Hosted by ICTeachersFormerly:
Mike’s Rough Guide to Judaism
The contents of these pages represent the author’s personal views, experience and
understanding. There are bound to be some things here that some Jews would disagree
About the Author
I am a Jew. I am an Englishman. I am a Londoner, I am a husband, a father, a son,
a grandpa. I am a (retired) teacher. I am also lots of other things... They all play
a part in my sense of my own identity.
Although I am not a particularly observant Jew, being Jewish is a core part of what
makes me the person I am. Judaism, and my experience of it, influences my daily life
in many ways. It has strongly influenced my sense of morality, my sense of family,
my musical, artistic and literary preferences, my interests, my sense of humour,
my culinary tastes, my sense of belonging (and of estrangement). Indeed, Judaism
has coloured my whole world view.
I enjoy being Jewish - no, I love being Jewish. I love the sense of being part of
such a long tradition, the sense of connection with countless generations of people
before me and yet to come. I love the ceremonies and the celebrations. I love the
sense of rootedness that I feel when I take part both in the annual cycle of festivals
and in more everyday observances.
The singer, songwriter and poet, Leonard Cohen once said that he "grew up steeped
deep in Judaism". I knew exactly what he meant because it is just how I feel. My
maternal grandparents were observant, middle of the road, orthodox, Polish-born Jews,
who came to England in the early part of the 20th century (as economic migrants,
long before the Holocaust). My paternal grandmother was equally orthodox. Also Polish
in origin, her parents brought her to England as a toddler in around 1904. I never
knew my father's father, who died in a Japanese PoW camp during World War II. His
family originated from Lithuania.
My parents were less observant but we were members of the United Synagogue in Highgate,
London. I and my brother spent a lot of time at our grandparents' house. It was just
round the corner and we usually went there for a couple of hours after school (until
our parents got home from work). Throughout my childhood I took time off school for
all the festivals and went to shul (the synagogue) for the festival services. We
usually went to my grandparents house for the Shabbos meal on a Friday night and
attended Cheder (Sunday classes). Sometimes we would go to Shabbos morning services,
sometimes we wouldn't! For a couple of years in my mid-teens I was a regular and
serious synagogue goer and did my best to be observant (my teenage rebellion?) but
... For many years after our marriage, Judith (my wife) and I had very little contact
with organised Judaism, but maintained our links through family celebrations of the
major festivals, particularly Pesach (Passover). Our "return to the fold" was precipitated
by our eldest son's desire for a Bar Mitzvah celebration.
Although we both grew up in modern orthodox communities we feel far more comfortable
belonging to a progressive community, Wimbledon and District Synagogue, which is
a Reform Synagogue.
At Wimbledon I have served as a member of the synagogue council and am the community's
representative to the Merton SACRE (Standing Advisory Council for Religious Education).
I am also a member of the team of volunteers who host visits to the synagogue by
school parties. In my spare time (spare???) I help people with computer problems.