Tuesday, 26 April 2011


So much to update on but let me give a really quick run down of the highlights and i will come back to all the details later:

The long suffering wife is expecting child number 2. This was unexpected - and a little panic inducing. Currently we are living with my mother with one bedroom - and a living room to call our own. The thought of sharing this with another child is a worry to say the least. We have wanted to have more children but hadnt thought it would be so soon. This is not to say its not good news - just that its going to take a little time to get our heads around.

Passover improved significantly - and our home seder was a wonderful evening and as always the highlight of our year. Their was much confusion through out the passover period on what is and isnt permited food wise - and i will do a post specifically on passover soon honest!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

It Passed me by

Tonight was a passover seder at out synagogue, and we where excited - possibly overexcited. We have celebrated passover for 4 maybe 5 years now, but have never attended one led by someone else, and have never had a chance to do so with a Jewish community. It felt very special to be able to go - the tickets at £25 a head where painful. Really painful - but we didnt have to pay for our daughter, and we decided it was important to go - and wanted to.

The late start was a struggle - i spent a lot of time trying to stop the whirlwind that is my daughter from eating food of the seder plate - their was a lack of wine on our table and not enough time to get more - a small thing i know but their is an obligation to get at least a little drunk on passover - or so has been my belife. Their was no grape juice for the non-drinkers - only apple juice which doesnt fit with the blessing for fruit of vine. The seder was cluncky - the food was terrrable - and the whirlwind was irretable. I tried to take her to a diffrent room to play with her for a bit and keep her calm, and some one came and hassled us even their and told us that our daughter should be sitting down quietly, they told me that they know my daughter is difficult but she did need to sit down.

At this point we left and went home, and had an omlette. It gone midnight and the family has gone to bed and i am sitting alone in the living room and i just want to cry. Some times i am happy to fight - but tonight i wanted to be a night about liberation - about freedom and it didnt feel like it was any of those things.

Monday, 18 April 2011

The night before passover

For the last few years we have marked passover. We have made sure that our home is leaven free, and we have had a big meal with a hagadar. We have not however made use of a wooden spoon and a feather..so when a friend (who is also a rabbi) pointed out that we should make sure that we have a feather and spoon ready for tonight we where a little on the lost side.

After some strategic use of google we have discovered that the final search for leven should be done by candle light, and crumbs should be gathered up using a spoon and feather like a dustpan and brush. the crumbs are then put into a paper bag and the whole lot is burnt.

Apparently the reason for using a wood spoon is that the code of Jewish law Orach Chaim 445:3 says that if you dont find any leaven you must burn the utensiles you used during the search - a metal spoon might make this a little difficulty.

I remain a little confused by the whole thing - but we will give it a go!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Which Jew?

If your mother is Jewish then you are Jewish. It doesnt matter whether your mother followed Judaism or not - you are still Jewish, and your children will be Jewish. This means that even if you are for example a reform Jew an Orthodox Jew will recognise you as part of the same family. They may disagree on how your practice your Judaism, but that wont stop them considering you Jewish. The same is true of other branches of Judaism, whether Conservative, or Hasidic.

In theory someone converting to Judaism - is not really a convert, instead they are someone who has a Jewish soul which has found its way home. The problem is that Orthodox rabbis do not accept reform convertions. This means that while the convert and the reform movement may accept them and all future generaitons as converts, the rest of judaism will reject them and their decendents on the basis that the convertion was not valid.

This is a very heavy burden to place on future generations - that they will only be accepted fully within the jewish community if they recive an orthodox convertion and that until someone does so all generations will be in this strange middle world where they are conisdered Jewish by some - but not by others.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


People swear. And Blaspheme. I get that. There is no point in me denying, I do myself – really I try not to but sometimes, particularly after a drink or two my launguge becomes progressively bluer. It may offend others to hear my bad language – I know that it often jars my ears to hear it from others.

For me there is something far worse than hearing someone swear. It’s having others make me swear. That makes it sound as if I am very weak willed, and that I am suggesting that you can force me to swear against my will – and in a way I am.

As I don’t want to make you swear I am going to designate for this blog only the word yellow as the most offensive word that exists. I want you to imagine if you will the most hideous unpleasant derogatory term you can – that for this blog is YELLOW.

