the blog but prefer instead to send me a private email.

The Menu

I found the code to make a simple menu on this site:

1. Log in to your Blogger account and click on the “Layout” tab. Then click on the “Edit Html” tab on the next line below. A box will appear entitled “Edit Template” which contains the Html text for your Blog’s page layout.

01 Layout tab

2. Make a backup copy of the default template before you begin just in case you mess this up or wish to remove the menu at some stage.

3. Find the line in the text that reads:

/* Footer
----------------------------------------------- */

Copy the two lines and paste it directly above the original.

Replace the word “Footer” for “Menu” for the top comment line.

4. Insert the following code between the two comments:

03 insert text here

/*Credits: Dynamic Drive CSS Library */
/*URL: */

font-weight: bold;
width: 100%;

.underlinemenu ul{
padding: 6px 0 7px 0; /*6px should equal top padding of "ul li a" below, 7px should equal bottom padding + bottom border of "ul li a" below*/
margin: 0;
text-align: left; //set value to "left", "center", or "right"*/

.underlinemenu ul li{
display: inline;

.underlinemenu ul li a{
color: #494949;
padding: 6px 3px 4px 3px; /*top padding is 6px, bottom padding is 4px*/
margin-right: 20px; /*spacing between each menu link*/
text-decoration: none;
border-bottom: 3px solid gray; /*bottom border is 3px*/

.underlinemenu ul li a:hover, .underlinemenu ul li a.selected{
border-bottom-color: black;

5. Save the template.

6. Next we need to create the Menu gadget. Click on the “Page Elements” tab and click on the “Add a Gadget” link just below the title box. Select an “HTML/JavaScript” gadget.

7. Leave the title blank and paste into the Content box the following code:

<div class="underlinemenu">
<li><a href=>Home Page</a></li>
<li><a href= profile id here>About Me</a></li>
<li><a href="
http://yourblognamehere.blogspot page to contact me here">Contact Me</a></li>


Obviously you should fill in the bits in red with your own urls.

Save the gadget.

Your Blog should now have the following menu displayed below the title box:

04 menu

Creating the Contact me page.

1. First we need to create our Thank you page to jump to after the person has submitted his/her comment.

Create a new post called “Thank you Page” and write whatever you want the visitor to see after submitting the comment. For instance:

Thank you for posting your comment.

I shall read it as soon as possible.

Reb Mordechai

Copy and paste the URL of that page to notepad. We’ll need it soon.

2. Go to this site and create an account at emailmefrom :

Once you have created your account and confirmed it, the next stage is to “Create a new form” within the emailmefrom site that will contain the HTML code to build our “Contact me” form page.

Run through the wizard and paste the “Thank you” page url in the appropriate field.

3. After the wizard has completed the site will give you the option of copying the HTML code you will use to build the “Contact me” page.

Copy the HTML text in the box.

4. Create a new post on your blog titles “Contact me Page”.

Go into the HTML edit tab and simply paste that HTML code for the “Contact me” page into the box.

Publish the post and your “Contact me” Page is complete.

5. The final stage is to copy the url of the “Contact me” Page into your “HTML/JavaScript” gadget code.

That’s it. You now have a working menu with a Contact Page option that sends you an email.