Leon Symons

Teacher angry over High Holy-Day leave

By Leon Symons, October 3, 2008

A teacher has criticised a council's policy over absence for religious festivals after she was granted - and then refused - paid leave for the High Holy-Days .

History and religious-studies teacher Lucy Nuttgens, 48, applied in July for time off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and was told by Aireville School in Skipton, North Yorkshire, that she could have the days off and would be paid for them.

Ms Nuttgens is a member of the small Bradford Reform Synagogue and was helping to run services on the New Year.

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Europe's biggest Jewish primary school speak to Astronaut in space

By Leon Symons, October 3, 2008

Ten-year-old Claudia Cowen stood nervously in front of the microphone. A disembodied woman's voice filled the room: "This is WH6PN Honolulu calling for a scheduled contact. Do you copy?"

The message was repeated three times more as a packed Michael Sobell Sinai School hall hung on every word. Then, suddenly, through noisy static, came the voice they were waiting to hear - and a bit of history was made.

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£2m plan for cemeteries

By Leon Symons, September 26, 2008

The United Synagogue is to spend almost £2 million to ensure that its two main cemeteries maintain operations well into the second half of this century.

But US head of burials Melvyn Hartog is confident that the commitment will not herald an increase in burial fees.

"We run a very tight ship," he told the JC this week. "Nothing is wasted and every penny we spend is accounted for. I believe we will be able to absorb these costs without putting up the fees."

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Hostility to Jews and Muslims ‘on rise’ in EU

By Leon Symons, September 26, 2008

Negative views and opinions of Jews and Muslims in several European countries have risen significantly, according to a new report published last week by an independent American think-tank.

The survey, carried out in 24 countries, found that unfavourable views of Jews in Spain had more than doubled in percentage terms in two years, had increased by a third in Russia and Poland, and by a quarter in Germany and France.

The only countries where antisemitic views remained virtually unchanged were Britain and America.

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Manchester's biggest social-welfare organisations to merge

By Leon Symons, September 26, 2008

The two biggest social-welfare organisations in Manchester are to merge to create a new multi-million-pound body.

As exclusively reported at TheJC.com on Tuesday, Manchester Jewish Federation ("the Fed") and Heathlands Village have decided to combine their resources and facilities. Employees of both organisations have been informed of the merger.

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Duke is asked to save a piece of Jerusalem

By Leon Symons, September 26, 2008

The Duke of Edinburgh has been unwittingly drawn into a row over a piece of prime Jerusalem real estate by Zalmi Unsdorfer, the chairman of Israel's Likud-Herut party in Britain.

The row centres on the famous Russian Compound in the heart of Jerusalem. One part of it is called Sergei's Courtyard. Built in 1890 for the benefit of pilgrims visiting Palestine, it was named after Tsar Alexander II's son Sergei Alexandrovich, head of the Imperial Society of Russian Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land.

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Pulling power of first Hackney Limmud

By Leon Symons, September 19, 2008

Sunday's inaugural Hackney Limmud has been hailed as an unqualified success with more than 700 people attending events at the Petchey Academy in Stoke Newington.

Co-chair Steve Brown reported: "We have been deluged with emails from speakers and the public saying how much they enjoyed it. We will definitely do it again."

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Anger over Simcha date clash with Hackney Limmud

By Leon Symons, September 19, 2008

A clash over dates led to a behind-the-scenes row between Simcha on the Square organisers and Hackney Limmud, an event held for the first time this year.

Both events were held on Sunday. But the Hackney group said they had selected the date first about 18 months ago and put it on the communal calendar run by the Board of Deputies. Simcha on the Square, meanwhile, initially chose the same day, moved to a date in October and then changed back again to September 14.

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Orthodox delight as government relaxes planning law on house extensions

By Leon Symons, September 19, 2008

The Charedi community has welcomed a government move to relax rules on loft conversions and the construction of rear extensions to houses.

From October 1, many householders will be able to build an extension or a loft conversion without having to seek planning permission. The £1,000 fee to be granted specific planning permission will also be dropped.

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Rabbi offers help to ‘three-day Rosh Hashanah’ council

By Leon Symons, September 19, 2008

A rabbi has offered his services as a religious adviser to a council which invented a High Holy-day and scheduled a by-election on Yom Kippur.

Last week, the JC revealed how Haringey Council had chosen October 9 for the poll, believing it to be a less religious day than the previous Thursday, which it decided was the "third day of Rosh Hashanah".
Rabbi David Mason has now contacted the North London authority in an attempt to avoid further inconvenience for Jewish residents.

