Dear Rabbi,

I’m a UK resident, but have been doing a conversion course to Judaism for the past nine months in New York (where I transferred for busi- ness). I’m finishing the course in the UK in two months’ time and want to select a Jewish name for myself. Could you recommend one?

Reginald

 

Dear Reginald,

Try Shtuyot. It’s Hebrew for ‘non- sense’, reflecting the slapstick course you took, which is meaningless. If you wanted a double- barrelled Yiddish touch, go for Noch-Amul, which means ‘do it again’ –and do it right, if you are truly committed.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’m 18 and last month my parents told me I was adopted. They couldn’t tell me whether my birth mother or father was Jewish, although my parents (the ones who raised me) are 100 percent Jewish.

Where does this leave me? Can I be considered Jewish by way of my adoption, especially as my parents raised me Jewish, sent me to a Jewish school and I led a Jewish life for the past 18 years? Please advise me.

Aliza

 

Dear Aliza,

Wow! This must be an incredibly difficult time for you. I’m sure your parents had their reasons for keeping the information from you, and I hope you can accept that and respect their decision. I also hope you get some proper counselling to help you through this difficult process.

You asked a question that deserves a straightforward answer: Jewish status is determined by biological descent and not how you were raised. That your parents cannot tell you whether your biological mother is Jewish means it is probably not something they determined at the time of adoption.

This suggests they would not have put you through a conversion process at the time, something that is required for a child adopted from a non-Jewish mother (immersion in a mikvah and circumcision for a boy). What that means is that you should do research and trace your biological mother.

I am sure your parents can help, as they would have access to your birth details. In the event she is Jewish, then you are too. In the event she is not, you need to talk to your rabbi and figure out what you want to do, with him explaining to you all that entails. I can only but reiterate my wishes of strength at this time.

Stay focused. There is light at the end of the tunnel.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

My mother passed away on Valentine’s Day last February. As the first anniversary of her passing is coming up again soon, is there a specific way I should mark the occasion?

Greg

 

Dear Greg,

The anniversary of the passing of a loved one (yahrzeit) is marked by the Hebrew date, not the English one. According to my calculation, that means this year, the date should be commemorated on 4 February.

You’ll want to light a memorial candle on the night leading into 4 February and go to synagogue that night, the following morning and afternoon to say Kaddish (you can find out service times from your shul or find one that has ongoing services). Give a little extra charity on the day (into a charity box or directly to a Jewish organisation) in your mother’s merit.

It would also be especially nice to undertake something special on the day – whether some learning or some other mitzvah in your mother’s merit. Fundamental to Jewish belief is that our loved ones remain eminently attached to us, and we could do many things that will give joy and elevation to their souls.

This is especially applicable on the day of the anniversary of their passing, not just this year, but every year thereafter. Whatever you do this year should be repeated on a regular annual basis. Wishing you a long life.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I’m taking a cruise in mid-May and will be travelling through different time zones. How does that affect my prayers?

Do I need to keep to a 24-hour cycle before putting on tefillin or, if I find myself switching zones (which means I could have two mornings within a span of twelve hours), should I wear my tefillin twice in that shorter period of time?

Jerry

 

Dear Jerry,

The short answer is that you would put tefillin on whatever morning in one zone, and as the subsequent 12 hours will take you through noon and night (a rather quickened day), you’ll put them on again when it is morning at your next destination.

The truth is there are many questions that might emerge over the period of your cruise, especially when going through different time zones. The simplest and most practical solution is to book a second ticket for me to travel along with you. You could have your own rabbi with whom to consult on any questions as and when they emerge.

For no extra charge, I’ll even study with you daily and throw in a free personal Shabbat sermon, tailor-made to your specifications.

Should this not appeal, if there are any other readers out there who might fancy this idea, you know where to find me…[divider]

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi.