Leon Symons

Synagogues face VAT slap for listed buildings

By Leon Symons, October 14, 2010

Synagogue buildings given heritage status face increased costs that could run into thousands of pounds after the government decided to cut a grant that refunded VAT.

The cut, which will start in January, is part of the government's overall drive to tackle the economic deficit.

Currently synagogues, along with all other listed places of worship, can claim a grant equal to the VAT paid on certain specified works, including architects' professional fees. Now they cannot claim for those fees as well as work on items such as clocks, pews, bells and organs.

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Ahmedinejad praise for Hizbollah in Lebanon

By Leon Symons, October 13, 2010

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad started his two-day visit to Lebanon by praising Hizbollah, the terrorist group backed by Iran, for standing up to Israel.

The president was due to make a provocative trip to Lebanon’s border with Israel during his brief stay.

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Church leader links Israel to apartheid

By Leon Symons, October 7, 2010

The head of the Anglican Church in Wales has received a barrage of criticism after comparing the situation between Israel and the Palestinians to apartheid in South Africa.

Dr Barry Morgan, the Archbishop of Wales, was accused of damaging interfaith relations after an address to the governing body of the Church in Wales last week in which he described the situation in "Israel-Palestine" as appalling.

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Cruise passenger complains, then expelled

By Leon Symons, October 7, 2010

An 82-year-old woman was thrown off a luxury cruise for disruptive behaviour after protesting that she had been the victim of antisemitism.

Broadway producer Gloria Sher Evans was expelled from Cunard's flagship Queen Mary 2 only days into a month-long trip to Britain and the Mediterranean.

Her husband, 91-year-old former Royal Navy medical man Frederick Evans, said: "It was the second night of the cruise. We were in one of the dining rooms at a table with other people. This man was talking and he told Gloria to shut up.

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Daniel Kramer is being paid to play pranks on you

By Leon Symons, October 7, 2010

Daniel Kramer may be only 14 but he knows exactly what he wants to do in his life - and has already embarked on his chosen career.

Daniel is one of the stars of a prank show called Tricky TV on the Freeview channel Children's ITV.

"I knew my career would be something entertaining and not boring like accountancy," says Daniel.

"I started to do magic tricks when I was about six or seven and I still do them on my mum, dad and my brother," he says.

Now he is a member of the Young Magicians' Club, the junior section of the famous Magic Circle for 11 to 18-year-olds.

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Henry Wuga gets on his bike - his ski bike - to help amputees learn how to zip down mountains

By Leon Symons, October 7, 2010

Octogenarian Henry Wuga loves his mountain-sized challenges. Not only does he train ex-soldiers who have lost limbs to slalom down slopes, for his 80th and 85th birthdays he raised £30,000 for the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association through sponsored skiing.

"I am going to raise another £15,000 for my 90th birthday but I'm doing it now when I'm 88 in case I don't make it that far," he jokes.

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Mala Tribich still teaches tolerance, even after Belsen

By Leon Symons, October 7, 2010

Barnet United Synagogue dubbed it Shabbat Mala - the moment at which Mala Tribich was named Heroine of the Community to mark her 80th birthday.

Mrs Tribich, born in Poland in 1930, is the sister of Olympic medallist Ben Helfgott - the only members of their immediate family to survive. During the occupation, her parents moved her and a cousin to a Catholic family. But they were so homesick they asked to return to the ghetto.

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Rosalind Bieber gets her teeth into painting - using chalk and dental concrete

By Leon Symons, October 7, 2010

Artist Rosalind Bieber could be called the new material girl - and it's nothing to do with Madonna.

Ms Bieber started out as a solo harpsichordist but her career was cut short by injury at the age of 27. Determined to find a new career, she discovered by chance the links between art and music, bought a book on how to draw and became an artist.

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Ben Uri appeals for missing paintings

By Leon Symons, September 28, 2010

Anglo-Jewry's leading art gallery has launched an appeal to find dozens of paintings by the distinguished Czech-born artist Ludwig Blum.

Next January the Ben Uri Gallery in St John's Wood is presenting the first British retrospective of Blum's work in more than 70 years, curated by Israeli scholar and historian Dalia Manor.

But many of the paintings shown at four exhibitions in London in the 1930s - including the Ben Uri - have not been seen since.

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Legacy of cancer death women

By Leon Symons, September 28, 2010

A north London mother-of-two who raised more than £800,000 for cancer research has lost her own battle against breast cancer.

Danielle Leslie, 40, died at her Mill Hill home, having spent her last days with her family. Her funeral was at Edgwarebury Lane cemetery.

Her mother Sylvie Henry also had breast cancer, although her death last year was from lung cancer.

