UK news

Students reject Gaza twin plan

By Marcus Dysch, March 18, 2010

More than 1100 students at the University of Warwick have rejected a plan to twin with the Hamas-backed Islamic University of Gaza.

It is thought to be the first time a twinning motion has been defeated at the union.

Warwick's Jewish-Israeli Society was unable actively to oppose the twinning as it is classified as a cultural society by the university and cannot campaign.

But pro-Israel students lobbied their colleagues to vote against the proposal in the four-day online poll last week.

Although 878 voters supported the twinning, 1,155 voted against.


New government fund for faith groups

By Leon Symons, March 18, 2010

Communities Secretary John Denham has announced a new fund to help faith groups which work with the government.

Speaking at a conference about faith and social action, Mr Denham said the groups would be able to bid for funds of £1.2 million to be made available after the general election.

There will be an additional £50,000 in prize money for the best innovative faith project.


Builder made to pay for labourer fall

By James Brewster, March 18, 2010

A woman on the receiving end of a six-figure compensation claim after a Polish builder fell off a ladder while repairing her roof will not have to pay a penny, the High Court has ruled.

Nadia Isaacs of Hampstead, north London, hired a building firm which "may have deserved the epithet of a cowboy operator", the court heard.

When labourer Tomasz Kmiecic, 31, suffered permanently disabling injuries while working on her home, in June 2006, the scene was set for a legal struggle which has been hanging over Mrs Isaacs's head ever since.


Balfour writer's letters up for auction

March 18, 2010

A unique collection of the letters of the English Zionist Sir Leon Simon is coming up for auction next month in Shropshire.

On April 15, Mullock's Auctions of Ludlow are selling the letters of Sir Leon, who helped to draft the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

He hand-wrote the Declaration on a piece of headed notepaper from the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, Bloomsbury, and later translated it into Hebrew.

Sir Leon, who became a well-established civil servant in Britain, was a member of the Zionist Commission which visited Palestine in 1918.


Chief Rabbi: Book error could have meant resigning

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has acknowledged that he would have had to resign if he had not amended his award-winning book on interfaith tolerance, The Dignity of Difference.

He made the admission at an address at the Oxford Union last week when he was asked by a student why he had revised the book for its second edition.

Strictly Orthodox rabbis demanded the withdrawal of the book in 2002.

At the time, the London Beth Din issued a statement saying that "certain passages lend themselves to an interpretation that is inconsistent with basic Jewish beliefs".


Man claims daughter abducted under fake Irish passport

By Robyn Rosen, March 18, 2010

A Jewish father in New York is fighting to have his 11-year-old daughter returned after she was taken to Ireland under a passport he claims had been fraudulently signed.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has demanded that the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, which issues passports, cancels the Irish passport issued to his daughter. She lived in New York two years ago, before, he alleges, being abducted by her mother and taken to Ireland.


'Nazi fetish' housing chief is suspended

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

A senior council official has been suspended by London's Hammersmith and Fulham Council after newspaper allegations that he was involved in Nazi fetishism.

The Sunday Mirror published photos of Gareth Mead posing in Nazi uniform and in front of swastikas on what was said to be a gay sex website.

According to the newspaper, he also sent text messages to fellow-users of the site which read "Turn on the furnaces for those Jewish boys and let them burn in hell" and "Gas the Wogs".

A council spokesman would say only: "Gareth Mead has been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing."


Jewish funeral service prepared for atheists and suicides

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

A new funeral service published by the Reform Movement includes alternative material designed specifically for atheists.

As well as traditional prayers for a funeral or tombstone consecration, the book contains a large anthology of readings, with secular writers such as Saul Bellow, quoted alongside rabbis.

It also contains a prayer to be read at the burial of suicides, who are traditionally stigmatised in Jewish law.


Jewish Museum opened by Nigella Lawson

By Marcus Dysch, March 18, 2010

The new Jewish Museum opened to the public this week following a two-year, £10 million refurbishment project.

Housing one of the world's most impressive Judaica collections, the Camden museum has already received critical acclaim and promises to showcase Jewish life in Britain, cultural diversity and use technology to bring history to life.

It was officially opened on Tuesday by cook and broadcaster Nigella Lawson, and BBC creative director Alan Yentob.

Mr Yentob said it would be a facility "not just for religious Jews, but for people interested in their own past.


Jack Straw publishes draft for war crimes arrest law change

By Marcus Dysch, March 18, 2010

The Ministry of Justice has published a draft bill aimed at resolving the issue of universal jurisdiction.

A change in the law would make it more difficult for Israeli politicians to be arrested in Britain for alleged war crimes.

It remains unlikely, however, that there will be time to complete the process before the end of the parliamentary term.

The proposal suggests restricting the right to prosecute to the Crown Prosecution Service as being the "most straightforward solution".