The Diary

Too university challenging

January 7, 2016

A set of questions on Jewish festivals proved too taxing for the old boys and girl of Durham University when they appeared on a special Christmas series of University Challenge for alumni.

Although they answered correctly on Chanucah, they thought the Feast of Lots was "Yom Kippur" and were stumped by the Greek-derived term for Shavuot (Pentecost).

The Durham team included BBC reporter Tim W

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Drop the Daesh donkey

January 7, 2016

In their latest grisly video showing the murder of alleged Western spies, Middle Eastern extremists Daesh issued a threat against David Cameron, branding him among other things a "mule of the Jews". It's a favoured slur of the group, which has also used it of American president Barack Obama.

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For auld lang zion, my dear

January 7, 2016

Most Jews have no problem wishing others "Happy New Year" ahead of January 1. But there seems to be an increasing trend to add a little local heimishe touch to the greeting. Among the versions I heard last week were "HNY and well over the past" or, for those hitting the bubbly on New Year's Eve, "Well over the First".

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Band of big brothers

January 7, 2016

A triple J-interest in the new series of Celebrity Big Brother, where David Gest, Nancy Dell'Olio and Jonathan Cheeban (from left, below) appear in da house for Channel 5's reality show.

Italian lawyer Dell'Olio, who first entered into the spotlight as partner of the then England football manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, was on Strictly Come Dancing in 2011.

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Say Netanyahu for quick exit

January 7, 2016

During a Downing Street party for journalists last summer, David Cameron's chief of staff entered and told him, "Netanyahu's on the phone".

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West london's absent friend

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

When Prince Charles visited West London Synagogue last week, he asked if the Chief Rabbi ever popped in. Tactful Rabbi Baroness Neuberger explained that the Chief Rabbi didn't come but "relationships were very cordial and we appreciated that".

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A rabbi well matched

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

Match of the Day presenter Jimmy Hill, who died at the weekend, was known as “the rabbi” because of his beard. But then, he almost certainly would have had a lot more Jewish men listening to him on a Saturday than the local man in the pulpit.

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Harry Hyams, a man of his time

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

The property developer, Harry Hyams, who has just died, was a private man who rarely ventured into the press. But, in 1996, he penned us a letter, "I was intrigued by the obituary of my former colleague Moss Spiro, in which I was referred to as the 'late Harry Hyams'," he wrote. "I find this 'grave' error particularly irksome as I have always prided myself on my punctuality."

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Harry’s the toast of Wales

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

As master of ceremonies at innumerable simchahs over the years, Harry Poloway has made sure the glasses were charged and the band was ready.

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Jacobson's santastic story

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

On Radio 4's A Point of View, Howard Jacobson recalled a primary school essay about Christmas. It meant, he said, "seeing my father dressed as Santa Claus, getting stuck coming down the chimney".

The teacher thought he'd made it up. "'Isn't your family, er…' she said. 'Yes,' I replied.

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