They were both dance teachers and ran The Arts Factory, a summer scheme for schoolchildren. Their Future Dreams charity raised the money for cancer research from two West End shows featuring stage and screen stars.

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Hilton

By Leon Symons, September 28, 2010

If you want a spectacular aerial view of Manchester, you have only to go to the Hilton Manchester Deansgate and take the express lift to the 23rd floor.

When the doors open you'll be in, or rather on, Cloud 23, the hotel's buzzy cocktail bar. Wrap-around floor-to-ceiling windows provide jaw-dropping views while you sip something exotic from an extensive drinks menu.

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M&S drop their lingerie as Succah ad sparks offence

By Leon Symons, September 21, 2010

An advertisement for women's underwear placed next to a shop selling equipment for Succot in Edgware, north-west London, is to be replaced.

The hoarding showed a scantily-clad woman advertising underwear for Marks &Spencer and was situated directly above an outlet of a temporary Sukkah Mart store, at the corner of Edgwarebury Lane and Station Road.

Na'ama Heller, the shop's manager, said: "We opened last week and the advertisement appeared over the weekend right next to the shop.

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New push to confront Israel hate

By Leon Symons, September 21, 2010

A leading Anglo-Israeli educational organisation is preparing new strategies to confront campaigns aimed at increasing ill-will towards Israel.

John Levy, director of the Friends of Israel Educational Foundation (FoI), said that he anticipated "a very difficult year ahead for us all. We now confront intense new campaigns against Israel which are beginning to corrode 'goodwill' towards the state."

He said FoI would focus on four main areas: secondary schools in the 16-19 age group; university academics; the Church and creative arts.

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Small shuls rely on good police rapport

By Leon Symons, September 21, 2010

The sight of men and women standing outside synagogues on security duty on High Holy Days and festivals has become commonplace in London, Manchester, Glasgow and other major centres.

But what happens in the dozens of small communities scattered around the country?

Gabriel Lancaster at Chatham Memorial Synagogue in Kent said the 40 member synagogue, founded in 1750, has a very good rapport with its local police.

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Minister hints at security funding cut

By Leon Symons, September 21, 2010

Funding for new security measures in community schools may be cut under the government's wide-ranging review to reduce the national debt.

Cohesion minister Andrew Stunell hinted at the possibility after touring the headquarters of the Community Security Trust in north London.

Mr Stunell, Liberal Democrat MP for the Hazel Grove constituency in Stockport, said: "That issue is one I am aware of. However, we have a major financial review of everything coming up so I cannot comment specifically on that."

The CST declined to comment.

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£20 for mum who found bug in Nestlé cereal

By Leon Symons, September 17, 2010

The cereal that Michelle Prevezer bought was Nestlé's Raisins, Oats & More. But the "More" turned out to be more than she bargained for.

Ms Prevezer, 44, a mother of one from Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, had munched her way through about a third of the cereal when she suspected she might have bitten into something she should not have.

An independent analysis showed that the intruders were oryzaephilus surinamensis - saw-toothed grain beetles.

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Succah-building goes south

By Leon Symons, September 17, 2010

Succah building preparations get under way in earnest this Sunday - and extend to the farthest reaches of Britain.

The hamlet of Trehaddle, near Truro in Cornwall, could claim the title of the southernmost succah in the country.

Set in a pergola in the garden of Rachel and Iain Brown, it will host members of Kehillat Kernow, affiliated to the Reform Movement.

Mrs Brown said: "This will be the fourth year in our garden and we can take 15 to 20 people.

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George Soros' £65m gift to human rights charity

By Leon Symons, September 8, 2010

Billionaire financier George Soros is giving £65 million to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the New York-based organisation dedicated to investigating human rights abuses.

HRW has criticised both Israel and Hamas in its reports in the past. At the beginning of this year, its programmes director Ian Levine met Jewish communal leaders in London in an effort to convince them that the organisation was not biased against Israel.

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Duncan Smith: children must see Auschwitz

By Leon Symons, September 7, 2010

A trip to Auschwitz earlier this year led the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to present an award to a Holocaust survivor.

Mr Duncan Smith presented one of two certificates to 93-year-old Lithuanian Josef Levinson, who has single-handedly identified and organised memorials for more than 200 mass graves and cemeteries of Jews in the Baltic country over the past 30 years.

In May, Mr Duncan Smith joined a Holocaust Educational Trust one-day trip to the former death camp.

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Glasgow pro-Palestinians target Israeli dates

By Leon Symons, September 7, 2010

Dates from Israel are being driven off supermarket and grocery shop shelves in Scotland in a boycott campaign orchestrated by Palestinian supporters.

Scottish Palestinian Solidarity claim that as many as 30 Asian grocery shops in Glasgow alone were persuaded to stop selling Israeli dates to Muslims during the festival of Ramadan, which ends on September 10.

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