Okay. Now if I say Yellow you might be offended. You might not, but if I type yellow then you will read it – you will actively consume the word possibly to an even greater degree than if you had just heard it. You can try and skip over it in a sentence but it will sink into your brain none the less. When I write FOR YELLOW SAKE! You can’t avoid the words being imprinted in your head. The same thing happens if I abbreviate it. FYS. You work out that it means ‘for yellow sake’ and you translate it in your head. This is now swearing that you are an active partner in – you are translating the swear word, forming it in your mind. This remains the case in every day speech. If someone says FYS out loud, you will mentally translate it and hear in your head ‘For yellow sake’, equally if someone finds a word to replace yellow, a less offencive word so that they don’t offend but making sure that everyone still knows its yellow they are referring to – for example ‘For Yartis Sake’. When you hear someone say that – you will translate it into For Yellow Sake.

Throughout all this as much as I have tried to avoid it – you have probably carried out a third level of translation changing yellow to a ‘real’ swear word.

My point within all this is that while I am not a fan of swearing I object even more strongly to people using ‘suggestive’ swearing which leaves my head to make connections I don’t want it to. If you swear the only issue from my point of view is that I have to hear it – when you say ‘FYS’ then I swear /blasphem– even if only in my head.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Vengeance is mine

A couple of weeks back someone passing the synagogue made a derogotry remark aimed at Jews. The responce to this was a member of the congragtion deciding to apprehend the person concerned and hand him over to the police.

While Church have 'welcomers' who's job it is to hand out hymn books and great people with a smile, the synagogue has a security team. Wearing ear pieces and carrying radios they watch monitor showing the various external CCTV cameras. They have devices for checking under cars for bombs, and they search new people coming to the synagogue.

The whole fear - to my mind uncalled for fear of assult which seems to be all dominating in Jewish communities is something i find fairly disturbing - as the saying goes their is nothing to fear but fear itself. The only problem is thats really not the case - their is a lot to be afraid of. As i have thought about this i have wondered why such a diffrence approach between Jeiwish and Christian communities. The answer may well be the Holocaust. That the scar that has been left so deeply on the Jewish community has left a mix of fear and defiance that has resulted in a kind of 'come and have a go if you think you are hard enough'. This is an approach which is the opposite of that found within Christian communities. While members of congregations are not easily identifiable as christians, vicars can be spoted at least when in 'uniform'. The responce to violene hasnt been to employ bouncers, but rather has continued to be a welcome to all.

Is the threat that is faced by the Jewish community more than that faced by the Christian community however? I suspected - having seen a few such incidents - that many of the logged anti-semetic incidents are not specifically anti-semetic. to clarify this - on occasions when walking down the street wearing a big hat some yobs have shouted out at me 'offensive comments including in the list of insults 'COWBOY', at other times people have shouted out a stirng of insults including the word JEW as an insult.

My hat isnt a Jewish hat - but the ignorent might see it and assume its Jewish - some assume its Armish. The point is that in both cases i have been insulted, was one of the people someone who hated jews and was insulting me because he belived i am jewish - or was he insulting me because i was wearing a big hat and he is a bit of an ideot? In the second case the comment can be logged and become part of official statistic on anti-semitism. So i thought that in the aid of this blog and my general thinking on the subject i would check it out - i looked for official statistics.

http://www.thecst.org.uk/docs/Incidents%20Report%202010.pdf contains a report on the reportd attacks on the jewish community in britian in the last year. 639 incidents. The report is detailed - and concerning. Reading it i thought - fair enough - caution is required.

I tried to then do a search on attacks on clergy or christians - and its hard to find figures. The national organisation churchwatch provides advice for churches on security - the advice is that its better to have churches open than closed. It encourages easy access and looks at how to minimise damage from vandels. I could only find figures for 2002, but the figures where:

6829 incidents, 2866 of criminal damage to churches, 3595 of their, and 186 of violance.

I am not sure how this relates as a % of attacks when compared to the number of jewish places of worship in the country - however - almost all vicars questioned report that they have been assulted verbally or physically.

I dont know how this has all left me feeling really. Is the Jewish community overly cautious, have we got the baracades up to high, and are we too ready for a fight, or is the responce proportial to the threat? Is the threat against Jews and Jewish places of worship great or less than against churches? In all honesty i just dont know - but maybe this should be on the agenda at interfaith meetings.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Breastfeeding - it's a man thing

I did warn that this is a blog about my life as a whole, not just the 'being a convert' bit, so let me flag this post up if the title doesnt make it clear enough - i am going to be talking about breast feeding - okay as long as you know what your getting.

