The Diary

The Vatican and the Lobby

By Simon Rocker, October 1, 2009

One man Pope Benedict will be keen to avoid on his UK visit next year is Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson, whose views embarrassed the Vatican earlier this year.

Booted out of Argentina, the errant priest returned to Britain in February, under orders to recant. When I asked about him at the London branch of SSPX, the maverick sect to which he belongs, a secretary did not know of his whereabouts.

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Israel ban offside?

By Simon Rocker, September 24, 2009

Could the TUC have retreated from a boycott of Israel because of its impact on European football?

The Professional Footballers Association is part of the TUC and I’m told that according to bar-room chatter at last week’s congress, the PFA might have had to ask players to pull out of fixtures involving Israeli clubs had a stronger boycott motion become policy. Mind you, Israeli teams in Euro competitions might have welcomed weakened opposition.

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Last orders, please

By Simon Rocker, September 24, 2009

The United Synagogue is considering something to warm weather-beaten mourners — a coffee machine at Bushey cemetery. The Federation has already installed one at Rainham, but why doesn’the US go one better and put in a bar?

Last year a German rabbi allowed a man to be buried with a bottle of his favourite vodka. If the departed can take a tipple into the next world, why shouldn’t the living enjoy a l’chaim in theirs?

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Scientists' rising hopes

By Simon Rocker, September 24, 2009

New York’s Yeshiva University is usually celebrated for its rabbinic scholarship.

So you wouldn’t normally associate the Orthodox-run institution with virility aids for the erectilely challenged.

But scientists at Yeshiva’s Albert Einstein School of Medicine are working on a cream that will help raise the lowly — as the Psalmist might have said — which has been described as a rub-on alternative to Viagra.

It is currently being tried out on rats and should be ready for human guinea-pigs in a few years.

Let’s hope they don’t test in on the rabbinical students.

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The Chief Rabbi's successor

By Simon Rocker, September 24, 2009

While the Chief Rabbi prepares to don his ermine next month, speculation is growing over who is likely to succeed him as mainstream Orthodoxy’s spiritual supremo.

The soon-to-be Lord Sacks of Aldgate is due to retire in three and half years on reaching 65. But whereas he was tipped for the top job long before he was chosen, seasoned rabbi-watchers are finding it hard this time to name a frontrunner.

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Stung by fake honey

By Simon Round, September 17, 2009

In the run-up to Rosh Hashanah, Israeli Ministry of Agriculture officials are warning consumers to beware fake honey. Consumers have been, er, stung, by a brand of honey, manufactured in central Israel, which was found in tests to have been nowhere near a bee.

The works — a hive of criminal activity — was also found not to meet minimum sanitary standards.

Hopefully the charges will stick.

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VW Beetle is Jewish

By Simon Round, September 17, 2009

The Volkswagen Beetle was always said to have been the personal work of Hitler himself.

However, it now seems that the people’s car was designed by… a Jew. Dutch writer Paul Schilperoord alleges in The True Story of the Beetle that the car may well have been designed by a Jewish engineer called Josef Ganz.

“Even the name Volkswagen was originally Ganz’s,” says Schilperoord.

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Bevis and the banks

By Simon Round, September 9, 2009

Last week we reported that Rabbi Nathan Asmoucha had been suspended by the mahamad (executive) of the Spanish Portugese Jews’ Congregation because he had taken part in an interfaith rally against high bank interest rates.

A disciplinary hearing found that he had taken part in a political event without the proper authorisation from the congregation’s spiritual head, Rabbi Abraham Levy.

We were surprised therefore to see the same Rabbi Levy’s words in the latest edition of The Sephardi bulletin. “We have lost faith in many of our bankers,” he says.

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Israeli is challenged

By Simon Round, September 9, 2009

On this week’s University Challenge, Imperial College London was captained by Gilad Amit from Israel. Imperial won easily and Amit was very good — except when he was asked, “What is the area of land that Jordan held between 1949 and 1967 and that Israel calls Judea and Samaria?” He looked confused but with a little help from his colleagues he got it. Yes it is the West Bank.

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Why Lipman abandoned ship

By Simon Round, September 9, 2009

The Daily Telegraph’s Mandrake column suggests that Maureen Lipman pulled out of a cruise organised by The Oldie magazine because she could not stomach the thought of spending time with Richard Ingrams — a vociferous critic of Israel.

Completely wrong, Lipman tells us. “I’m not going on the cruise because I have to work and also because I was not happy with the way they advertised it as ‘cruise with Maureen Lipman’.

“I regularly tell him [Ingrams] what I think of him but it would not have stopped me going on the cruise.

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