Leon Symons

Funerals under way for Mumbai victims

By Leon Symons, December 1, 2008

Funerals for some of the six Jewish victims of last week's terror attack on Mumbai's Chabad House are taking place in Israel. Mourners followed a procession for Aryeh Teitelbaum, 37, from Mea She'arim, in Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives, where he will be buried.

The family of Mr Teitelbaum, a Chassidic jew, had rejected Israel's offer to include him in the official memorial ceremony when the bodies arrivedat Ben-Gurion Airport last night. They also stressed that they did they did want his coffin wrapped in an Israeli flag as those of the other victims would be.

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Report calls for union protection for rabbis

By Leon Symons, November 27, 2008

An independent report has called for a new employment deal for rabbis to prevent their dismissal by small groups of disgruntled congregants.

The report, called "Shalom@Shul" has been sent to every synagogal body, and also calls for:

 Rabbis to be allowed to join the Unite trade union;

 Every synagogue movement to appoint an independent ombudsman to assess honorary officers' grounds for dismissing a rabbi;

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Foreign Office honours the spies who saved us

By Leon Symons, November 27, 2008

The heroic efforts of a group of British diplomats who helped thousands of Jews escape the Nazis in Germany and elsewhere in occupied Europe were finally officially recognised last week.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband unveiled a plaque commemorating their selfless actions on a main staircase wall in the Foreign Office.

There are no names on the plaque because there was no record of the actions they took. At least 11 are known. Frank Foley was arguably the most famous, while Robert Smallbones and Thomas Preston were two more.

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Scottish U-turn over Holocaust trips for pupils

By Leon Symons, November 27, 2008

Months of lobbying by the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) paid off this week when the Scottish government decided it will, after all, pay for students to visit Auschwitz.

Scottish education secretary Fiona Hyslop announced on Wednesday that £214,000 will be set aside to send two pupils from every Scottish secondary school.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the HET said: "We are delighted that the Scottish Government has recognised the value of the ‘Lessons from Auschwitz' project and we look forward to working with them to involve more Scottish pupils in our work."

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Iranian ‘Mossad’ ring broken

By Leon Symons, November 27, 2008

Iran claimed to have broken a Mossad spy network that was seeking information about its nuclear programme and planning to carry out bombings and assassinations.

Last week, businessman Ali Ashtari was executed after being accused of spying for Israel. The semi-official Fars agency put out a story saying that the 45-year-old had been arrested two years ago and confessed to spying for Israel using security and telecommunications equipment. Israel denied all claims.

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Chanucah with Boris

By Leon Symons, November 27, 2008

London Mayor Boris Johnson has given the green light for a major Chanucah celebration in Trafalgar Square.

Chanucah in the Square will be held at five o'clock on December 22, the second night of the festival, when the mayor will lead a civic lighting ceremony.

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Blogger accused of spying for Israel

By Leon Symons, November 24, 2008

An Iranian nicknamed "The Blogfather" and credited with starting the country's blogging revolution has been arrested and accused of spying for Israel.

Hossein Derakhshan, who holds joint Iranian-Canadian citizenship, returned to Iran three weeks ago, having left for Canada in 2000 with his wife.

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Mayor opens Stamford Hill Centre

By Leon Symons, November 21, 2008

London Mayor Boris Johnson brought laughter and applause when he showed a previously unknown mastery of Yiddish while opening a new combined day centre and synagogue for Agudas Israel Housing Association's Schonfeld Square home in Stamford Hill on Thursday.

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Holocaust denier wins extradition fight

By Leon Symons, November 21, 2008

Convicted Holocaust denier Frederick Toben has won his fight against extradition to Germany for publishing material online "of an antisemitic and/or revisionist nature".

Dr Toben, director of the revisionist Adelaide Institute in Australia, had been arrested while en route from America to Dubai on a European warrant executed on behalf of the German government.

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Hare play is fair play, says theatre boss Hytner

By Leon Symons, November 20, 2008

The director of the National Theatre has defended a play which a leading rabbi has claimed "depicts Jews in a vile manner".

Nicholas Hytner said that while he had no regrets about producing the play Gethsemane, by Sir David Hare, "I regret the response, because I'm director of the National Theatre and I'm Jewish.

