February 22, 2020

This week I went to see Sir Tom Stoppard’s new play Leopoldstadt, which opened in London’s West End earlier this month. It’s a big play in every sense. Its large cast plays an extended Viennese family across three generations and half a century of deteriorating Jewish history. It’s profoundly moving, especially in its final scenes, and shows the impossibility of escaping the consequences of Jewish identity, however hard you might try. But what struck me most was Stoppard’s treatment of… Read more

January 26, 2020

As I become older I realise that the Holocaust is not over. The gas chambers and incinerators are gone but the consequences of the horror will continue to play out in the decades and even centuries to come. Our understanding of who we are as Jews, our place in the world, our politics, how others view us, even our theology, continues to be shaped, indeed defined, by the Holocaust. Why would it be otherwise? Just as with earlier major turning… Read more

December 21, 2019

For some in the Jewish community, the defeat of the Labour Party in the UK General Election will look like a ‘job well done’ in tackling  antisemitism in this country. But as we enter the ‘Age of Boris’, the opposite feels a more accurate conclusion to draw. Let me explain my increasing exasperation at how antisemitism is being understood and addressed. Crushing antisemites In general, it’s best not to over-claim your successes in the fight against antisemitism. But perhaps modesty… Read more

December 7, 2019

“If we leave our echo-chambers and make a conscious effort to listen to people and ideas we disagree with it will help us understand where others are coming from in this election period, even though we may disagree vehemently.” General Election statement from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby & Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, November 2019 Dear Archbishop Justin, May I offer you my warmest greetings in this time of Advent and as we approach the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. We… Read more

November 28, 2019

Dear Chief Rabbi Mirvis As you say in your article in The Times this week (Tuesday 26 November), “Convention dictates that the Chief Rabbi stays well away from party politics – and rightly so.” But rather than stay “well away”, you’ve chosen to make a major intervention that attempts to turn the UK’s General Election into a national referendum on the Labour Party’s handling of antisemitism. And (deliberately, ironically, and perversely) you chose make your accusations on the very day on… Read more

November 13, 2019

I’ve been told to fear the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. I’ve been warned that the Labour Party leader is antisemitic. And, according to a new poll, nearly half of British Jews are considering leaving the country if Labour wins the General Election on December 12th. Despite the doomsday picture being painted for British Jews, I’m not fearful of Corbyn or the possibility of him reaching 10 Downing Street. Nor do I believe that the Labour Party is “poisoned”… Read more

October 19, 2019

What makes some Jewish rebellions more acceptable than others? When can you use Judaism in the service of rebellion and when can’t you? And what makes Jewish protest over Israel/Palestine the boundary line of allowable behaviour in mainstream Jewish circles? These were the thoughts going through my mind as I watched the video of Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, wearing his prayer shawl and his kippah (complete with Extinction Rebellion hourglass logo), being arrested as part of the climate protests in London… Read more

September 21, 2019

The Climate Emergency makes Zionism redundant as a future response to antisemitism; it’s already responsible for gross inequality in  resilience against climate change; and, in the context of the global crisis we face, Zionism is one of many obsolete ideologies which needs to be ditched if we’re to build a sustainable future for all of us. In contrast, Judaism itself, shorn of its Zionist overlay, has plenty to offer as we look for radically different ways to relate to each… Read more

September 3, 2019

My father passed away last week, aged 93, after a short illness. I reached his bedside too late to be with him in his final moments. But with two of our children, Evie and Solomon, alongside me, we were able to say Kaddish (the Jewish memorial prayer), read aloud the traditional psalms for the departed, and say the Shema (the central prayer of Jewish monotheistic devotion). Most importantly, I kissed his forehead and said ‘thank you’ many times for all… Read more

August 1, 2019

We were 38 minutes into a live 45 minute BBC radio debate on antisemitism when the UK’s leading pro-Israel polemicist and regular Times and Jewish Chronicle columnist, Melanie Phillips, gave me the endorsement quote which will now be appearing on all of my future publicity materials: “Robert Cohen is genuinely motivated by good ideals” Melanie Phillips, Speaking on BBC Radio 4 ‘The Moral Maze’, 24 July 2019. Such is the power of selective quotations! But since I want to be… Read more

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