Leon Symons

Charedi housing scheme launched

By Leon Symons, January 15, 2009

The dire housing problems of Britain’s Charedi community could be solved by an innovative scheme that is being studied closely by both national and local government.

A small steering committee in Stamford Hill, north London, which includes members of the Agudas Israel Housing Association, has been working on the creation of a community land trust (CLT).

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More space for worship advised

By Leon Symons, January 15, 2009

New housing developments should have a specific area set aside to create facilities for faith communities, according to a newly-published report.

Construction companies should be told that they must set aside half a hectare (1.23 acres) of empty land in developments to enable faith communities to erect their own buildings, said Cambridgeshire Horizons, the organisation which produced the report “Building for Faith in the Future” and which is responsible for identifying new communities in the East Anglian county.

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Miliband puts faith in democracy

By Leon Symons, January 15, 2009

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has called on Israel “as a beacon of democracy” to help find a political solution to its conflict with Hamas.

He told MPs that Israel argued against accepting UN resolutions which saw equivalence between a democratic state and a terrorist organisation.

“There is and can be no equivalence,” said Mr Miliband. Hamas had shown itself over a number of years “ready to be murderous in word and deed”.

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Wedding-ban couple say I do in safety

By Leon Symons, January 15, 2009

A familiar side-effect of the Gaza conflict has been its disruption of daily life — including celebrations.

In Israel, Sharon and Gilad Yaacobi, members of Kibbutz Gevim, just south of Sderot, were due to be married in a banqueting hall close to their home. But the party, last Thursday night, was banned by the army.

Instead, the general manager of Tel Aviv’s Hilton hotel, Ronnie Fortis, helped the couple relocate their wedding ceremony and party at his hotel, free of charge.

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Web racists convicted in historic trial

By Leon Symons, January 15, 2009

Two racists have been convicted of publishing racially inflammatory material in the first case brought by the Crown Prosecution Service involving the diffusion of race hate via the internet.

Stephen Whittle, 41, from Preston, Lancashire, wrote five offensive articles under the pen-name Luke O’Farrell, published on the internet by his co-defendant, 51-year-old Simon Sheppard from Hull.

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Kosher meat prices rise by 10 per cent

By Leon Symons, January 8, 2009

The cost of kosher beef and lamb rose this week as a direct result of the strength of the euro against the pound — and a second rise is threatened for next week.

Kosher butchers have been forced to increase their prices by 20p-25p a kilo on the shelf as wholesale prices have risen by 40p-50p a kilo, a rise of around 10 per cent, according to Kosher Licensed Meat Traders’ Association chairman Jacky Lipowicz.

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Skverer Chasid set to face extradition in fraud case

By Leon Symons, December 31, 2008

A member of the US-based Skverer strictly Orthodox community, on the run for 11 years to avoid multi-million dollar fraud charges, will know later this month if he is to be extradited to stand trial.

Avrum David Friesel, 56, was arrested at the end of April in Chardmore Road, Stamford Hill, London, by British police helped by United States marshals. He has been awaiting a decision on his extradition since then.

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Official: it’s OK to convert Jews

By Leon Symons, December 23, 2008

The Charity Commission is at the centre of a row after publishing advice that appears to give a green light to evangelical groups whose sole aim is to convert Jews to Christianity.

The Commission has been attacked by Rabbi Shmuel Arkush, Anglo-Jewry’s main anti-missionary campaigner. But it has received backing from the Board of Deputies, which described the advice as a “useful tool in helping to expose those groups who prey on vulnerable individuals”.

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Jet strikes give Fiddler an unlikely twist

By Leon Symons, December 18, 2008

Pupils watching an end-of-term production of Fiddler on the Roof were suddenly confronted with a final scene of video images of Israeli air strikes.

And the man who decided to show the surprise video was the production director — who is Jewish.

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No time limit for art claims

By Leon Symons, December 18, 2008

Germany has pledged there will be no time limit for descendants of Nazi victims to reclaim looted art.

Federal Commissioner for Culture, Bernd Neumann, told a two-day conference in Berlin that the government had rejected calls from some museums to impose deadlines.

The conference, Taking Responsibility, was held to mark the 10th anniversary of the Washington Declaration, in which 44 countries agreed to identify and return Nazi-looted art.

Assessing how much progress had been made, Mr Neumann admitted that German museums and collections had been dragging their heels.

