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Board of Deputies - Leadership and Grassroots Combine to Beat BDS

Board of Deputies

Leadership and Grassroots Combine to Beat BDS December 11, 2014 - Board of Deputies - Share: Twitter Facebook

Steven Jaffe – Grassroots Consultant to the Board.

RIBA rescinds its call to exclude Israeli architects from an international professional body.

A group of Labour councillors in Dudley in the West Midlands withdraw an extremist resolution which called on the council to end all “procurement of goods and services where there is a direct benefit to the State of Israel.”

In Brighton, an anti-Israel motion is also withdrawn.

Isolated and accidental reversals for the ‘Boycott Israel’ movement? I don’t think so. The power of grassroots action is seen alongside effective representations by main communal organisations.

Within days of the RIBA resolution, I joined a group of concerned architects who came together under the banner Constructive Dialogue, determined to restore reasonableness and balance to their professional body. I also saw how relevant community organisations, including the Board of Deputies and the JLC, made highly effective representations to the RIBA leadership.

There was crucial input from UK Lawyers for Israel regarding the flouting of RIBA’s charitable objectives. There were also rank and file members of the community who cancelled functions at RIBA HQ and the Masorti bet din which withdrew its licence.

Each of these responses played their part. RIBA could not ignore the reputational and other damage caused by their action which did not reflect the priorities and concerns of its members.

In Dudley, it was a local grassroots group, West Midlands Friends of Israel, launched little more than a year ago, which galvanised local people who were prepared to stand up against an extremist anti-Israel resolution. Whereas in the past these friends of Israel could only have responded as individuals, often unaware of others who shared their concerns, WMFoI provided a unified campaigning banner, confidence and strength in numbers.

It was leading activists in WMFoI who made the phone calls, drafted the template letters and sent out the emails which ensured Dudley councillors fully understood how divisive the resolution would be. Councils have a duty to consider the impact of their actions on communal relations and concern about the boycott resolution extended far beyond the Jewish community.

Again, the indefatigable efforts of UKLFI needs to be acknowledged as well as does the high-level intervention by the Board and the JLC, along with other communal and grassroots organisations in the community.

In Brighton it was the Sussex Friends of Israel which galvanised local opposition to the resolution there – building on over a year-long campaign opposing BDS in Brighton.

These developments at RIBA, in Dudley and in Brighton are significant setbacks for a campaign to isolate and weaken Israel to the point of destroying it.

Because the BDS movement depends on convincing everyone that Israel is – to adopt their warped terminology – so obviously the modern-day equivalent to apartheid South Africa, that no reasonable person would demur from wanting to weaken and isolate it through boycotts. Just like apartheid South Africa, they claim, the Zionist project is bound to unravel because of an overwhelming and unstoppable move towards Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions.

As grassroots consultant to the Board of Deputies, I see more than most how the response to that campaign needs to be a sensitive working together of the main communal organisations and activists on the ground. We face many challenges and tensions ahead but working together is the effective way forward.

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Rachel - Zach, Intimate City Chic Jewish Winter Wedding at Old Finsbury Town Hall, Islington, London - Smashing the Glass, Jewish Wedding Blog

Rachel & Zach | Intimate City Chic Jewish Winter Wedding at Old Finsbury Town Hall, Islington, London

Rachel and Zach were married at the gorgeous Old Finsbury Town Hall close to Angel, Islington in North London. They threw a really relaxed, fun wedding party and organised most of it via the wonders of the internet from their home in New York.

They ditched a lot of the traditional wedding formalities too: they chose not to have a bridal party, wedding cake, expensive dress or favours, and had some brilliant ideas, like using Rachel’s enormous collection of New Yorker magazines as individual place cards for each guest. They also devised a very traditional, but totally egalitarian, Jewish ceremony with tons of personal twists, and an utterly unique ketubah. They also wrote an inspired wedding program. The beautiful bride, Rachel, elaborates below.

Chris Giles, their photographer, does city chic romance effortlessly, and even the way he captures Rachel’s shoes perched on a side table is like something out of a modern fairytale. Enjoy every one of Chris (and his wife, Laura)’s gorgeous images, and whisk yourself away to a warm-hearted wintery December in London.


Rachel, the Bride: We chose our wedding venue, Old Finsbury Town Hall in Islington, London, by narrowing our search down to a few indoor venues that were large enough for our group of guests (we invited around 130) but that had lots of character. We live in New York so most of our research was online and then Zach and his parents visited venues. Old Finsbury was perfect for us and we loved the sense of history and faded grandeur that permeated the beautiful building.


