Simon Rocker JC review of Uncivil War

June 9, 2014

Useful review in the Jewish Chronicle by Simon Rocker that sets out clearly the main themes of Keith Kahn-Harris’s book But will the Jewish community want to challenge itself into finding more civil ways of talking together about Israel on the lines of the Stanmore Accords…

Podularity’s George Miller interviews Keith Kahn-Harris on Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community

May 2, 2014

Podularity’s George Miller interviews Keith Kahn-Harris on Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community

 click on the link

Uncivil War: the Israel-Palestinian Conflict in the Jewish Community


Keth Kahn-Harris Uncivil War“For Jews, Israel goes very close to the heart, whether you’re a Jewish supporter of Israel or you’re a Jewish critic of Israel and of Zionism, it’s very hard to be indifferent about it. In fact, it would be very odd if most Jews were indifferent about Israel because this is the major project of the modern Jewish people. […] The author Joel Schalit says in his book Israel vs. Utopiathat it isn’t just an issue for Israel and the Palestinians; it’s really become the world’s conflict. Everyone seems to have a stake in it, whether they are Israeli, Palestinian, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, whatever. It’s something that it’s very difficult generally to be indifferent about, which has its positives and negatives, but I think it’s mainly negatives…”

This podcast features an interview with sociologist Keith Kahn-Harris about his new book, Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community. This book sets out not only to examine the heated, often vitriolic, even poisonous nature of that debate and explore how it has come about, it also aims to make its own contribution to improving the debate. As you’ll hear in this interview, Keith and his wife experimented with commensality – the practice of eating together – to see what that might achieve when members of the UK’s Jewish community with widely differing views sat down together.

Reviews of Trouble-Making Judaism by Elli Tikvah Sarah

April 4, 2014

 A steady stream of praise for Elli Tikvah Sarah’s book Trouble-Making Judaism 

Works in Translation




‘Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah… has written a book with the power to awaken and inspire. The Trouble-making Judaism she lauds is creative, irreverent, engaged, and boundary-crossing. It’s also deeply engaged with Jewish texts and theology. Her feminist-inspired rereading of traditional texts is creative, provocative, and inspiring. Her Trouble-making is not confined to biblical texts, so her voice of Jewish sanity addresses many of the troubling issues facing Jewish life in the twenty-first century.’   Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun Magazine

‘For more than 20 years, Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah has been at the forefront of the struggle for egalitarianism in Judaism – both as a feminist and as one of the first openly gay or lesbian rabbis to break through the heterosexual monopoly… What shines through the book is her love of text study, which roots her ideas in close analysis of the language of Torah.’  Simon Rocker, The Jewish Chronicle

‘Sarah is passionate, committed and eager to change the world… A formidable scholar, Sarah’s book is festooned with footnotes, testimony to a hard-won struggle with Judaism.’   Keith Kahn-Harris, New Humanist

‘With Trouble-Making Judaism, Elizabeth Sarah has thrown down a gauntlet to all Jews who wish to see their Judaism make an active, principled and powerful contribution to public debate and the needs of society.  English Liberal Judaism is fortunate to have such a prophetic voice in its midst.’   Rabbi Dr Charles H Middleburgh

‘Elli turned trouble-making into a virtue and a gift. Her book is an inspiration to any of us who are troubled by what makes us different, but who take the small yet crucial steps to express it and make something of it. This call to courage is Elli’s most far reaching contribution. We are not just Liberal Jews, but liberating Jews… I found reading this book a lesson in generosity of spirit and, that much neglected sole trait, awe.’  Lucian J Hudson, LJ Today  

‘Tikvah Sarah displays a deep-seated passion for learning. This is fused with an equally energetic desire to see learning as the basis for community building… In its pages the reader acquires the tools by which to see the communal, political, religious, social and personal issues that challenge us on a daily basis and paradoxically, to affirm difference in unity at the same time. Troubling the status quo never seems so Judaically normal.’  Winston Pickett, Sussex Jewish News

‘The courage and honesty with which she writes plus the uniqueness and courage of her story make it well worth the read. Her discussion and creation of Midrash is nothing short of magical,’ Maxwell Zachs, author of The Pepple’s Republic of Nowhere in Good Reads

Keith Kahn-Harris outlines case for a civil debate about Israel in The Times of Israel

March 24, 2014

Keith Kahn-Harris predicts in the JC that new fault lines over Israel will emerge should it ever decide its borders

March 24, 2014

Keith Kahn-Harris speculates in this Jewish Chronicle  comment piece on the Kerry talks and what will happen to the positions of Zionists and anti-Zionists and pro peace Zionists  should Israel finally make a deal on the Palestine issue. Decades of ambiguity would come to an end …on the occupied territories …whether there will be one state or two. Be it a greater or lesser Israel, there is bound to be a new class of ex-Zionists, disappointed Zionists in Isael and around the world….

