The Diary

A lost tribe calls from Fiji

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

Since King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, according to the Bible, it is not surprising that many peoples claim the energetic sovereign to have been their ancestor.

The representative of a new group of reputed descendants has emailed us for help, from Fiji. The Itaukei Jews - itaukei means "indigenous" in Fijian - wish to be recognised as of the faith and request a visit from our "chief president" to research their history and genealogy.

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St Matthew goes to shul

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

Shul-goers were left wondering over the United Synagogue's leaflet on the weekly Torah portion last Shabbat. A helpful illustration of the High Priest's costume came with a quotation from an unexpected source, the Gospel of Matthew.

Could the Archbishop of Canterbury be making a bid to be next Chief Rabbi?

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A woman named Netanya

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

What with Channel 4's The Promise and a documentary on children in Gaza, TV coverage of Israel was grimmer than usual this week. But a moment's relief came on BBC1's Graham Norton Show on Monday. A young woman in the red chair slot, where members of the public tell anecdotes, introduced herself as "Netanya" from Norfolk.

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The aliens reach Jerusalem

By Simon Rocker, February 10, 2011

Never mind if the Israelis and Palestinians cannot make peace because the matter is about to be taken out of their hands. A UFO (see bright light above) has been spotted over the Temple Mount - to the excitement of Michael Cohen of allnewsweb, the "world's only intergalactic daily news service". Veteran Scottish guru Benjamin Creme thinks the visitation sign of the impending arrival of the Messiah, or the Maitreya as he calls him (who he once believed to be living incognito in Brick Lane).

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No whisky galore

By Simon Rocker, February 10, 2011

The Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood has a reputation for music and the singing at its centenary service last Shabbat by all accounts lived up to the occasion. But there are some things the Liberals still have to learn from the Orthodox. At the sumptuous kiddush afterwards, one guest reached for a shot glass of amber liquid which he thought was a whisky - only, to his horror, to down a tot of apple juice.

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Rabbi blue gets a call

By Simon Rocker, February 10, 2011

Why would Sir Patrick Stewart be wanting to have a word with Rabbi Lionel Blue?
His agent approached us for Rabbi Blue's contact details this week. Could the actor, who has traversed galaxies as Star Trek's Captain Picard, played mutant Professor X in The X-Men and soliloquised over invisible daggers on the Shakespearean stage, be thinking of making a biopic of Thought for the Day's most famous contributor?

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Chicken soup for Samantha

By Simon Rocker, February 10, 2011

Samantha Spiro, fresh from winning the Best Female Comedy Breakthrough Award for her portrayal of the dopey aunt in the sitcom Grandma's House, is heading for a more serious role this summer.

She will star as the Jewish matriarch Sarah Kahn in the Royal Court's long-awaited revival of Sir Arnold Wesker's Chicken Soup With Barley. The play, set amid the turbulent politics of the 1930s, was last staged by the Royal Court 50 years ago.

Spiro appeared in its sequel Roots as the non-Jewish Beattie a decade ago but she returns to Wesker, several awards and two daughters later.

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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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