June 3



1924, 1972




K, Joseph K and Karl Roßmann, simultaneously went missing, disappeared without trial or process, or became lost, possibly in a nearby castle, possibly in America (you can look up all those literary allusions for yourself); today in 1924.

The request to destroy (burn?) his manuscripts, and Max Brod's "betrayal" was it (that was the word I used when Nemo did the same for Tomas Dudando in "A Singular Shade of Grey")? What lay behind Kafka's request? Genuine humility? Fake humility? A sense of being so superior to the rest of humanity that he wouldn't have his great works soiled by being left with them to ignore, misunderstand, mis-represent (all of which has happened)? A contempt for those works, failures every one? Primo Levi threw himself down his stairwell (on April 11th 1987, as it happens; not today) because, three decades after the Holocaust, and his personal testimony at the trial of the Human Race, he couldn't accept that there were still no properly appointed judges, still no verdict, still no likelihood of any verdict ever being carried out, and only the endless repetition of the same crime all around him - he could see no point continuing, had no wish to inhabit a universal Auschwitz, and brought his own life to an end. But his life, not his works, which have outlived him, or should I say survived him?






They give away copies of "Jewish News" at Stanmore Library on Fridays, and I usually notice the headline, because they are stacked by the door, but equally usually walk on by - the only time I have ever taken one was when they announced the Aliyah 100 last year, and my cousin Mike Prashker was among the named.

On May 11th 2018 I took home a copy, because the headline announced the UK's first "female Orthodox Rabbi" (which may be slightly different from an "orthodox female Rabbi" but I leave that to you to determine for yourself).

Dina Brawer is her name, and she wants to be known as a Rabba rather than a Rabbi, which is entirely correct Hebrew as well as being entirely correct feminism (and todah rabbah for leaving off the final Hey, which would only cause phonetic confusion. Her husband is Naftali Brawer, who used to run the Northwood shul apparently, but is now at Elstree and Borehamwood, that cute little stibl-shul on the hill-slope before Allum Lane.

Dina may be the first in the UK, but she is not the first of all. Lila Kagedan achieved that in 2016, likewise smicha'd with Avi Weiss at Yeshivat Maharat in New York.

I should add that the Rabbinical Council of America responded to Lila's ordination in the approved manner, albeit without fire-pans or almond-rods: ordination and hiring of women Rabbis officially prohibited. Go tell that to the folks at Mount Freedom in New Jersey who went ahead and hired her!






But all of this is only the orthodox world, and Judaism is a much broader synagogue. It was today, in 1972, that the first woman Rabbi of any denomination was ordained in the United States, Sally Preisand by name, in Cincinnati - an important date no doubt for Americans, but there had already been a woman Rabbi in Europe. And no, not Beruriah (see January 12), as long ago as the 2nd century CE, because she was never officially a Rabbi, because the orthodox will never give smicha to a woman, even though she gets quoted in the orthodox anthologies; no, I am referring to Regina Jonas, who was ordained in Germany and served as pulpit Rabbi in Theresienstadt 
(see December 27)

The photo was taken outside Hebrew Union College. Sally is at front centre, but all the women surrounding her were Rabbinical students, who would go on to obtain smichah soon afterwards, and serve in varying capacities in the Reform, Renewalist or Reconstructionist movements of America (only one man in the picture, you may have noticed)


The fire-pans and almond-rods are an allusion to the rebellion of Korach and his followers against the "Rabbinic authority" of Moses. In those days a cherem meant a cherem; you didn't just get a press statement, like Lila Kagedan, nor even excomunicated, like Baruch Spinoza (see February 21), you got... but you can read it for yourself, in Numbers 16

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