UK news

Chief Rabbi's maiden speech in House of Lords

By Jessica Elgot, November 27, 2009

The Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has made his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

The Chief Rabbi told the House how Judaism values education, and suggested that secular schools could learn from the value Jews have always placed on learning.

He said: “If there is one insight above all others to be gained from Jewish history it is that freedom depends on education. To defend a country you need an army but to defend a civilisation you need schools. Abraham was chosen, says the Bible, so that he would teach his children to practise righteousness and justice.


The Chief Rabbi's maiden speech to the House of Lords: In full

By Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, November 27, 2009

My lords, when I entered this chamber for the first time I did so from the Moses Room, and I thank my lordships for the lengths they went to make a rabbi feel at home.

Today I feel the other side of that occasion, for it was Moses at the burning bush who felt so overwhelmed by emotion that he told God he could not speak; he was “not a man of words.”

Mind you, that did not stop him speaking a great deal thereafter. In fact on one occasion, when pleading with God to forgive the people for making the Golden Calf, he spoke for forty days and forty nights.


UCL bans Muslim hate preacher

By Leon Symons, November 26, 2009

A lecture due to be given on Monday by an Islamist preacher with extreme views on homosexuals and women has been cancelled.

University College London’s Islamic Society had invited Abu Usamah to give the first lecture in its “Pearls of Wisdom” week. The title of his talk was “In pursuit of knowledge”.

Mr Usamah’s views became widely known after he appeared two years ago in a Channel 4 documentary Undercover Mosque.


Minister: how my father escaped Nazis

By Leon Symons, November 26, 2009

Justice Minister Michael Wills has revealed how his father fled Nazi-occupied Vienna and its impact on his role in the government’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Mr Wills, who this week launched a report composed of Jewish groups’ responses to the bill, said: “Human beings don’t always learn from the past and that’s why this debate and this Jewish contribution is so important.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.”