The Diary

Banksy's swap with Borat

By Simon Rocker, February 10, 2011

It must be the deal of the year. Sacha Baron Cohen has acquired a Banksy painting, said to be worth £100,000, to hang in his LA flat in return for giving the secretive street artist one of the moustaches used in the filming of Borat.

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Celebrity crackers

By Simon Rocker, February 3, 2011

The humble matzah has found its way into the kitchen of at least one celebrity chef. Jamie Oliver has included it as an ingredient in a smoked haddock chowder in his latest cookbook.

But this is not a dish you would want to serve up at Pesach. Jamie's kosher cracker keeps some distinctly unkosher company: tiger prawns.

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No smiles from Mr Mubarak

By Simon Rocker, February 3, 2011

Former Sky News presenter Vivien Creegor recalls hosting an event to raise the profile of Gamal Mubarak, son of President Hosni and long thought his preferred successor to rule the Arab republic.

Ms Creegor has chaired international conferences and was introduced to Gamal through his mother Suzanne. Mubarak junior was scheduled to do a question and answer session with the foreign press in Cairo's main sports stadium.

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Singing the Jews

By Simon Rocker, February 3, 2011

There will be some Jewish interest beyond Israel in this year's Eurovision song contest. After Britain's recent dismal showings in recent years, Brit-winning boyband Blue, whose line-up includes our very own Anthony Costa of Edgware, have been chosen to revive our national hopes.

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Missing Michael Winner

By Simon Rocker, January 27, 2011

A sell-out crowd of 200 waited for the speaker at the London Jewish Cultural Centre on Tuesday. And waited. And waited.

But instead of a good night's raconteuring from Michael Winner about his life in "movies and other places", the audience had to settle for a refund. Because he failed to show.

Such a thing has not happened at the LJCC since the Archbishop of Canterbury got the wrong North End Road and turned up in Earls Court rather than Golders Green - although he made it, an hour late, eventually.

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This cartoonist's no joke

By Simon Rocker, January 27, 2011

A caricature of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dressed as a Jewish settler appeared on the Guardian's "Palestine Papers" blog this week.

It was drawn by the Brazilian Carlos Latoff who, the Just Journalism website recalled, won second prize in the International Holocaust Cartoon Competition in 2006 - a cynical stunt staged by an Iranian newspaper and condemned by the United States as an attempt to "denigrate the horror that was the Holocaust".

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Rocking rabbi's record deal

By Simon Rocker, January 21, 2011

Put your hands together for Rabbi Danny Bergson of Glasgow's Newton Mearns Hebrew Congregation, member of a multi-faith singing group which has just been signed up by a record label.

The group, All Faiths, has been assembled by songwriter and promoter Jeff Chegwin and Nick Patrick, who has produced records for Katherine Jenkins and Russell Watson.

Other members include the chaplain for Derby County FC, a Buddhist nun and The Times religious correspondent Ruth Geldhill.

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The shabbat book snatcher

By Simon Rocker, January 13, 2011

A couple of men went to an Orthodox synagogue in London for a friend's son's barmitzvah. They both brought some reading matter for any longueurs during the service.

After one of them was called up to the Torah, he returned to his seat to find his book missing. The other guest's book also went awol, too.

When their friend later discussed the vanished volumes with a synagogue officer, he was told that books disapproved of were liable to removal.

One of the books was written by Martin Buber, the other by the Chief Rabbi.

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Your bet for Chief Rabbi?

By Simon Rocker, January 13, 2011

Bookies have begun taking bets on the successor to Lord Sacks as Chief Rabbi.

According to Paddy Power, Rabbi Harvey Belovski, the Oxford and Gateshead-educated spiritual leader of Golders Green United Synagogue is 6/4 favourite.

He is followed by Rabbi Shaul Robinson (ex-Barnet now at New York's Lincoln Square Synagogue) at 13/8, and Rabbis Naftali Brawer (Borehamwood and Elstree United) and Yitzchak Shochet (Mill Hill United) at 5/1.

But you can always take a punt on Lord Sugar 250/1 or Vanessa Feltz, David Miliband and Sacha Baron Cohen (below), each of whom 500/1.

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Beeb's man in Jerusalem

By Simon Rocker, January 13, 2011

It's taken him six months to get there. But finally the BBC's new man in Jerusalem, Kevin Connolly, arrived this week from Washington to take up the position left vacant by Tim Franks. We wanted to know if he looked forward to swapping hot dogs for falafel in his first Middle East posting but after six months' requests for an interview, he is still proving coy.

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