Rabbi Hackenbroch

How to enjoy a Jewish holiday 

Switch off to Switch on.

Roads are deserted, schools out, and for many the preparations for a well-earned rest and get away are gathering pace. After all the time, effort and cost invested, we want it to be a holiday filled with special family memories.   So what’s the perfect formula? Touring the sights, being thrilled by amusement parks? Or sitting in a deck chair doing absolutely nothing? For me, the need for another holiday becomes immediately necessary when I return after all the packing and schlepping from the first one! 

Can Judaism guide us to the perfect holiday?

In Modern Hebrew the word for holiday is “Chofesh” - to be set free. In the Bible, Chofesh is used 17 times, usually in reference to freed slaves, and with it the absence of coercion. No longer does the freed slave have to follow orders from someone else. And this element of being on holiday resonates with us all in this modern digital fast paced world where response times are nearly immediate. So, is that it? A holiday gives us the freedom to do what we want with no limits?

There is another word the Bible uses in relation to feeling liberated - “Cherut” used in relation to The Exodus from Egypt. This word means not just an absence of coercion but in addition, the freedom to lead a constructive, productive and self-fulfilling life. Holiday time presents us all with the great gift of being masters of our own time and the opportunity to spend that time in a meaningful, purposeful and constructive way with those we care about.  And what is more precious to us than our children? As the shop for new school uniform will demonstrate, they’ve grown since last year without us even noticing, and anyone who wants to get ahead of the new school uniform rush will tell you, don’t buy at the beginning of the holiday as kids have an unhelpful knack of having a growth spurt over the summer. This growth spurt is often not just physical but emotional and even spiritual, and engaging with them during holiday time can be especially worthwhile.

A holiday gives us time without distractions and the demands of work. Will our children perceive we are present for them? Do they see us use that time off from work to do what we claim we care about most but “never have enough time for”, to nurture and nourish our souls? Do we truly disconnect so we can be fully present with our loved ones in meaningful ways or, if we are honest, despite being physically present is our attention diverted? 

These days of course, engaging meaningfully with our children is not easy, as we find that we are now competing against their digital all-encompassing tunnel vision as they view the world not through their eyes, but through their screens.  It’s tempting to leave them be. 

So how can we get them to switch on with us, when they would rather switch on the iPad? Structuring the day is key. It is well recognised that children benefit from a well organised day, which can mean there is time for the best of all worlds.  Continuing to work towards a family project, some 121 time with each of them, some fun in the sun, a visit to a place of interest, some relaxation time for you, and some screen time for them.

Below are some suggestions, one or two of which may work for you and your family.

So is a Jewish holiday really a holiday? Yes! switch off to switch on, be free, not to do nothing, but to do things which will make memories for you and your children that simply switching off will not achieve.

Happy Holidays.


Ten Holiday Tips to help Switch you On when you Switch Off 

  1. Be on holiday the second you leave your house- don’t take your work and daily stress with you.

  2. Children thrive on structure – make plans (allow for flexibility), and include your kids in its preparation. You’ve got time to let them help make the sandwiches – an activity in itself!

  3. Reinforce basic rules that don’t change during holiday time such as age appropriate child safety.

  4. Aim to unplug for at least part of your day, at the same time – to build a bank of happy memories and nurture your relationships.

  5. Plan a project or meaningful programme you can complete during the holiday as a family. It could be making something together, some social action volunteering, either here, or if holidaying in Israel check out the numerous options there.

  6. Reinforce school work by picking up on something your child may have missed during the year or found more challenging and work together over the holidays to improve this in a fun way.

  7. Add a spiritual dimension to your holiday - make it more meaningful in a Jewish way by incorporating a Jewish experience, either a place of interest, a Jewish social action project or some learning.

  8. Listen and learn from your children, what do they love? You may not relish watching “Frozen” again but your kids will love you for it!

  9. Try and incorporate a quiz or a merit board. 20 minutes or “school or learning” gets a sticker (their choice) each sticker gets 50p or works towards an agreed outing/item.

  10. And most importantly, remember to have fun. 

Rabbi Hackenbroch

Rabbi Pinchas Hackenbroch grew up in Stanmore, London and attended Hasmonean High School and read Law at London Guildhall University.

He studied in Israel in several Yeshivot including Gush Etzion and Mir obtaining  semicah as well graduating in practical Rabbinics through the Ner Le’elef Institute and Kollel Halichot Yerushalayim. It was during this time that he met his wife Gila, nee Elevitsky whose father was Rabbi of the Mizrachi Shul in Antwerp, Belgium and they married shortly after. Whilst in Israel he delivered popular weekly Shiurim in Talmud and Parsha.​

Before being appointed full time Minister of Woodside Park Synagogue in November 2008, Rabbi Hackenbroch was Rabbi of Newton Mearns Synagogue in Glasgow for five years. He was head of Kashrut for West of Scotland and a popular weekly columnist for the Jewish Telegraph. During their time in Newton Mearns Rabbi Piny and Gila Hackenbroch were well known for dynamic and exciting educational and social programmes, including "60 days for 60 years" a learning programme tackling contemporary Jewish issues that attracted over 1000 people. In Scotland Rabbi Hackenbroch became a sought after speaker, from giving talks within the community, to a monthly shiur in Manchester as well as guest speaker at many inter-communal and inter faith events.

