Confessions of a Rabbi

by Jonathan Romain, Biteback, £12.99

The author, a well-known broadcaster and rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue, has written a sympathetic and humorous account of life among his 800 households, with the odd problems he encounters in his role.

He sounds unfazed by them and offers generally sensible advice, taking the view (as a non-Orthodox rabbi) that most behaviour is “fine so long as no one else is being harmed”.

Deeply committed to “libertarian values”, he is relaxed about euthanasia, abortion and other moral dilemmas. He had an Orthodox upbringing but then joined Reform Judaism, preferring “its attempt to marry tradition and change”. He sees his synagogue no longer as a “house of prayer” but as a community centre. Indeed, building community is what he believes his rabbinical task is about.

When I reached the end I was puzzled by the fact that God was hardly mentioned. Then I read Romain’s “Last word”, which enlightened me. “Readers may have noticed with some surprise that … the word ‘God’ has not been a dominating feature,” he writes, explaining that he has “not been interested in expounding theology [but] instead I have been immersed in people and the issues they face”.

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