We designed a very simple invitation that we printed through an online printer and used Glosite for our website and RSVPs. This was especially helpful since we had many different events over the course of the weekend and you can choose which guests see which events and allow them to RSVP to everything in one place.


My dress was bought at a shop called the Bridal Garden, a not-for-profit boutique in New York which sells donated samples or consigned dresses. I went with my mum to a few different boutiques in New York and found an Anne Barge dress which ticked all my boxes of elegant, comfortable, and I still felt like myself!


I borrowed a veil from a friend who had recently gotten married which happily matched my dress perfectly. I wore earrings that my future parents-in-law gave me as a present shortly before the wedding. They also surprised me with a shrug to wear outside since our wedding was in the middle of the winter.


I bought shoes from Hey Lady (they have samples for a deep discount, just ask!) since I had read that they were incredibly comfortable. They were, although I was definitely ready to take them off by the end of the night!

A friend of a friend, Emma Trachtenberg, who is getting started in commercial hair and make-up did mine. We had a trial a week before and she made me feel totally comfortable about telling her exactly what I wanted and changing things as we went along. One of my co-workers actually found the photo which I used for inspiration for my hair. Having searched fruitlessly online for ages, I was telling my co-worker what I wanted and within minutes she had found it exactly!


Zach got a suit made in New York after we spent some time looking in shops and not finding anything that fit the bill. It turned out wonderfully and ended up costing less than most suits we saw in stores!

We worked with my aunt, who is a rabbi and who was our officiant, to make the ceremony reflect our values and aspirations for marriage. We had a private badeken and ketubah signing, with just our immediate families and our two ketubah witnesses. This was incredibly powerful and our parents gave us blessings at this point which were very moving. We then had a very traditional, but totally egalitarian, Jewish ceremony, including the following elements.

  • A programme with an explanation of traditional Jewish weddings for our friends and family who were not familiar with them. We interspersed short quotations about marriage and love that felt resonant for us, including an excerpt from the Massachussetts Supreme Court ruling legalising gay marriage. My dad, who is also a rabbi, wrote literal translations of the sheva brachot for the programme.
  • My aunt led everyone present in niggunim (wordless melodies) that we had picked while we walked down the aisle and while we circled each other
  • Both of us circling each other (three times me circling Zach, three times him circling me, one time us circling each other)
  • Both of us giving rings and saying “harei at mekudeshet li…” and “harei atah mekudash li…”
  • Family and friends (men and women) reading the sheva brachot in Hebrew and poetic English translations that my aunt had written
  • After Zach broke the glass, many of our friends rushed up to surround us, singing and dancing as we made our way to yichud.

We wanted a simple tallit as the chuppah and used Zach’s father’s tallit. My brother and three of our close friends held the four poles.

As mentioned earlier, we asked everyone to join in singing a melody. It’s used for and associated with a song that describes angels gathering on four sides and we liked the evocation of being surrounded as we walked down and felt the love of our community holding us.

Flowers get so expensive, so quickly, and we liked that Old Finsbury Town Hall didn’t require a lot of decor to look beautiful. However, we did want centrepieces for the tables and I wanted a small bouquet. We used Oya from N15 Flowers for ours.


Chris Giles and his lovely wife (then fiancee) Laura were our photographers. We actually found them when we were looking at venues online and I noticed that the pictures of one wedding at a venue we considered were just stunning in their beauty and warmth and sense of humor. We contacted him and hired him right away! They were so laid back and charming for the whole day – we were so thrilled to have them with us. I can’t recommend them highly enough!


We had two years’ worth of old New Yorker magazines in our apartment which I couldn’t bear to throw out but we repurposed them for our decor. We cut out all the cartoons and used them as place cards, choosing one for each guest. It was such a fun project to pick the right cartoon for each person in our lives and they were a great conversation starter at each table. We were really happy that we took the time to do that, even though it was a little overwhelming with 130 guests! We also used the covers to decorate the loos since they were a little boring and had less character than the rest of the venue. My mother’s best friend spent the morning pinning the magazine covers and some other funny vintage cartoons all over the loo walls and apparently some guests didn’t realise that they were just there for our wedding, not part of the venue decor!

Our ketubah was very important to us. We asked my mother’s sister, who actually made my parents’ ketubah many years ago, if she would be willing to make ours. We worked with her on the design, which had a border composed of little scenes of places that were significant in our lives, including different places in the UK, the States, and Israel. It turned out absolutely beautifully and we still can’t believe how stunning it is as it hangs in our living room.