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Race-hate comes alive for computer game

By Leon Symons, December 18, 2008

Four incidents of racial hatred have been recreated for the internet to illustrate the theme of Holocaust Memorial Day 2009.

The four incidents — including the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence — have been divided into two-minute films to form a simulated computer game called The Hate Game.

They are preceded by two scenes of Nazi persecution during the Holocaust. The theme of HMD is “Stand Up To Hatred”.

Each film takes the viewer through the incident, then shows the choices those involved could have made — ending with what happened in real life

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Minister’s marriage visa pledge

By Leon Symons, December 18, 2008

A potential solution has emerged to the marriage visa crisis which has caused widespread consternation among Charedis.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas told a delegation from the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations that he would explore the possibility of pre-certification.

This would mean that under-21s from outside the European Union who wish to marry in the UK would be examined by an embassy or consulate in their country of origin in order to certify that there was no suggestion of coercion.

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Queen delights residents at Ravenswood

By Leon Symons, December 18, 2008

There were cheers from flag-waving staff and residents as the Queen made her first visit to Norwood’s Ravenswood village in Berkshire to open a new facility last Thursday.

The Queen, Norwood’s royal patron, spent an hour touring The Precinct, which houses a number of therapy workshops, before opening the Pamela Barnett Centre, a £3 million home for 16 adults with profound learning disabilities.

Among the first people the Queen met were Peter Girvin, Laurence Black, Stephen Treisman and Jackie Andresier, who were cycling gold medallists at the national Special Olympics.

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JLC needs young voices, says Levy

By Leon Symons, December 17, 2008

Lord Levy has called for new young community leaders to be brought on to the Jewish Leadership Council.

Lord Levy, who is president of Jewish Care and JFS School, made his plea as he stepped down after three years on the JLC’s executive. He is a founder of the organisation and remains a member of the main board.
Property company owner Leo Noé, at the heart of the property world’s biggest takeover this year, has been voted on to the executive.

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Director clashes with Board over ‘censorship’ of Irving film

By Leon Symons, December 11, 2008

Award-winning film-maker Rex Bloomstein has become embroiled in a censorship row with the Board of Deputies over a television documentary featuring convicted Holocaust denier David Irving.

Mr Bloomstein, 66, made the film, An Independent Mind, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was shown on the Channel 4 digital subsidiary More4 on Tuesday night.

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UJIA caps cost of 2009 youth tours

By Leon Symons, December 11, 2008

British youth group tours to Israel next year will cost the same as this year — after UJIA stepped in to cap the costs of the trips in response to the recession.

Some groups said this week that they would have had to increase their prices by anything up to 25 per cent, which they acknowledge would have taken the Israel Experience tour out of reach of many families.

The trips next year will remain at around £2,400-£2,500, the same as those of 2008. However, all the groups have cut their trips by up to three days, though none will be less than 25 days long.

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Faith schools report attacked

By Leon Symons, December 11, 2008

A report calling for faith schools to stop selecting on the basis of pupils’ religion has been heavily criticised.

The Runnymede Trust’s report, Right to Divide? Faith Schools and Community Cohesion, says that “if faith schools are convinced of their relevance for society, then that should apply equally for all children”.

It questioned the commitment of faith schools to the government’s social cohesion programme and said: “Too often, there remains a resistance to learning about other faiths.”

Parents, said the report, can use faith as a means of ensuring social

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Online gene pool to help unlock the past

By Leon Symons, December 11, 2008

Millions of records from 14 countries were placed online this week as a result of a major link-up between two genealogical websites.

The new records potentially contain information about a host of British personalities who are either Jewish or have Jewish ancestry. They include David Beckham, Rachel Stevens, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Esther Rantzen, Matt Lucas and many others.

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Records could help ancestry search

By Leon Symons, December 10, 2008

Millions of records from 14 countries have been placed online this week as a result of a major link-up between two genealogical websites.

They could potentially contain information about a host of British personalities who are either Jewish or have Jewish ancestry, including David Beckham, Rachel Stevens, Sacha Baron Cohen, Ben Elton, Stephen Fry, Esther Rantzen, Matt Lucas and many others.

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JCoSS unveils pioneering special needs project

By Leon Symons, December 4, 2008

Plans have been unveiled for the first centre within a mainstream British school dedicated to educating children on the autistic spectrum.
The state-of-the-art facility will be an integral part of the £50-million Jewish Community Secondary School, due to be opened in East Barnet in 2010. The special centre accounts for £11 million of the budget of JCoSS, the most expensive state school ever built.

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