The Diary

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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Mr None, the would-be MP

By Simon Rocker, January 21, 2010

A one-time warden of Bevis Marks Synagogue is standing as a protest candidate in the election, having changed his name to None of the Above.

The person formerly known as Adam Osen became so disillusioned with politicians that he decided to have a go at becoming one himself. “There are only six independent MPs in Parliament and that’s terribly sad,” he said. Now the accountant turned decorator, 50, hopes to unseat Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory occupant of Chingford and Woodford Green.

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A caning for Mr Cameron

By Simon Rocker, January 21, 2010

Tory plans to stop students with third-class degrees becoming teachers received a withering response from ex-head of JFS, Jo Wagerman. She wrote to The Times to say she had a “third-class degree from night school” yet had become head of “one of the best comprehensives in the country”.

“If Mr Cameron had his way,” she remarked, “I should never have been allowed to teach. I am proud enough to say that would have been not only a great loss for me, but also for all the pupils I taught so happily for more than 40 years.”

It would take a brave politician to disagree.

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Guardian's capital offence

By Simon Rocker, January 21, 2010

The Elstree-based Happy Puzzle Company was bemused after the Guardian took a crack at one of its board games, called Thought Exchange, for giving Israel’s capital as Jerusalem. That’s a matter of diplomatic dispute, the paper carped.

A Happy Puzzle spokesman said that “thousands and thousands” of the game had been sold but just one caller had raised the issue. As for Jerusalem’s capital status, he explained: “We went by the Times Atlas. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us.”

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A welcome for Mr Hoon

By Candice Krieger, January 21, 2010

Former Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon does not spend all his time plotting to pull the rug from under Gordon Brown.

He is due to speak next month in a panel discussion on racism organised by Yad Vashem UK.

A spokesman for the charity described the ex-minister’s appearance as “a great coup”.

Not Mr Hoon’s favourite choice of word, I would think.

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What's with fishballs?

By Simon Rocker, January 21, 2010

An alien beaming down here for the weekend would get the idea from the JC and chatter in shul that Anglo-Judaism was largely about “Maccabi football, fishballs and antisemitism”, Borehamwood’s Rabbi Naftali Brawer said in a sermon last Shabbat.

The good rabbi is out of touch. Fishballs have long been gefiltered from our pages and a passing Martian is more likely to believe our chosen food is sushi.

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Never mind the dybbuks

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

We recently ran a story on a Brazilian supposedly possessed by a dybbuk who tried to have it exorcised over the internet. The ghostly squatter has proved resistant to rabbinic efforts to dislodge it even after the man was brought to Jerusalem.

According to web chatter, an excommunication order was put on the dybbuk by the very-strictly Orthodox Rav Moshe Sternbuch of the Eda Charedit. But pouring cold water on the rumours, he told the VosIzneias newsite that the possessed man is sick and ought to see a doctor.

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Please don't step on this

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

Welcome to the newest addition to Israel’s fauna, recently discovered among the sand dunes of the Arava in the south.

The Haifa University researchers who identified it say it is the largest spider of its type in the Middle East with a leg span of up to 14 centimetres.

But scientists are worried that mining projects in the area could threaten the habitat of this and other, as yet unknown, creatures.

The spider goes by the name of cerbalus aravensis — which doesn’t mean Cuddles.

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Shalom to the taliban

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

Don’t knock the Taliban – they may be our cousins.

An Indian scientist is doing research in Tel Aviv to see if there is any truth to the belief that the Pathans, the ethnic group from which the Taliban are largely derived, may come from one of Israel’s Ten Lost Tribes. She will compare DNA samples of Israeli Jews with those of Pathans from North India.

Imagine if it proves true — mass aliyah from Afghanistan.

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Wintry wedding

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

They were planning to lift the roof of the newly renovated Kinloss Suite at Finchley Synagogue this week — literally.

The reopened banqueting rooms are equipped with a retractable roof which enables couples to have a traditional outdoor chupah while guests keep warm inside. The first bride due to enjoy the new facility was a grand-daughter of ex-London Beth Din head, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu.

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