United Synagogue

School entry rules 'fiasco'

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2009

New school entry rules based on religious practice were slammed as a “fiasco” this week by the chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, Rabbi Yitzchak Shochet.

He hit out as synagogues struggled with floods of inquiries from parents trying to ensure their children complied with the new admissions system.

Most Jewish schools have been forced to rewrite their rules after the Appeal Court ruled in June that they could no longer take children simply on the basis of whether their parents were Jewish.

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School goes outside the faith to fill

By Simon Rocker, September 17, 2009

Ilford Jewish Primary School is accepting pupils from other faiths because there have been insufficient Jewish children to fill places.

Headteacher Roz Levin said that for the second academic year, non-Jewish children had been admitted “due to the fact that we are not oversubscribed”.

Five of this year’s 31 entrants to the reception class are not Jewish. Their families understood “we are a Jewish school and we only teach Judaism”, the head explained.

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JFS admits child of non-Orthodox convert

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

JFS has accepted the child of a non-Orthodox-converted mother as a first-year pupil, despite its previous rejection of such children because they are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbi.

The Orthodox school, based in Kenton, north London, refused to admit any U-turn or say whether the decision had been taken because of a Court of Appeal ruling earlier this summer declaring its entry policy to be unlawful.

Russell Kett, chairman of JFS governors, said: “The school does not comment on individual applicants or students.”

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Four shuls, one voice

By Jay Grenby, May 7, 2009

A combined Yom Hazikaron/Yom Ha’atzmaut event at Pinner Synagogue was the first in what is hoped will be joint ventures between the four United Synagogue communities on the outer north-west London fringes.

The commemoration attracted over 300 members from the host community, Northwood, Ruislip and Watford. The programme featured the visiting rabbis and contributions from young community members. A proportion of profits will be donated to Magen David Adom.

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US expands cemetery

April 30, 2009

A major extension to the United Synagogue’s Waltham Abbey cemetery was consecrated yesterday by the London Beth Din’s Dayan Menachem Gelley. Based on current burial rates, the additional 12,000 graves will be sufficient for the next 40 years.

Prayer books and a Sefer Torah were buried as part of the ceremony, attended by US leaders and shul chairmen. Burial society head Melvyn Hartog said: “Waltham Abbey is recognised as one of the best-kept cemeteries in the UK.

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Power play by rabbis

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

United Synagogue rabbis want a greater say in deciding its religious policy.

A draft constitution of the Rabbinical Council of the US (RCUS), which has been seen by the JC, advocates that rabbis should be “an equal partner with the Chief Rabbinate and the London Beth Din” in determining the religious direction of the US.

The document also says that the RCUS “must ratify prior to implementation all policies that affect the rabbinate as well as any policy that affects the spiritual and religious direction of the United Synagogue”.

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Reel stars

By James Martin, April 16, 2009

United Synagogue burial head Melvyn Hartog and 15 Ilford Synagogue members will make their big screen debuts in a film by Gurinder Chada, whose hits include Bend It Like Beckham and Bride And Prejudice.

They featured in a scene shot at Willesden cemetery for It’s A Wonderful Afterlife, which is described as a mixture of My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Shaun Of The Dead. The scene is about a Jewish grandmother, played by Zoe Wanamaker, envisioning her own funeral. Mr Hartog portrays the rabbi who comforts the mourners — the Ilford shul members — and wishes them long life.

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US turning down new members

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2009

The United Synagogue has been accused of rejecting membership applications for affiliated shuls on geographical grounds.

Ruislip Synagogue in Middlesex and Romford Synagogue in Essex say they have had applications vetoed because the US has begun enforcing a regulation that members are supposed to live within a mile-and-a-quarter of their local synagogue.

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Kabbalist takes on ghost

By Simon Rocker, April 2, 2009

A top kabbalist has been asked to help a United Synagogue rabbi whose home is reportedly being visited by the ghost of a past minister.

Website reports on the haunting referred to an unnamed London rabbi, who the JC now understands to be Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin, the part-time minister of Enfield and Winchmore Hill Synagogue in Middlesex.

The haunted rabbi initially turned to Rabbi Levy Yitzhak Raskin, a Lubavitch dayan in London, who contacted the Jerusalem office of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE).

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Row over stone setting charge

By Leon Symons, March 26, 2009

The United Synagogue burial chief has denied claims that it is asking mourners to pay £150 for the use of a prayer hall for Sunday stone settings.

Borehamwood Synagogue member Jeffrey Permutt alleges that the charge was specified when he requested information about arranging a family stone setting.

But head of burial Melvyn Hartog maintains: “The charge is not for the hire of the hall. It goes towards the costs we incur bringing in staff on Sundays, which is when everyone wants a stone setting.”

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