"It does concern me that there have been several reactions from non-Jewish journalists accusing the play and the performance of antisemitism, because I don't detect it. I don't see it.

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Squatters take over artist’s flat

By Leon Symons, November 20, 2008

An Israeli artist has been left homeless and penniless after a gang of squatters invaded his home in South London.

His troubles were compounded after he developed septicaemia and was admitted to hospital in north London.

The artist, who has not been named, had returned to Israel six months ago to visit his wife, who had given birth to a child. When he returned to his London home, he found that it had been broken into and occupied by a number of Polish men. Inside, were all his possessions, including original works of art.

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Chief gives EU credit crisis talk

By Leon Symons, November 20, 2008

Europe needs a new covenant of hope to carry it through the current economic crisis and beyond, Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks told the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Addressing the parliament for the first time, Sir Jonathan discussed the differences between a covenant and a contract. European politics, he said, needed the former.

Sir Jonathan compared a contract to a deal and a covenant to a marriage. "A contract deals with ‘arenas of competition' while a covenant deals with ‘arenas of co-operation'.

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Belittled town of Bethlehem

By Leon Symons, November 20, 2008

A Jewish anti-Israel group has been criticised for re-writing traditional Christmas carols to attack Israel's policies towards Palestine. The songs are due to be performed during a concert at a Central London church next week.

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG) said it hoped the event would raise awareness of "the Palestinian people of Bethlehem".

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London joins global Jewish cities

By Leon Symons, November 18, 2008

Jewish communities from the greatest cities across the globe are to be linked for the first time through the World Jewish Cities Project.

The new scheme was launched by London and New York when the London Jewish Forum met representatives of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council in the American city last week.

In the first phase of the project, Paris and Budapest will be approached to join and in the second phase Buenos Aires in Argentina, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo in Brazil, and Johannesburg in South Africa.

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Couple fight for son’s right to life

By Leon Symons, November 13, 2008

A children's hospital in America has sought a legal ruling that it can turn off the support systems of a 12-year-old boy suffering from a severe form of brain cancer and whom they believe to be brain-dead.

The hospital, the Children's National Medical Centre in Washington DC, wanted to override the wishes of the boy's parents, Eluzer and Miriam Brody from Brooklyn, New York. The parents argued that under Jewish law there was no such thing as brain death and that other systems in their son's body were still functioning, albeit with mechanical support.

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Minister wins over doubters

By Leon Symons, November 13, 2008

New Community Cohesion minister Sadiq Khan has dismissed suggestions that he might be unsympathetic to Jewish concerns.

Mr Khan met 30 senior community professionals and lay leaders at a lunch in North-West London last week hosted by the Jewish Leadership Council.

His appointment had been greeted with some anxiety because as a solicitor he represented antisemitic preacher Louis Farrakhan when the Nation of Islam leader tried to overturn the ban on his entry into the country.

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Teachers to be questioned on Shoah lessons

By Leon Symons, November 13, 2008

The launch of the first national survey into how the Holocaust is taught in English secondary schools will help to stop internet stories that Britain has stopped teaching the subject, according to a leading official in the field.

Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock, who helped set up the research project, said: "Specialists in the field of Holocaust education all want to understand better how training programmes and resources are used in the classroom and impact on both teachers and young people.

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LibDem president backs new anti-Zionist group

By Leon Symons, November 13, 2008

Liberal Democrat president Simon Hughes has been strongly criticised by the party's Friends of Israel group for signing a virulently anti-Israeli early day motion.

LDFI secretary Matthew Harris also castigated the anti-Zionist group that the EDM welcomed.

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Siren call to Shabbat is silenced

By Leon Symons, November 13, 2008

While Shabbat itself is a haven of peace and quiet, the few minutes leading up to it on a Friday afternoon have caused quite a bit of noise in one Jewish area.

A Shabbat siren has been announcing the imminent arrival of the Sabbath in Stamford Hill in North East London. In fact, it is not a siren, but rather, a selection of music and songs being played over a number of loudspeakers.

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School made to change entry rules

By Leon Symons, November 6, 2008

A state-aided Jewish secondary school has been ordered to change its admissions criteria to make clear it will admit non-Jewish children if it cannot fill all its places with Jewish pupils.

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