UK news

UK Jewish film festival ’09: it’s a wrap

By Jessica Elgot, November 26, 2009

It took 10,000 audience members, 65 films, 14 venues and two very talented Jewish brothers, but after a jam-packed 13 days, the UK Jewish Film Festival drew to a close last week.

The festival, which screened a record-breaking 31 UK film premieres, closed in London on Thursday night with the screening of Hello Goodbye and the presentation of the Shoresh Charitable Prize.

Israeli comedy A Matter of Size and documentary film Praying with Lior won the awards after voting by the festival audiences.

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Attorney-General's Jewish connections

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2009

Baroness Scotland, the Attorney-General, revealed some unexpected Jewish connections last week.

Born in Dominica as the 10th of 12 siblings, she grew up in Walthamstow in north-east London — next door to Waltham Forest Hebrew Congregation or, in her words, “Boundary Rd shul”.

“You see before you the Shabbes goy,” she told guests at the British Friends of the Hebrew University’s annual legal dinner at the Middle Temple.

To cheers and laughter, she added: “I bet I went to synagogue more than most of you.”

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Women back protest over Congo atrocities

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2009

A Progressive rabbi was among the participants in a high-profile event to call for an end to the atrocities in the one of the world’s worst conflict zones, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Rabbi Rebecca Qassim Birk of Westminster Synagogue joined a multi-faith rally last Thursday at London’s Albert Hall to highlight the rape and torture of women and girls in the eastern part of the country, in particular.

The event marked 100 years since the Great Congo Demonstration, held at the same venue, to protest against murder and slavery at that time.

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Ex-Bevis Marks rabbi resumes usury fight

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2009

The former rabbi of Bevis Marks is continuing to support a campaign against high interest rates, despite his involvement having indirectly cost him his job.

Rabbi Natan Asmoucha resigned from the City of London synagogue last month after months of tension with the leaders of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation.

He had been disciplined following his participation in an interfaith rally in July, organised by the charity London Citizens, which set off from Bevis Marks to the nearby headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

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Ecstasy as safe as riding?

By Robyn Rosen, November 26, 2009

A retired spinal injury consultant has said he was “flabbergasted” after sacked government drugs adviser Professor David Nutt controversially used his decades-old research paper as evidence to compare the dangers of horse-riding with those of the drug, ecstasy.

Dr John Silver, a member of Radlett United Synagogue, has spoken of his shock after Professor Nutt referred to a paper he had written more than 20 years ago, entitled The Hazards of Horse-Riding as a Popular Sport.

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Limmud to be biggest-ever

By Leon Symons, November 26, 2009

Limmud 2009 will be the biggest ever, with almost 2,500 people from all over Britain so far signed up for Anglo-Jewry’s largest single event.

Such is the demand for this year’s conference that all the accommodation at the University of Warwick, where Limmud has been held for the past two years, has been booked already.

The organisers have held talks with the university to try to find more rooms.

Co-chair Rebecca Lester said: “The increased demand is the result of better marketing of the conference. More people have heard about us and want to take part.”

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Academic regrets Israel lobby quotes

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2009

Israeli political scientist David Newman has admitted he made a mistake in taking part in last week’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Britain’s pro-Israel lobby.

The British-born academic, who lectures at Ben-Gurion University, suggested that organisations such as Bicom had too narrow an agenda on Israel.

But in an article for the Jerusalem Post this week, Dr Newman revealed that his appearance had prompted “some of the most fiery invective I have ever received, nearly all of it from the UK”.

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Caryl Churchill to lead Palestinian carols at Bloomsbury church

By Robyn Rosen, November 26, 2009

Protesters will demonstrate outside a Baptist church which is hosting a carol service organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).

The PSC will be holding its annual Christmas concert at the Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in Covent Garden next month.

The service, which has not been advertised on the church’s website but has been listed on the PSC site, will include seasonal readings from playwright Caryl Churchill, whose play, Seven Jewish Children, caused controversy earlier this year.

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Board bid to engage Israeli-Arabs

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2009

The Board of Deputies and the UJIA have joined a new task force to promote greater interest in Israel’s Arab citizens.

Other founding members of the group are the Pears Foundation, the Zionist Federation, the New Israel Fund and the Abraham Fund Initiatives UK.

Trevor Pears, executive chairman of the Pears Foundation and co-chair of the group with Douglas Krikler, UJIA chief executive, explained: “Our foundation has focused on this issue since the symposium we hosted on the subject in 2007. Since then, interest has grown culminating in the UK Taskforce.”

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Israel critics pledge their backing for Goldstone

By Leon Symons, November 26, 2009

Anglo-Jewish groups which are strongly critical of Israel are planning a public show of support for the Goldstone Report on Israel’s action in Gaza.

Independent Jewish Voices and Jews for Justice for Palestinians are among a number of organisations who intend to place an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown in The Times.

Noting that “British Jews do not speak with one voice”, they welcome the Goldstone Report and condemn what they call the “vilification” of Judge Richard Goldstone.

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