The Diary

Chelsea's mishpachah

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Let's hope Chelsea Clinton’s future uncle-in-law does not get access to mum Hillary. Her fiance Marc is a nephew of anti-Zionist Prof Norton Mezvinsky.

Chelsea, incidentally, won’t be the first of presidential stock to enter a Jewish family. Claudia Taylor Brod, grandchild of Lyndon Johnson, converted to Judaism and lives in Miami. And Franklin Roosevelt’s great-grandson, Joshua Boettiger, is a rabbi.

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Mr Brown's maccabees

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Who will light the candles at Downing Street’s Chanucah do next Wednesday (at No 10 rather than the Foreign Office). I hear it may be the five Council of Christian and Jews’ presidents: Lord Sacks, Rabbis Abraham Levy, Tony Bayfield and Danny Rich along with a Masorti stand-in for Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. Leaving one more kindler. Could David Miliband don his kippah to spread light in dark places?

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Outed: the mobile messiah

By Simon Rocker, December 3, 2009

While we’ve been preoccupied with the credit crunch, Afghanistan and Stacey Solomon’s progress, we’ve missed the real news. The Messiah has arrived and been spotted driving around Prestwich.

(Ok, he can’t spell; there should be an ‘h’ in Moshiach.)

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Pipped to the bedpost

By Simon Rocker, December 3, 2009

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Amos Oz and Philip Roth were in contention for this year’s Bad Sex in Fiction Award, given by the Literary Review to mock erotic fumblings in print. The two giants ultimately lost out to their literary junior, New York-born Jonathan Littell, for a scene in his Holocaust novel, The Kindly Ones.

Littell, son of spy novelist Robert Littell, doesn’t define himself as Jewish, according to Ha’aretz, and he’s not kindly towards Israel, which he thinks does “atrocious” things to the Palestinians.

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Hands-on advice

By Simon Rocker, December 3, 2009

Staff at the government’s Equalities Office have been issued with a lengthy memo on how to avoid bullying, harassment and discrimination at work.

Among potentially harassing conduct, say the mandarins, is refusing to shake someone’s hand.

I wonder what the United Synagogue is going to advise Orthodox rabbis.

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A starry knight

By Simon Rocker, December 3, 2009

You would need a museum to house all the awards garnered by Sir Sigmund Sternberg for his interfaith diplomacy. And yesterday he was due one more. Already one of few Jewish papal knights (wife Hazel is also a dame), he is being upgraded with a star added to the knighthood — a “rare” accolade, according to an expert on Vatican honours.

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Paying out for Palwin's

By Simon Rocker, December 3, 2009

Supplies of Palwin have been in short supply this year, still one can only gasp at the lengths some people will go to lay hands on the vintage kiddush tipple. A bottle of No 4 fetched £85 at an auction at London’s Belsize Square Synagogue on Sunday. Its proud owner is reserving it for Pesach.

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Eilat hails vintage bentleys

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2009

John and Edward are not the only twins making the running. Let me take you to downtown Eilat, where last Friday the crowds were roaring on the entrants in a European Cup triathlon to the finishing line.

Israeli triathlon champs, twins Ran and Dan Alterman, had predictably elicited the cheers but then spectators caught sight of another pair of twins further back in the field.

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The rabbi can wear a dress

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2009

A controversy has been averted over Belsize Square Synagogue’s search for a successor to retiring Rabbi Rodney Mariner, who is 68.

There were rumblings among Liberal rabbis over a clause in the job description requiring the independent Progressive congregation’s rabbi to oversee male taharah (washing of the dead), which was taken to mean no woman need apply.

Further egalitarian hackles were raised when inquiries suggested that most congregants did, indeed, prefer a rabbi in trousers than a skirt.

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Christmas at the mosque

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2009

The reindeer are glittering again on lamp-posts, office workers are placing orders for mistletoe and down at the East London Mosque they are making preparations for an “imams and rabbis’ Christmas dinner”.

The novel interfaith nosh-up has been arranged for the day before Christmas Eve by dialogue groups Children of Abraham and Scriptural Reasoning. No turkey though, just kosher and halal fish and veggie options, along with soft drinks of course and crackers pulled “in solidarity with our Christian friends”.

I am sure they will look lovely in their Santa hats.

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