The Diary

Blundering Berlusconi

By Simon Rocker, September 16, 2010

Dipping the apple into the honey this year was Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who was among Rosh Hashanah guests of Israeli Ambassador Gideon Meir in Rome. He assured his host of his strong friendship with Israel, especially after visits to Yad Vashem and Auschwitz.

Which didn't stop the elderly Lothario causing uproar a couple of days later when he attempted a "joke" about Hitler at a youth event: the Führer is discovered alive by supporters. "I will return," he tells them, "but on one condition... this time, I will be evil, right?"

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Spicing up the suburbs

By Simon Rocker, September 16, 2010

Lots of excitement at one Orthodox synagogue in London at Rosh Hashanah where a man arrived for evening prayers to deliver a rather unseasonal greeting. Mounting the bimah, he begun to accuse a fellow worshipper of having an affair with his wife.

He was quickly ushered out by the rabbi, leaving others to dine out on the tale over the following days.

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Tamara Drewe visits Israel

By Simon Rocker, September 16, 2010

After all the talk of boycott in the film world, kippot off to director Stephen Frears, whose new Britcom Tamara Drewe will open the Haifa International Film Festival next week. (Frears only discovered he was Jewish in his late 20s at his grandmother's 90th birthday party.)

Meanwhile, no honey cake for Sunday Times columnist India Knight, who tweeted this week that she has turned down spa trips to China and Israel.

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Bricked up in borehamwood

By Simon Rocker, September 7, 2010

As Channel 4's Big Brother hurtles towards oblivion - at last - on Friday, consider the spiritual welfare of our own dear Vanessa Feltz.

As I write, the blond broadcaster, who volunteered to take part in the final programme, is still cocooned with fellow-celebrities in the televised den and may remain so during Rosh Hash-anah unless she is evicted beforehand.

Just in case she should go festively without, offerings of apple and honey and pomegranate seeds should be left outside the Big Brother house in Borehamwood.

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An after-dinner winner

By Simon Rocker, September 7, 2010

This from Michael Winner in the Sunday Times, as told him by lyricist Don Black: "Mrs Cohen goes to a fortune teller. She's told, 'Your husband is going to be beaten, mutilated and murdered.' Mrs Cohen asks, 'Was I acquitted?'"

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Multifaith Chief Rabbi

By Simon Rocker, September 7, 2010

The Chief Rabbi is a man of many parts, apparently more than most of us know.

The Times reported that leading the attack on Stephen Hawking's claim that God did not create the universe was "the Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and one of Britain's most senior imams."

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Parshapp of the week

By Simon Rocker, September 7, 2010

Liberal Judaism's youth movement, Kadimah, had no Sefer Torah for their Shabbat service on their recent summer camp.

But no problem for visiting Rabbi Pete Tobias, who simply whipped out his mobile. "I have a Torah app," he explained, "so in what may be a first in Jewish history, I gave a Torah reading from my iPhone."

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Blair bonus for board

By Simon Rocker, September 7, 2010

The words "crowd-puller" and "Board of Deputies" do not normally go hand in hand. But last week's Institute of Jewish Studies' conference on the Board's 250th anniversary proved such an attraction that some people had to sit in the aisles. One grateful guest even handed Board treasurer Laurence Brass a £500 cheque.

He will be hoping for similar largesse at the Board's 250th celebration dinner in November – whose guest of honour I can reveal will be Tony Blair.

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One-legged shul stand

By Simon Rocker, September 7, 2010

Long John Silver would have been proud. Clive Lawton had promised to lead the Musaph service at Muswell Hill United Synagogue last Shabbat for a barmitzvah.

But then he suffered a mishap - he broke his left ankle. Undeterred, the long-haired Limmud leader was wheelchaired to shul by a non-Jewish security guard and, hopping up to the bimah, delivered the service on one leg and a pair of crutches. All that was missing was the eye-patch and parrot.

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Donovan's Jewish journey

By Simon Rocker, September 2, 2010

If there were a Hall of Jewish Pop Fame, Jason Donovan could now claim a plinth.

The BBC's celebrity genealogy series Who Do You Think You Are? has thrown up a few Jewish stories but the former Neighbours star's story is an unusual one.

His great-grandma down the maternal line was Eileen Lyons, a promising singer described as a "sweet-faced little Jewess" in the Australian press of her day.

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