The Diary

Amber masters the latkes

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

Who says that humble Jewish food cannot rise to culinary heights?

Eleven-year-old Amber triumphed this week in her heat of BBC children's channel CBBC's Junior MasterChef by offering "traditional Jewish latkes", as she explained them.

Co-judge, actress Nadia Sawalha, cooed over the "gorgeous crunchy potatoes", which were dished up with flat Greek meatballs and inspired by Amber's great-grandfather who used to make them.

Amber (the BBC is withholding surnames) was one of 31 nine to 12-year-olds chosen for the series out of more than 2,000 applicants.

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Mr None gets the habit

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

And now we have a government, we can return to the more pressing issue of whether Mr None of the Above, who contested the Chingford and Woodford Green seat in Essex in the election, will revert to his former name of Adam Osen.

"It's a bit too soon to make decisions," he confided this week. But encouraged by his 202 votes as an independent, he said his "tentative game plan" was to resume in local politics after restoring his finances. "I haven't earned anything for five months. I want to build a thriving business to support any political ambitions."

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Votes abroad

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

The Jewish community has lost one of its best parliamentary friends, Andrew Dismore, who failed to hold his Hendon seat in north-west London by just 106 votes.

But could he have squeaked home if he had gone to knock on doors in Israel?

World Zionist Organisation activist Martin Stern, who commutes between London and Jerusalem, offered to fly him there to canvas expat Brits entitled to vote in the general election.

But the Labour MP said he did not have time for a foreign foray close to the election.

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Isle of Man's lucky captive

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

An Unusual exhibition is running on the Isle of Man, featuring the art of refugees from Nazi Germany who were interned by the British there during the Second World War. Just one of the 36 exhibitors is alive today, Ernst Eisenmayer, who will turn 90 in September.

Interned when he was 19, he left for Italy in 1975, but an account of his experiences was read at the opening of the exhibition, which marks the 70th anniversary of the internment camps.

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Tikkun Obama

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

Once tikkun olam was an obscure mystical idea known only to Kabbalists, now it's the official culture of American Jewry.

In a White House proclamation announcing Jewish Heritage Month this month, Barack Obama saluted Jewish Americans who "today… carry on their culture's tradition of tikkun olam - 'to repair the world' - through good deeds and service". 

He signed it "in the year" 2010 rather than the usual formula, "in the year of our Lord".

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Miliband's maidel

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

If Gordon Brown were to stand down, leaving the leadership door open for David Miliband, then there could only be one candidate to head his publicity campaign.

It has to be our own Bryony Gordon, who in a recent column confessed her smittenness with the smooth-talking Foreign Secretary, calling him her "political porn star".

I have it on good word that both Mr Miliband's wife and sister-in-law loved the column and want more of the same.

Go for it, gal.

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Take a bow, Binnie the boxer

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

Not so long ago, I heard of a female Jewish academic in the UK who practised an unusual sport, boxing, of which, sadly, she was too shy to speak in public.

But no such inhibitions from New York psychotherapist Binnie Klein, who not only took to the ring in her mid-fifties but has also written a book about it, Blows to the Head: How Boxing Changed My Mind.

According to her publicist, the experience yielded insights into her Jewish roots that would not have come "if she hadn't been drawn toward a pair of boxing gloves during a physical therapy session".

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The man who denied Heston

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

Does anyone know the man in the white hat who struck a rare blow for kashrut on TV?

Put anyone Jewish on a food show and you'll usually see them scoffing shrimp, eel, lobster, pig's ear, pig's foot, pig's unmentionable or other piece of Shulchan Aruch-defying creature.

But when this market stallholder was invited, in this week's Heston's Feasts on Channel 4, to sample Heston Blumenthal's jazzed-up spam dish, he replied: "I am not allowed to eat that, I'm Jewish."

Is he a genuine, abstemious member of the tribe - or was he just having us on?

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Barmitzvah Boy on DVD

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2010

Maureen Lipman has long bewailed the BBC's failure to release her late husband Jack Rosenthal's plays on DVD.

At last, good news: independent distributors Acorn Media have taken on the challenge and are planning to bring out a box set of his TV classics such as The Barmitzvah Boy and The Evacuees early next year.

Acorn's Peter Smart said: "We monitor all the requests we get and Jack Rosenthal comes up time and time again."

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Acclaim for Israeli chef

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2010

Israeli cuisine has gained international recognition after Food & Wine magazine listed Tel Aviv's Yonatan Roshfeld at the top of its most promising chefs for 2010.

His first restaurant, Herbert Samuel, has a neo-Middle eastern flavour, while Spain meets Israel at the second, Tapas Ahad Ha'am. They are named after the first High Commissioner of Palestine and the champion of cultural Zionism.

A rather loftier choice of name than The Fat Duck or El Bulli.

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