Simon Rocker's blog

Has the law gone loopy?

By Simon Rocker, September 24, 2009

A wise reflection by Henry Porter on striking the balance between protecting religious groups and upholding freedom of expression. He writes, on Guardian CiF:
“One of the most disturbing cases I have heard of is the decision by the Crown Prosecution Service to bring a prosecution against a Christian couple that own hotel in Aintree, Liverpool.


Lord Jakobovits, Louis Jacobs and conversion

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2009

Interesting revelations on conversion from Ivor Jacobs, a prominent member of the Masorti movement and son of its spiritual founder, Rabbi Louis Jacobs.

In the latest edition of the New North London Synagogue magazine, he writes:

“In the seventies and eighties, problems for children of non-Orthodox conversions were occasionally addressed by Chief Rabbi Jakobovits. He could see what a tremendous wrong would have been perpetrated to force such people to go through years of difficulty to be converted under Orthodox auspices.


Using your loaf

By Simon Rocker, September 17, 2009

A whimsical take on the Tashlich ceremony, that comes in an email circular from the Kesher community centre in Golders Green.

"On the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, there is a ceremony called Tashlich. Jews traditionally go to the ocean or a stream or river to pray and throw bread crumbs into the water. Symbolically, the fish devour their sins.

"Occasionally, people ask what kind of bread crumbs should be thrown. Here are suggestions for breads which may be most appropriate for specific sins and misbehaviours:

For ordinary sins - White Bread

For amatory sins - French Bread


New school rules ‘mockery of Jewish values’

By Simon Rocker, September 14, 2009

Predictably, a fair amount of criticism has greeted the new entry rules that JFS and other secondary schools have been forced to adopt after the Court of Appeal ruling which said that they could no longer use the Jewish status of parents to determine admissions.
Take the Jewish Tribune columnist Ben Yitzchok who in the latest edition, condemns the “stupidity” of the new religious test introduced by JFS, which is based on synagogue attendance and other practice.


If you know someone marrying out, Israel wants to know

By Simon Rocker, September 7, 2009

An anti-assimilation campaign with Israeli government backing is generating fierce controversy, according to Ha’aretz.

The newspaper reports: “The campaign… urges Israelis to report the particulars of acquaintances living abroad so that these people, who are ‘in danger’ of marrying non-Jews, can be persuaded to come to Israel.


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.