The Diary

Deputies charmed

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

You can teach an old dep new tricks, as members of the Board of Deputies proved when they went for a show at the Magic Circle last Thursday.

Among them was former Board president Lord Janner, a member of the Circle himself who displayed the odd sleight of hand or two. Still, even he couldn’t produce any rabbis from the hat.

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Bibi and the boy wonder

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

It could all been so different for Bibi…

Benjamin Cohen, Channel 4’s technology correspondent and ex-JFS pupil, who recalled his 1990s’ fame as a “teenage dotcom millionaire” on BBC radio this week, revealed that he came out of his English class at school one day when he got a call from the Israeli Embassy in London.

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The Dame meets a Churchill

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

Among the 450 guests who graced the Anne Frank Trust’s annual lunch last Thursday was wartime forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn.

Popularity has never faded away from the veteran singer, now 92 (whose late husband was clarinet and sax player Harry Lewis — their marriage was recorded in the JC’s “dance band news” column in 1939).

“Everyone knows you more or less won the war single-handed,” one gushing trust volunteer was overheard telling her at the event.

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Diana's royal regret

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

Anthony Julius’s history of English antisemitism, Trials of the Diaspora, acclaimed by Philip Roth for its author’s “intellectual acumen” and “staggering erudition”, is already creating a stir ahead of its publication later this month.

In a Sunday Times extract, the literary lawyer revealed that Princess Diana, whom he represented in her divorce with Charles, had told him that she should never have married into a German family.

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Osborne says thanks

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

With the election looming, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne thanked two of the Conservatives’ top Jewish campaigners this week for their efforts to try to “turn the Torah party to the Tory party”.

The objects of his gratitude were the party’s chief executive Andrew Feldman and fundraiser Howard Leigh, who were among a large audience at a Jewish Care breakfast addressed by Mr Osborne this week.

Mr Leigh chairs Jewish Care’s business breakfast committee. Mr Feldman’s mother Marcia volunteers at one of the charity’s centres, which Tory leader David Cameron visited last year.

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Suspicious tefillin

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

The recent incident on board an American jet when the crew mistook a passenger laying tefillin for a suicide bomber is not the first time the little black boxes have caused suspicion.

The Jewish Military Museum in Hendon has a letter written from the trenches of First World War by Lt Marcus Segal of the King’s Liverpool Regiment.

He recalls being asked to investigate two German prisoners who were believed to be carrying secret signalling equipment — only to find the mystery items to be two pairs of tefillin carried into battle by their Jewish owners.

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Unmasked – a Haiti hero

By Simon Rocker, January 28, 2010

You may recall this photo in last week’s issue of an unidentified rescuer in Haiti.

We can now put a name to him. He is Marc Eisenmann of Florida, according to his mother Vivien, an ex-Londoner now living in New York. His relatives include his great-uncle, the book collector Jack Lunzer.

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Ben Elton's rabbi book

By Simon Rocker, January 28, 2010

Could Ben Elton, alternative comedian, author, playwright and scriptwriter, have a secret life as a scholar of Anglo-Jewish rabbinical history?

A new book on Britain’s Chief Rabbis has just been published by Manchester University Press, written by Benjamin J Elton. It promises a new interpretation of “the most important event” in Anglo-Jewish religious history in the 20th century: the Jacobs Affair.

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Coens tell the tooth

By Simon Rocker, January 28, 2010

If you’ve seen the Coen brothers’ dark and very Jewish comedy A Serious Man, you’ll recall the scene about “the goy’s teeth”. A rabbi recounts to the hapless hero a story about a dentist’s amazing discovery of a message in Hebrew inscribed on the back of one of his patient’s teeth. It reads: “Help Me.” Or is supposed to read.

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Bercow’s barmitzvah gift

By Simon Rocker, January 28, 2010

Should he tire of being Speaker of the Commons, John Bercow would be a shoo-in for president of the Board of Deputies, judging by his reception at a lunch the other day.

Admiring deputies lapped up their guest of honour, greeted as an “Edgware lad made good” of whom the community was immensely proud.

Declaring pride in his Jewish heritage, Mr Speaker drew applause when he mentioned his late father teaching him “to stand up for what I am… and not to seek to hide it”.

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