“Uncivil War: The Israel Conflict….” review and comments on FODIP

March 16, 2014

Turn Right at Cyprus – the official blog of the Forum for the Discussion of Israel and Palestine (FODIP)

2014-03-12 19.28.59
Keith Kahn-Harris being interviewed by Colin Bulka, programme director of JW3

“I asked myself, what can someone like me do about tensions in the British Jewish community?” explained Keith Kahn-Harris at his book launch on Wednesday. “Just invite people to my home. This demonstrates effort, attention, hospitality, conviviality – civility. Doing it at home is important.” Kahn-Harris’ book, “Uncivil War: the Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community”, examines how differing opinions about Israel have led to divides in diaspora Jewry and suggests a policy of ‘civility’ as the best way of countering them.


As both a sociologist and a committed member of the British Jewish community, Kahn-Harris combines personal experience and scholarly analysis in his treatment of this difficult topic – with excellent results. To anyone who has not grown up in the midst of British Jewry, the vibrant denominational landscape and often passionate divergence of opinions can be at best baffling, at worst rather intimidating. In the introductory chapters to ‘Uncivil War’, Kahn-Harris casts some much needed light over the complex issues involved, describing the conflicts that increasingly arise out of these divergences and the ill effects that follow. But the meat of this book is in his central argument: the idea of – and need for – ‘civility’.

At the launch, he declined to give a ‘neat definition’ of the word (because he didn’t want people always saying ‘well, according to Keith Kahn-Harris….’), but he did roughly outline his thoughts on the subject. ‘Civility is a practice that doesn’t close off the possibility of a better form of relationship,’ he offered, ‘it keeps that communication open. It’s not the same as politeness, but it can involve it.’ It is a practice he argues should be employed more often in discussions between Jews, believing it facilitates impassioned debate without the sour side effects.

Nor has he stinted on ground-level research in the testing of his theory. In the climax of the book, he details ‘The Dinner Party Project’. Thirteen dinners were hosted over a two year period (Kahn-Harris thanked his wife for this) and high profile guests were invited to sit, eat and talk together. These guests included rabbis, activists, journalists, and leaders of diverse Jewish organisations: people of different views who would almost certainly challenge one another. So far, so much a massive feat of catering. The trick was getting them not to yell at each other. This chapter is fluidly and sensitively written, with great detail given about the logistical difficulties in getting so many people together and providing a forum for creative debate that stopped short of a fight. A fascinating read.

For the launch, Kahn-Harris was proud that he had got a panel together that were in no danger of simply agreeing with him – and the debate moved energetically over a wide array of questions. These included where (if anywhere) should Jews draw a red line between people they are willing to talk to and people they are not, and what it meant and should mean when someone speaks ‘as a Jew.’ Q and A followed, and the audience unpacked these issues still further. One question that turned out to be a favourite among many was what a gentleman should particularly show his young nephew on an upcoming trip to Israel following his Bar Mitzvah. Suggestions for this ranged from historic Jewish cemeteries to the ‘two walls’ (Kotel and separation barrier), and from the Knesset to the city of Hebron.

There were naturally a few comments at points throughout the evening that I felt may have been played for personal effect, rather than for the purpose of engagement. “Ah, I’m not a fan of dialogue” and “I don’t talk to idiots – I know them when I see them” were a couple that particularly stuck in my mind and notebook. But there was also a great deal of nuance at play, in both academic and humorous varieties. One memorable discussion was the idea that food facilitates civility in the Jewish world – an idea backed up by the fact that the one single row occurring during the Dinner Project had broken out when the lentil stew was burnt.

So why should you read this book? Well, it is a detailed treatise about dialogue facilitation in practice and its applicability to the British Jewish community today. It is scholarly, informative, entertaining – and it champions not only civil debate, but also good food. Enough said.

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Book launch for Uncivil War: “The Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community”

February 23, 2014

Keith Kahn-Harris launches Uncivil WarThe Israel Conflict in the Jewish Community  in a panel  discussion with Daniella Peled, Jonathan Sacerdoti and Michael Wegier at the JW3 on March 12.