I realise that their are few things more likely to cause an onslaught of flaming that suggesting that breast feeding has anything to do with men - but - having read a couple of blogs in the last few days talking about breastfeeding i thought it might be worth putting something down from a male perspective.

There seems to be me too be a direct relationship between how long a mum feeds for - or whether she does at all, and what her partner thinks about this (if she has one). Even writing that sentance i could feel myself being really careful about gender terms, and partner as opposed to husband - but i am talknig about male partners here for a minute, because that the perspective i can talk about.

Prior to the birth of our daughter i struggled with women breastfeeding in public - or in private with me present. I mean seriously - breast from a male perspective are sexual. Seeing naked breasts gets us aroused - thats the whole point of breasts for most men. This means we are faced by a seriously confused situation when in the presence of someone who has a boob out - even if obscured by a child's heads - and we are meant to be engaged in normal conversation with them over a cup of tea. The 14 year old boy in us is shouting 'BOOBS!!!!' while the slightly more mature part of us is trying to keep eye contact with the lass concerned's eye, and show that we really are okay with all this. Its not to easy. Particualy as most of us are not confrunted with this a lot. I mean if you work full time, go to pubs and clubs for your social life, etc then actually you don't encounter many women with small children who are breast-feeding. This means when you do encounter it - its always a bit surprising.

While the idea of random women getting their boobs out in non-sexual settings the idea of our partners doing so is deeply disturbing. Add to this that many new mums when first feeding have a really tough time and want to give up - or want to carry on but are in pain, and add to all this that the idea of feeding a baby a bottle at least gives you something you feel you can do as a dad - and well in honesty its not looking good for breastfeeding.

So thats the negative - and their is a lot of it - their is however a way through - their are some major major 'bloke' things assoicated with your other half breast feeding!

1) FACTS : for many men the idea of being more knowladagable than someone else is very appealing. Breastfeeding is a topic that few people know a lot about - even mums. Do some reading, be an expert. For example:

-breastfeeding should begin within an hour of birth, and pacifiers should be avoided.
-breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants, it helps prevent diarrhoea and pneumoina which are the main causes of baby deaths!
-adults who wre breastfed as babies have lower blood pressure, lower cholestiral, lower rates of obesity, and type 2-diabete. - Here is the big one - THEY DO BETTER ON IQ TESTS!! seriously if you want a smart kid then encouraging your other half to breast feed will help your kid be bright!!

2) PROTECTIVE : If your other half is breatfeeding in a cafe and someone tells you she should be - you get to be bolchy, you get to defend her, to point out the law on it, to 'man up'.

3) SUPPORTIVE : One of the things most of us like - is to be held in high regard by our wives / partners friends. Being supportive on breastfeeding is a real winner here.

4) LESS SCREAMING : nothing shuts up a screaming child quicker than breastfeeding.

5) POINTING OUT TO PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE IDEOTS : Okay whether you do this outloud, or just walk around feeling superior - if people are feeding their kids cows milk you can think - how odd - how freaky - when you actually pause to think about it, a kid drinking milk from a cow instead of a human just makes no sense at all. And forumla is barking. It costs a fortune, and means that you spend half your life steralising containers and trying to get milk to just the right tempeture etc. Plus its not as good as breast milk! Any human breast milk is going to be better for a child than formula - BUT - breast milk from your babys mother, is going to be specially made - your partner by spending time with your kid, and kissing them on the forehead etc picks up on the germs they come into contact with, they then make antibodies to deal with them, and within two hours the breastmilk changes to help deal with it! Seriously its good stuff!!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Sometimes best not say anything..

Shimon his son said: All my days have I grown up among the wise and I have not found anything better for a man than silence. Studying Torah is not the most important thing rather fulfilling it. Whoever multiplies words causes sin.

Mishnah Pirkei Avot 1.17

time to sleep

It really is time to sleep but i havent posted for a few days and want to get into the discipline of it. I have watched loads of movies the last couple of days. umm trying to think what else i have been up to.

Job wise it looks like the company i am working for is not going to make it through - so the plans of getting a place of our own are out the window right now.

Today was good - we had a wonder around town, went to a local community fair thing which was really nice. I find it so difficult at times with the whirlwind (daughter). Sometimes i take real pleasure in stopping every few steps when she wants to look in a shop or examine a paving slab and other times it all seems impossibly frustrating and i just want us to be able to walk in a straight line for five minutes. It almost makes me wish we could strap her into a push chair and be done with it (she has never been in a push chair).

Its gone 3 am and i really should be in bed. Night Night tinternet.