In Woodside Park, Rabbi Hackenbroch is renowned for his entertaining and yet thought provoking and inspiring sermons and shiurim which are a constant draw. In addition he is known for his innovative Learning without Limits Guest Speakers programme now in its fifth year which has proven ever popular. In addition he has been the driving force behind much of the development of Woodside Park Community which continues to grow close to 1,400 members. In addition he is a frequent contributor in the media both in the press and social media as well as appearances on radio.

Outside of his Shul work Rabbi Hackenbroch enjoys practicing as both a commercial and family mediator, sitting on several mediation panels and working with several law firms and charities to advise and resolve their disputes. His hobbies include tennis and football playing in the past for NW Neasden and recently came out of retirement scoring against Spurs Legends in a Charity Match.

Rabbi Hackenbroch can be contacted by email rabbiph@woodsidepark.org.uk or via the shul office on 020 8445 4236

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Gila Hackenbroch Msc

Gila Hackenbroch, is a highly respected and fully accredited psychotherapist currently completing her second Masters in Systemic Family Psychotherapy at The Tavistock, as well as working for the charities Camp Simcha and Noah.

She is a popular speaker with both the ladies and teenage girls at Woodside Park and for several years coordinated the WPS Ladies learning programme New Moonies. She is instrumental in the WPS Shabbat UK and many other high profile social programmes. In addition Gila assists in facilitating the WSP Bereavement Group and Woodside Park Cares. In Glasgow she worked for Relate as a therapist, lectured for UJIA and was the liaison between Glasgow and the London Beth Din.

The Hackenbroch's are renowned for their open door policy and being extremely approachable. Rabbi and Gila have been married for eighteen years and have six children. 

The Hackenblog 16 November 2018
Taking the Knee – Where do we Jews stand?

Two grade 9 students at a Jewish school in Cape Town “took a Knee “to show solidarity with

Palestinians   while the Hatikva was being sung during an award ceremony and were subsequently

disciplined by their school for their protest.


Taking a knee meaning to kneel on one knee during the playing of a national anthem you may

recall was adopted in 2016 by NFL Football star Colin Kaepernick in protest against Police brutality

against African Americans. It was hugely controversial and divided a nation some feeling it was a

legitimate form of protest whereas others saw it being disrespectful to the national anthem

and armed forces 


George Orwell famously said that if liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people

what they don’t want to hear. So where do us Jews stand when it comes to taking the knee and

exercising one’s right to protest against perceived injustices by the State of Israel. In fact we

may wonder what our position is in general when it comes to publicly criticising Israel or other Jews for that matter.

One of the most thrilling aspects of being Jewish is the fact in contrast to other beliefs that choose to stifle debate, we celebrate disagreement and different perspectives being expressed which in turn leads to the emergence of truth. In fact debate is to be found throughout the development of the oral Torah to this day and of course very prevalent in the State of Israel.  Golda Meir said Jewish people were a nation that refused to take yes as an answer.

But to paraphrase King Solomon everything has its time and place.  We have to recognise that be it as a country or as a people there comes a point where difficult decisions have to be made or else you remain in a state of paralysis. I believe that whilst we are free behind closed doors amongst our own to disagree I think we have to be very weary of doing so publicly. We have enough critics and enemies we need to stand united and in particular show our support for our leadership and Israel.

As a nation and country we face a daily onslaught of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment in the media. No one is suggesting that we are perfect, we know we are on all levels a work in progress yet we can hold our heads high and be immensely proud of our accomplishments and contribution to the family of nations. We are a light to the nations our work is ensuring we make that light burn a little brighter year in year out 

Join The Hackenblog!

A WhatsApp group for regular weekly thoughts and inspiration from your Rabbi for you to listen to on the go.


If you are interested in going the Whats App please contact the office tel number 020 8445 4236

Taking the Knee - Rabbi Hackenbroch
00:00 / 00:00
Rabbi Hackenbroch in the Press

Freedom of speech, not freedom to intimidate

"We strive always for disagreement and debate to be carried out with mutual respect and in a constructive fashion, in search of the ultimate truth"

The Brownlee Brothers’ Incredible Triathlon Finish

Alistair was faced with a moral dilemma that he had to make in a split decision. Should he pass his struggling brother, continue to race to the finish line and thereby win the race or give up on his personal ambition and help his brother finish the race?

The Pianist and Music of Human Dignity

The concern for human dignity transcends borders and divisions, and behoves us to attempt to prevent the unwarranted humiliation of friend and foe alike.

Scandals and corruption amongst our leadership 
What’s the way forward?


Listen to a fascinating talk by Rabbi Hackenbroch as he shares the ancient wisdom of our people in addressing this issue recorded at Kinloss synagogue 2018

Remember Our Seders
We are “One Family, One People”
The Pianist
& The Music of Human Dignity. The book The Pianist is the remarkable true story of the pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman.
The Brownlee Brothers
A lesson from the sounding of the shofar
Rabbi XI vs Spurs Legends
A master class in being a true team
Shabbat Traditions
The Y behind the traditions by Rabbi Hackenbroch Friday Night in Shul and Shabbat Preparations
Jonah is a Metaphor
We are born with a subconscious realisation of the fact we have a mission. Often we seek to escape, because our mission is one that we are afraid to attempt.
Show More
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