Belfast rabbi hopes to educate with ‘beginner’s guide’ to Judaism

Rabbi David Singer at the Belfast Synagogue on Somerton Road, where he has launched a new book on Basic Judaism

Rabbi David Singer at the Belfast Synagogue on Somerton Road, where he has launched a new book on Basic Judaism

Belfast Synagogue is launching a book about basic Judaism to help educate the many visitors that regularly tour their centre of worship.

The book – Judaism, a brief outline – is intended to give an overview of the Jewish religion and is written by Rabbi David Singer, who was born in Birmingham and spent some 30 years in Jerusalem before becoming rabbi of the Belfast Jewish community.

He told the News Letter: “This is a book about basic Judaism. At the synagogue we have a very diverse range of visitors, ranging from junior and senior school groups, students of theology and church and historical groups.

“Their aim is generally to see the synagogue or understand more about Judaism.”

So the book was written to address the many questions such visitors regularly ask during their tours.

“I don’t lead every tour, mainly when they are more theologically based, so the book will be useful for everyone taking part in such events.”

Mr Singer said that he had not seen anything else that was particularly suitable for the purpose.

The book, which is 28 pages long, contains chapters on the definition of the Jewish faith, its monthly calendar, the Hebrew language, synagogues, Jewish prayer, Judaism in the home, objects and dress, rites of passage, signs and symbols, the different streams of Judaism, leadership and roles in Judaism and the role of women in Judaism.

It concludes: “In the heart of every Jew there is the constant yearning for the era of the coming of The Mashiach (The Messiah) and for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, to return to the Land of Israel and we express these desires in our prayers.”

Throughout the world, the prayers, rites of passage, festivals and religious readings and dietary laws are the same, he writes.

Ronnie Appleton QC, a prominent retired lawyer and member of the Belfast Synagogue, says in the foreward to the new book that Judaism is the oldest of the three monotheistic religions.

It began with Abraham some 6,000 years ago and his belief “in one God who is Lord of the universe” he writes. “Judaism is older than Christianity and the Muslim religion. In fact Christianity grew out of the Jewish religion and Jesus was a Jew.”

The key factor which has helped Jews around the world to retain their identity, he says, is the Sabbath. The basis of the religion is to be found in the five books of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy – and Rabbi Singer’s book is “a good starting point” for those who want to study more, he added.

Copies of the book can be requested from Belfastjewishcommunity@gmail.com or tel 028 9077 5013.