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Prince Philip asked to save part of Jerusalem

By Leon Symons, September 18, 2008

The Duke of Edinburgh has been unwittingly drawn into a row by the chairman of Israel's Likud-Herut party in Britain, property businessman Zalmi Unsdorfer, over a piece of prime real estate - the famous Russian Compound in the heart of Jerusalem.

One part of the area is known as Sergei's Courtyard, built in 1890 for the benefit of pilgrims visiting Palestine and named after Tsar Alexander II's son Sergei Alexandrovich, head of the Imperial Society of Russian Orthodox Christians in the Holy Land.

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Cadogan Hall ‘sorry’ over nakba advert

By Leon Symons, September 12, 2008

A top London concert venue has apologised for any upset it caused by including a political statement in an advert for a Palestinian concert next month.

The advert appeared in a brochure for the autumn season at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea, south west London.

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London Olympics to mark Munich killings

By Leon Symons, September 12, 2008

A special event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes is to be held during the 2012 Olympics in London.

A new body called the London Olympic Jewish Organising Committee, set up to link the capital's Jewish community with the Games, has held preliminary discussions with the London Organising Committee, the Israeli Olympic Association, and has had an initial meeting with the Mayor of London's office.

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Relief as Simcha on the Square festival is approved

By Leon Symons, September 12, 2008

Fears that a change of mayor could affect the third Simcha On The Square event dissipated quickly in May when the event was agreed with Boris Johnson's office.

Now the celebration of Jewish life, music and culture on Sunday, September 14, looks set to be the biggest yet, with more of everything - food stalls, crafts, books and artists providing live music in London's Trafalgar Square.

Last year, the event attracted 25,000 people, making it the biggest one-day festival of Jewish culture in the UK.

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JNF was scene of endless rows, says lawyer Julius

By Leon Symons, September 12, 2008

The former chief executive of JNF UK must wait until October to find out whether or not his court action against one of the country's top law firms has been successful.

Mr Justice Henderson told both parties at the end of a three-day hearing last week that he reserved his judgment and, because of his own commitments and administrative difficulties, would not able to deliver his decision until early next month.

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Israel is heckled at Edinburgh Festival

By Leon Symons, September 4, 2008

The Jerusalem Quartet has been invited to return to the Edinburgh International Festival next year in defiance of protesters who disrupted their debut concert last week.

Five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign were arrested and charged with breaches of the peace after shouting slogans during the ensemble's performance at Queen's Hall. The five were due to appear in court in Edinburgh yesterday (Thursday).

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Why I had to say no when Albert Speer asked me to dinner

By Leon Symons, September 4, 2008

It took a few minutes to decipher the writing, but Roman Halter knew what it was as soon as he saw it.
It had lain buried among papers for nearly 30 years and had been forgotten. But the two-page, handwritten letter that Mr Halter found last month evoked memories of a time when he survived the Holocaust while dozens of family and friends were murdered.

The letter - and a second one - that Mr Halter had found were written by Albert Speer, the Nazis' chief architect and, from 1943, the man responsible for armaments in Hitler's Germany.

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Court told of JNF cash row and ‘bugging’

By Leon Symons, September 4, 2008

The former chief executive of JNF UK, who is in legal dispute with his ex-employer - and is also suing this newspaper over its reporting of his departure - this week took one of Britain's top law firms to court in a separate action which has brought extraordinary revelations about the charity.

Simon Winters, who left the charity two months ago following the arrival of new chairman Samuel Hayek, is seeking an injunction to stop Mishcon de Reya acting for JNF in his dispute with it over the end of his employment, alleging a conflict of interest.

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Jewish schools celebrate excellent A-level results

By Leon Symons, August 15, 2008

Jewish secondary schools and students were yesterday celebrating another outstanding set of A-level results.

The private Immanuel College achieved a 100 per cent pass rate for the third year running, with 50 per cent at A grade and 82 per cent at grades A and B.

The proportion of A-level examinations passed at the grades required to gain admission to sought-after courses at the best universities has risen to 82 per cent, the highest score in Immanuel's history.

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Ban Kabbalah access to schools, Balls told

By Leon Symons, August 15, 2008

An Orthodox rabbi who has campaigned against a children's organisation run by the Kabbalah Centre has called on the government department responsible for education to "pull the plug" on its access to schools.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, minister of Mill Hill United Synagogue, wrote privately to Children, Schools and Families secretary Ed Balls after it was revealed in June that Spirituality For Kids (SFK) - an offshoot of the Kabbalah Centre - had been holding lessons in six schools in the London boroughs of Westminster and Tower Hamlets.

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