Leon Symons

What baby boom? Board disputes birth statistics for UK Jews

By Leon Symons, May 23, 2008

A claim by a University of Manchester researcher that Britain’s Jewish population is growing for the first time since the Second World War has been questioned by the Board of Deputies.

Yaakov Wise, of the University’s Jewish-studies department, claimed that the population was 275,000 in 2005, but had increased to 280,000 by 2008. He said the main factor was the steady increase in births in the strictly Orthodox community.

More..

MPs slam universities over race-hate

By Leon Symons, May 23, 2008

Antisemitism on campus and the internet were the main targets during a debate on antisemitism in the main chamber of the House of Commons last week.

MPs from all sides of the House took the chance to express their views and comment on the government’s performance in acting on the recommendations of the Parliamentary All-Party Antisemitism report.

An international conference on antisemitism, supported by the Foreign Office, is to be held in London in February next year.

More..

UK says it is ready to pull out of ‘Durban II’ conference

By Leon Symons, May 23, 2008

Britain would pull out of the so-called “Durban II” conference on racism if it descends into another round of attacks on Israel and thinly veiled antisemitism.

Europe Minister Jim Murphy told MPs that while Britain would continue to work towards making the conference a success, he promised that a repeat of the blatant bias of the conference in 2001 would not be tolerated.

The first conference — the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Tolerance, to give its official title — was held in Durban in 2001.

More..

Article headline

By Leon Symons, May 22, 2008

Mr Yentob, a patron of the museum, was present for the start of building work on Monday, telling the JC: “The expansion is a huge leap forward for the museum.

“I think it’s going to be great. [The reopening] will be a big moment for everyone in June 2009.”

The new building will be triple the size of its predecessor, allowing the collections previously held at Camden and Finchley to be brought under one roof.

More..

Sacks calls for action over campus hate

By Leon Symons, May 16, 2008

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks has called on university vice-chancellors to take greater action to defend Jewish students who are made to feel like “pariahs” on campuses around the UK.

He told the JC this week that vice-chancellors “must defend freedom of speech on all sides and all arguments. It must never be students of this or that faith who feel vulnerable or at risk or like pariahs on a university campus.

More..

Angry Charedim hold a tow truck hostage

By Leon Symons, May 16, 2008

Two tiny parking bays have sparked a major row between the Charedi community and Transport for London. The row threatened to boil over last week when dozens of angry motorists surrounded a tow-truck that was about to remove a car — and held it for two hours before allowing it to go. The parking bays are at the junction of Stamford Hill and Clapton Common, in North East London, outside a row of shops.

More..

Council chops and changes over kosher meat inquiry

By Leon Symons, May 16, 2008

The investigation of a complaint against a North-West London butcher by Barnet Council could take months to resolve, the JC has been told by the council .

The news was a blow to Albert Bendahan, owner of the Kosher Delicatessen chain in Golders Green, Temple Fortune and Edgware, who hoped it would have been resolved swiftly.

Mr Bendahan met a council environmental health officer on Monday but was given no clear indication of how long the investigation would take.

More..

What a boycott would have cost

By Leon Symons, May 16, 2008

A leading economist has said that the UK economy and employment in Britain would suffer badly in the event of an academic boycott of Israel.

Commenting on a new report highlighting the financial impact on Britain if last year’s aborted academic boycott against Israel had gone ahead, Jonathan Hoffman, who has worked for the Bank of England and other major financial institutions, said: “The UK economy would suffer in the event of a hypothetical academic boycott.

More..

Race victims ‘don’t want to go to court’

By Leon Symons, May 9, 2008

Many antisemitic crimes reported to police are going unpunished because victims do not want to go to court.

Others are not even thoroughly investigated because culprits cannot be identified, according to a Crown Prosecution Service report published this week.

The CPS also admitted that internal communications difficulties had led to a number of cases being pursued in error.

More..

Welfare homes score highly in inspections

By Leon Symons, May 9, 2008

Norwood and Jewish Care establishments have earned top marks in a new national inspection ratings system.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection this week launched a star scheme for Britain’s 4,000 care homes, ranging from three stars for excellent to zero for poor.

More..

Brown starts Israel’s 60th celebrations

By Leon Symons, May 9, 2008

Stirring speeches from Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks brought 1,500 people to their feet at Finchley Synagogue on Wednesday night as Anglo-Jewry’s celebrations of Israel’s 60th anniversary officially got under way.