Marie-Laure from Easy Gourmet was our overall event planner and did all the food which was delicious and perfect for us. She was extraordinarily organised and professional and helped us figure out what we wanted to prioritise. We would vouch for her and her team 100%! We also had Rabbi Chaim Wiener from the Masorti Bet Din supervise the catering. It was important to us to have kosher catering but we wanted to support the more progressive Masorti Bet Din.

We didn’t have a wedding cake! Zach doesn’t like sweet things and I don’t love cake so it didn’t make sense. We had sticky toffee pudding (my absolute favourite dessert that I can’t get in the States!) and a cheese platter for dessert.

We had two family friends, Rebecca and Katya Herman, who are a professional harpist and cellist, play immediately before the ceremony and during the hors d’oeuvres hour after the ceremony. They were so lovely and we were really happy to support artists who are starting their career. We also hired a band to perform at the reception and who played both Jewish simcha music and pop and classic rock.

Just to remember that lots of “essentials” are not, in fact, essential (for us, we skipped the bridal party, cake, and favours, three things which many people would tell you are absolutely necessary). Because so many of our guests came from out of town, we hosted meals over Shabbat for many of them and had a pub quiz on Saturday night for all of our family and friends as well as a brunch the next morning for out of town guests. It was so wonderful to be able to spend that time with everyone and put less pressure on the wedding itself, allowing us to simply enjoy ourselves!

Venue – Old Finsbury Town Hall

Event Planning + Catering – Marie-Laure from Easy Gourmet

Flowers – Oya from N15 Flowers

Music – Rebecca Herman + Katya Herman

Wedding website + RSVPs – Glosite

Share this post: You might also like. About Karen

Loves great design, cityscapes, berry cocktails, and the word “yes”. Founder and editor of Smashing The Glass. Follow me @SmashingTheGlass

Absolutely love the way that this religious ceremony was personalised to reflect the ideals and aspirations of the couple. Great to see this, would love to see this more. x

Couldn’t agree more Natasha! There’s so many ways to personalise traditions and it’s wonderful to see.

A perfect wedding! Simply Elegant!!

It really is city chic epitomised!

Beautiful wedding. Wonderfully captured.

Lovely! The Old Finsbury Town Hall is such an amazing venue.

Lovely stuff at one of my favourite London venues. Fab work, Chris.

Jonathan Sacks, horoscope for birth date 8 March 1948, born in London, with Astrodatabank biography

Sacks, Jonathan

British rabbi, philosopher and scholar of Judaism.

He served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. As the spiritual head of the United Synagogue, the largest synagogue body in the UK, he was the Chief Rabbi of those Orthodox synagogues, but was not recognized as the religious authority for the haredi Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations or for the progressive movements such as Masorti, Reform and Liberal Judaism. As Chief Rabbi, Sacks formally carried the title of Av Beit Din (head) of the London Beth Din.

Since stepping down as Chief Rabbi, in addition to his international travelling and speaking engagements and prolific writing, Sacks has served as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University and the Kressel and Ephrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University. He has also been appointed as Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King's College London.

On 2 March 2016 it was announced that he will be awarded the Templeton prize.

He will be formally awarded the Templeton Prize at a public ceremony in London on 26 May 2016

Source Notes

Birth time unknown. Starkman rectified to 22.33.32 GMT Asc 8Sco22'

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Av Beit Din

Av Beit Din

The av beit din (Hebrew: אָב בֵּית דִּין ‎ ʾabh bêth dîn, "chief of the court"), also spelled av beis din or abh beth din and abbreviated ABD ( אב״ד ‎), was the second-highest-ranking member of the Sanhedrin during the Second Temple period. The president, who bore the title Nasi "Prince", was in a way the supervisor, but not a member of the court, which consisted of seventy members. The most learned and important of these seventy members was called Av Beit Din, a title similar to that of vice-president. [1]

The Av Beit Din presided over the Sanhedrin in the absence of the Nasi, and was the chief of the Sanhedrin when it sat as a criminal court. He sat with seven other judges while hearing a case.

The last Av Beth Din in Jewish tradition is Menahem the Essene who abdicated to "serve the King" in 20CE. Caiaphas was set to be next Av Beth Din but was opposed by the House of Shammai until Gamaliel became Nasi. Talmudic Judaism does not recognise any Av Beth Din after Menachem.

In modern times it is used as an honorific title for the presiding rabbi of a beth din (rabbinical court), who is typically the salaried rabbi of the local Jewish community and usually a posek ("decisor" of Halakha). It is also abbreviated as AB"D when it is after the name of the Chief Rabbi of a national Jewish community.

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