Simon Rocker's blog

I have not become a horse

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2009

To anyone who might have noticed that yesterday's 4 o’clock race at Epsom included a runner called “Rocker”, I just want to re-assure you that I have not been changed, like some figure of Greek myth who has incurred the wrath of the gods, into a horse.

But to any loyal reader who might have taken a punt, I apologise – my equine namesake only came in fourth.


Sell It Not

By Simon Rocker, September 2, 2009

Here’s a slice of red-toothed rabbinics from Matthew Wagner, writing in the Jerusalem Post. It begins:


Tom Jones, ShabbesGoy

By Simon Rocker, September 1, 2009

Dig deep enough and it seems that everyone has some kind of Jewish connection. And so it is with Sir Tom Jones. Mr Sex Bomb revealed to Bimah, the magazine of Welsh Jewry, that he had once, to use his own words, been a "Shabbesgoy" in Pontypridd.

"All the boys would hang around outside the shul on a Saturday eager to get a few pennies from the rabbi for going in and starting up the fire," he told compatriot Hannah Tobin who bumped in to him in Las Vegas.

And no the rabbi didn't sing, "Come on boyo, light my fire."


Another derecognised conversion

By Simon Rocker, August 13, 2009

In this week's JC, I write about why it would be difficult to reach agreement for a universally recognised standard of conversion. But as if any more evidence of the obstacles were needed, the Jerusalem Post reports another example of an Israeli Orthodox convert having her conversion invalidated by the official rabbinate.


Fish or female?

By Simon Rocker, August 13, 2009

Kiryat Yam council near Haifa are apparently offering a $1million to anyone who can prove the existence of a mermaid who has reportedly been spotted frolicking off the coast of Israel. But are they ready to offer more for anyone who can answer the question that really matters - would she be kosher?


The Mechitzah on the Street

By Simon Rocker, August 12, 2009

That redoubtable Orthodox blogger, Honestly Frum, has this tale from Jerusalem. It begins:


Lerman on Lieberman

By Simon Rocker, August 6, 2009

In yesterday’s Guardian Antony Lerman had a crack at Israel’s controversial Foreign Minister and leader of the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, Avigdor Lieberman.
Among other things, he wrote: “In the UK, Jewish leaders have been silent on the dangers he represents. Have we heard a peep out of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on the subject?”


The Barmitzvah That Never Was

By Simon Rocker, August 3, 2009

A rather sad tale of everyday intermarried life from this weekend’s Guardian.

In a first-person piece, Annabel Wright, a self-confessed “non-practising Jew” married to a “lapsed Church of England” husband, recounts how her 12-year-son Marcus became interested in Judaism and wanted to have a barmitzvah.


Toast of the town

By Simon Rocker, July 30, 2009

On the way to the bank, I noticed a display board outside Oddbin’s in Holborn proudly advertising one of the off-licence’s latest acquisitions; “Kosher Côte du Rhone”.
Is it this an indication that kosher wine has now gone mainstream? Could m' learned friends at the High Court down the road be taking a new tipple?


Friends in High Places

By Simon Rocker, July 24, 2009

One of the main arguments of the Chief Rabbi’s new book , Future Tense, is that we need not be a “people that dwells alone” and that Jews have friends in the fight against antisemitism and other issues.

Here’s an example – from Lord Alton, writing this week in the Catholic newspaper, The Universe.


The Hizbollah ‘spy’ and the Vatican conspiracy theory

By Simon Rocker, July 20, 2009

A bizarre story from Ha’aretz.

“The Pope and the cardinals of the Vatican help organize tours of Auschwitz for Hezbollah members to teach them how to wipe out Jews, according to a booklet being distributed to Israel Defense Forces soldiers,” it begins.

Far-fetched? The report goes on to say that the IDF has halted distribution after doubts (not suprisingly) were cast on the veracity of the claims. A soldier is quoted as saying: “The book is distributed regularly and everyone reads it and believes it. It's filled with made-up details but is presented as a true story.”


Jews to blame for Holocaust, says imam

By Simon Rocker, July 17, 2009

Rabbis invited to a Muslim conference in the States had a nasty surprise as Nathan Guttman reports in this week's Forward:

"Efforts to bring together Jewish and Muslim communities hit another snag when an imam at a major Muslim conference gave an incendiary speech in which he said Jews were to blame for the Holocaust."


A Lordly Chief and a Deafening Silence

By Simon Rocker, July 15, 2009

The - some would say, long-overdue - elevation of the Chief Rabbi to the House of Lords has brought across-the-board congratulations from the Charedi Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations to Masorti.

Almost across the board, that is. Invitations from the JC to comment have so far elicited no response from the Reform or Liberal movements.

A sign of smouldering anger over the JFS affair, perhaps?


JFS - 'the dead hand of ecclesiastical authorities'

By Simon Rocker, July 10, 2009

An outspoken commentary on the JFS court case from the former head of Carmel College, Rabbi Jeremy Rosen. You can read the full version here :

But here's a taste:


Puff at your peril

By Simon Rocker, July 7, 2009

Out and about yesterday, I was surprised to see a couple of men in kippot standing outside a kosher restaurant having a cigarette. Smoking Jews are an increasingly uncommon sight these days and rabbis have debated whether tobacco should be proscribed.

Some have indeed banned smoking on the grounds that Judaism forbids practices that are known to endanger health. But I am more sympathetic to those who feel there are quite enough prohibitions already and some vices should be left to individual choice.


No future

By Simon Rocker, July 3, 2009

"The plague of intermarriage and assimilation is sapping us of our people in a way as deadly as gas chambers."

Rabbi Dr Yehoshua Kemelman, the former chief minister of Sydney's Central Synagogue pulls no punches in his polemic, Diaspora is Jewry's Graveyard. He takes diaspora leaders to task for failing to act in the face of a "national spiritual holocaust" and preaching that the Jewish future lies in Israel. You can read an extract in our Judaism section .


A big headache for Jewish schools

By Simon Rocker, June 25, 2009

The Court of Appeal’s ruling today that the entry policy of JFS – and by extension, many other Jewish schools – is in breach of the Race Relations Act will come as little surprise to those who attended the three-day hearing.
But that makes it no less historic: what the court has said is that the traditional rules for deciding who is a Jew – matrilineal descent –cannot be used for deciding who can enter a Jewish school.


The Lubavitch rabbi and the ‘Kill children' controversy

By Simon Rocker, June 22, 2009

Rabbi Manis Friedman is a veteran Lubavitch lecturer whose students at one time included Bob Dylan in Minnesota.

But now he has become the centre of controversy over remarks he made to an American Jewish magazine saying that the “only way to fight a moral war” is to “kill men, women and children”.

He was one of the rabbis invited by Moment’s Ask the rabbi column to respond to the question, “How should Jews treat their Arab neighbours?”
Here is most of his published response:


Hands off our rabbis, Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 19, 2009

English rabbis are apparently highly prized among Jerusalem's strictly Orthodox community.

But the Jewish Tribune columnist Ben Yitzchok is none too impressed at rumours that representatives from Israel are "fishing around" London in the hope of recruiting rabbinic talent.

Let them grow their own rather than deprive London's strictly Orthodox community of "another one of their treasured rabbonim", he advises in this week's edition.



By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2009

A proposal in Israel to ban imports of fur could have unfortunate consequences for the Chasidic community: it could put a stop to streimels, the ornamental hats worn on Shabbat and festivals (and once described by the late Peter Cook as “furry frisbees”).
Synthetic alternatives are available, apparently.