After enduring probably his worst week since succeeding Tony Blair, Mr Brown found himself among friends in North London.

More..

The Zionist leader heading for Zion

By Leon Symons, May 9, 2008

At an age when many would consider retirement, 65-year-old Andrew Balcombe is to join the ranks of the long-distance commuters.

The chairman of the Zionist Federation is making aliyah this week — but is continuing in his communal role. He will have completed his first two-year stint but plans to stand again when the post comes up for election in September.

“I will be travelling back and forth between Israel and Britain, but it won’t be as often as some people who do it weekly,” said Mr Balcombe. “In fact, I and my wife Jean feel privileged to be going to Israel at this time.

More..

How a royal gift gave the Krakow community a new beating heart

By Leon Symons, May 2, 2008

Six years ago, Prince Charles promised to provide a group of  Polish Jews with a place to come together. Last Tuesday, he opened its new centre to a sea of smiles

Zofia Radikowska summed up the feelings of the Krakow Jewish community towards Prince Charles.

“So many people have been here in the past and made promises that they would help us. They went away and never came back,” said the beaming 72-year-old academic, who taught law at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University — known as the Cambridge of Poland — until she retired.

More..

MPs clash over cash for Auschwitz school trips

By Leon Symons, May 2, 2008

Labour MPs in Scotland have launched a scathing attack on rival parties over funding for visits to Auschwitz by secondary-school pupils.

The SNP and the Tories joined forces to push through a decision in the Scottish Parliament that schools should decide for themselves how to spend £150,000 given to Scotland by Westminster — and that there was no requirement for the money to be spent on the Auschwitz visits.

More..

How a royal gift gave the Krakow community a new beating heart

By Leon Symons, May 2, 2008

Six years ago, Prince Charles promised to provide a group of Polish Jews with a place to come together. Last Tuesday, he opened its new centre to a sea of smiles

Zofia Radikowska summed up the feelings of the Krakow Jewish community towards Prince Charles.

“So many people have been here in the past and made promises that they would help us. They went away and never came back,” said the beaming 72-year-old academic, who taught law at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University — known as the Cambridge of Poland — until she retired.

More..

Royal pride in Krakow

By Leon Symons, May 2, 2008

Prince Charles is ‘moved’ as he opens a Jewish centre that he helped to fund Prince Charles was so taken by his involvement in creating a new Polish Jewish community centre, which he opened in Krakow on Tuesday, that he now intends to become involved in another Jewish project in Eastern Europe, the JC understands. “To stand between the Tempel and Kupa synagogues in the heart of the Jewish community is like touching history,” he said during the opening ceremony.

More..

Man held over Tube 'frauds'

By Leon Symons, April 18, 2008

Police investigating a series of frauds on the London Underground said this week that they had arrested a man.

A 58-year-old from Hackney has been charged with three sample counts of fraud by false representation at Finsbury Park Tube station in November 2007 and at King’s Cross Tube station in March and April 2008.

Israel Aharonovitz, of Seven Sisters Road, Hackney, is due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court in Horseferry Road today.

More..

Israel agrees to graves pay-out

By Leon Symons, April 18, 2008

Israel has finally agreed to pay for the restoration of a British war-graves cemetery in Gaza City, damaged when it launched an operation after the abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit in June 2006.

A memorial stone, perimeter wall, trees and a number of headstones were damaged in that operation and in a second incident a week later.

Britain issued a formal complaint after the Israelis ignored a letter from its embassy in Tel Aviv. After initially denying responsibility for the damage for months, Israel has now agreed to pay NIS 145,000 (£20,600).

More..

Schools fight back on admissions

By Leon Symons, April 18, 2008

Jewish schools tell the government that clamping down on entry codes could threaten their basic values

Jewish schools have told the government that the tighter controls it has applied to admissions codes could threaten their ethos.

They also called for the scrapping of the law that forces them to accept non-Jewish pupils if they cannot fill all their places with Jewish children.

More..

Miliband to host Palestinian aid meeting in London

By Leon Symons, April 18, 2008

Foreign secretary David Miliband is likely to use a London meeting next month of the ad hoc liaison committee for the co-ordination of international aid to Palestinians to put pressure on Israel to ease the blockade of Gaza.

But the Palestinian Authority will also feel the heat over Hamas’s continued rocket attacks on Sderot and elsewhere, which have contributed to Israel’s tough stance on Gaza.

More..