Diaspora Jews are no longer unified in their support for Israel. Anger, aggression and verbal abuse between Jews has broken out.  With increasing bitterness Jew is turning gainst Jew. The author, a sociologist and writer, explores the causes of the conflicts and describes how with expert help, he brought together more than seventy prominent British Jews with diverse opinions for a series of encounters. In  Uncivil War he analyses the various groupings –  left, right, secular and religious, pro and anti-Zionist – in Britain and the USA, and he explores the history of civility and dialogue,  the different methods used by international organisations involved in developing dialogue within Jewish communities and the issues that came up in the encounters.

This is the first major analysis of the effects of Jewish divisions over Israel  and  is a major contribution to our understanding of the issues and to seek ways of managing them.

 Keith Kahn-Harris is a sociologist and writer. He is co-author of  Turbulent Times: The British Jewish Community Today, the author of Judaism: All That Matters and the editor of the Jewish Journal of Sociology. He is  regular contributor of articles and reviews to  The Guardian. Independent, New Statesman and Society, and the  Jerusalem Post.

Michael Wegier is Chief Executive of UJIA  the largest Jewish charity in the UK, that focuses on strengthening young people’s Jewish identity and connection to Israel with educational programmes. Formerly executive director of the Melitz Educational Centre in Jerusalem.

Daniella Peled is an editor at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. A former foreign editor of the Jewish Chronicle, she writes widely on Israel and Palestine and is a regular contributor to Ha’aretz.

Jonathan Sacerdoti is a political commentator and analyst. He appears frequently on international news programs and lectures internationally on the Middle East.

The book is in hardback, paperback and ebook formats. See the main  website

British Library Writing Britain exhibition celebrating British authors – Bernard Kops in the loop

April 27, 2012

Bernard Kops is one of 150 celebrated authors who feature in  The British Library’s forthcoming exhibition  Writing Britain: From Wastelands to Wonderlands ( May 11 – September 25) which  promises to be a cornucopia for literature lovers  with iconic British novels, poems and illustrations displayed in all kinds of formats. With artefacts such as a  William Blake notebook and Lewis Carroll’s diary to slaver over and origional Shakespeare and Chaucer works.  Kops  and other contemporary writers were commissioned to perform and explain in a  newly commissioned video, their  sense of place in Britain today and how their work reflects Britain’s unique landscapes.  Kops’s contribution involves reading poems and talking about how he draws inspiration from  his Jewish East End roots .

Launch of Bernard Kops “The Odyssey of Samuel Glass” at Jewish Museum

April 25, 2012

Bernard Kops  will be launching his acclaimed new novel The Odyssey of Samuel Glass  at the Jewish Museum in Camden Town, on Sunday June 17th at 3pm

With readings by actor Stephen Reif  tel 7284 7384  128-131 Albert Street, London NW1 7NB

Reviews of The Odyssey

Mark Lawson Front Row BBC Radio4  ” Watch out for an appearance by Anne Frank, one of the historic figures  met by a Jewish teenager who achieves time travel in Bernard Kops new novel The Odyssey of Samuel Glass.” 

 Jewish Chronicle “Set in Muswell Hill and Hoop lane as well as in 19th century Russia with a rabbinical guide and the ghost of Anne Frank.  If that’s not the recipe for a perfect Jewish coming-of-age novel, what is? (Yes, of course there is chicken soup as well.).Samuel Glass is 17 and can hardly open his mouth without uttering a literary quotation much like the polyglot hero of Jack Rosenthal’s Barmitzvah Boy and just as engaging. Unable to get over his father’s death, Samuel travels back in time to search for the meaning of life, as you do. For all ages, teen to grandparents.  

Michael Kustow  “Kops cooks up a coming-of-age journey from Muswell Hill to ancestral Russia and back, studded with jokes, desire, Jewish food, actors, a magical rabbi and music of the spheres. A serious tale that defies gravity.”


BBC 1 The Big Questions – Is God a Woman?

April 17, 2012

 Or a man?  Neither. We anthropomorphise. Most theologians on this programme agreed. Yet they still  argued and were divided over whether there should be women bishops. Historian Bettany Hughes and Rabbi Elli Sarah, battle it out with Rev Canon Dr Gavin Ashenden  and Rabbi Pesach Efune and others to show how the  overwhelmingly feminine depiction of the divine  in early history was superceded by male images  as warrior tribal societies became dominant. Women were priests in the first 300 years of Christianity says Hughes. A rare treat to see two rabbis going toe to toe on mainstream  TV And a good plug for Bettany Hughes forthcoming series. Divine Women.  

Discussion begins at 42.30 mins   Feature approx 17 mins