Leon Symons

ZF celebrates Yom Ha'atzmaut despite travel chaos

By Leon Symons, April 22, 2010

The Zionist Federation claimed a triumph out of disaster after its London concert to celebrate Israel's 62nd birthday fell victim to the travel chaos caused by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud.

With the Israeli stars of the show unable to travel, the ZF had 24 hours to put together a replacement Israeli-style informal party for 400 people at Logan Hall in Bloomsbury, featuring a London-based Israeli band, a singer and a comedian.

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Antisemitic crime drops in Barnet

By Leon Symons, April 22, 2010

Barnet, home to Britain's biggest Jewish population, has reported a significant drop in racist and religious hate crime and an increase in catching the perpetrators.

There were 284 racist offences during the 2009/10 year, which ended in March, compared to 428 in the previous 12 months.

Up from 35 per cent to 50 per cent was the rate of clear-up - where police identify the culprits and a punishment is applied ranging from a caution to a prison sentence.

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Joel Weiner: my role in the leaders' debate

By Leon Symons, April 16, 2010

The Jewish teenager who took on BNP leader
Nick Griffin about the Holocaust during an edition of the BBC’s Question Time
last year has taken centre stage again during the first party leaders’ televised
election debate on ITV.

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Griffin's Question Time inquisitor takes on party leaders

By Leon Symons, April 16, 2010

The Jewish teenager who questioned BNP leader Nick Griffin on the Holocaust during an edition of the BBC’s Question Time last year took centre stage again during the first party leaders’ televised debate.

Joel Weiner, the 17-year-old son of Masorti Rabbi Chaim Weiner and a pupil at JFS, asked the leaders a question about what prime minister Gordon Brown, Tory leader David Cameron and Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg would do about improving education.

The teenager said pupils were being over-examined, not enough money was being spent on schools and that in turn led to bigger class sizes.

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Violent teen accuses Jews of controlling government

By Leon Symons, April 15, 2010

A teenager had been planning violent attacks on the government because he claimed it had been taken over by Jews, a court has heard.

Nicky Davison, a 19-year-old milkman, was accused at Newcastle Crown Court of being a co-founder, with his father Ian, of a group called Aryan Strike Force, an on-line far right extremist group which wanted to topple the government because they believed it was dominated by Zionists and Jews.

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Liverpool's Harold House closure warning

By Leon Symons, April 15, 2010

Harold House, Liverpool's Jewish community centre, faces temporary closure unless it can raise £100,000.

The centre is due to move into the new King David schools complex under construction on a neighbouring site and IS scheduled to open in September 2011.

But Harold House chief executive Stephen Simpson warned that the centre cannot continue until then without a cash influx.

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Sephardi survives 'no confidence' motion

By Leon Symons, April 1, 2010

The ruling body of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation has survived a motion of no confidence but has failed to heal the divisions within the community.

Efforts were made at the annual meeting to draw a line over the resignation last year of Rabbi Natan Asmoucha at Bevis Marks Synagogue, after tensions with the mahamad (executive) over his participation in an interfaith demonstration against high bank interest charges.

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JFS row teacher is key JCoSS appointment

By Leon Symons, March 25, 2010

JFS head of English Kate Lightman, whose daughter was refused entry to the school in a row over conversion, has been appointed to a senior post at the new Jewish Community Secondary School, JCoSS.

Mrs Lightman will be assistant head with responsibility for English at JCoSS, which opens in Barnet in September. She has taught at JFS for more than 20 years.

In 2005, she and her husband David applied for a place for their daughter Maya but were turned down because the London Beth Din rejected Mrs Lightman's conversion in Israel.

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Year-old butter sold for Pesach

By Leon Symons, March 25, 2010

Environmental health officers in Barnet have launched an investigation into the sale of Pesach butter almost a year beyond its "best before" date in a number of north-west London shops.

The Lurpak brand butter carries a white sticker with the date "20-05-10" next to the London Beth Din imprint. However, if the label is peeled back, it reveals a "best before" date of May 27, 2009. Lurpak has not produced any butter for Pesach this year.

A printed label on the side of the pack describes the sole agency for the UK as a Wembley company, S Schwartz Ltd.

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Foreign Office man wins appeal against race abuse claim

By Leon Symons, March 25, 2010

A senior Foreign Office diplomat has won his appeal against a conviction for racially aggravated harassment.

Rowan Laxton, 48, was exercising in a gymnasium last year when he saw a TV report about Israel’s action in Gaza.

Two men elsewhere in the gym claimed that they heard him shout “f------ Israelis, f------ Jews” at news of the death of a farmer.

They complained to staff and Mr Laxton, who was then head of the Foreign Office's South Asia desk, was arrested and then charged. He was also suspended from his post.

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El Al to help BA travellers

By Leon Symons, March 18, 2010

Israeli airline El Al has stepped in to try to help out people travelling to Israel for Pesach as a result of the threatened British Airways cabin crew strike, run by the Unite union.

El Al has decided to run seven extra flights, between London Luton Airport and Tel Aviv between March 22 and March 27.

A British Airways strike is also planned for the following weekend, but BA will not give details of which flights have been cancelled until the beginning of next week.

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New government fund for faith groups

By Leon Symons, March 18, 2010

Communities Secretary John Denham has announced a new fund to help faith groups which work with the government.

Speaking at a conference about faith and social action, Mr Denham said the groups would be able to bid for funds of £1.2 million to be made available after the general election.

There will be an additional £50,000 in prize money for the best innovative faith project.

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Musical memorial to Shlomo Argov

By Leon Symons, March 18, 2010

The son of the late Israeli ambassador, Shlomo Argov, dedicated a music room in his memory at the refurbished Israeli Embassy on Monday.

Mr Argov was shot in the head at point-blank range as he left a dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in London's Mayfair in June, 1982, leaving him paralysed except for some movement in his head.

After emergency brain surgery, he spent three months in hospital in Britain before being transferred to Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital, where he remained until his death in 2003.

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Charedi plan to buy Skinners' School

By Leon Symons, March 18, 2010

Hackney's Charedi community is to renew its efforts to buy the old Skinners' School after councillors rejected a home-building plan for the site.

The planning sub-committee voted 5-4 against Berkeley Homes' proposal to knock down the school and build luxury homes. The decision was greeted with delight by local Charedim who packed the public gallery.

Members of the Belz, Satmar and Lubavitch communities maintain that the site should remain in educational use.

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BA strike causes Israel Pesach anguish

By Leon Symons, March 16, 2010

Families looking forward to Pesach in Israel may face heartbreak as a result of the proposed British Airways cabin crew strike.

BA has cancelled all flights to Israel this weekend and will not resume until Tuesday. However, the main travel time is the following weekend — March 26 - 28 .

Former United Synagogue property director Alan Koch was one of those whose Pesach plans could be ruined by the strike.

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Killer of Jewish shopkeeper 'could still be at large'

By Leon Symons, March 11, 2010

The contract killer of Beatrice "Biddy" Gold, the London woman shot dead in the basement of her clothing business 35 years ago, might still be at large, it emerged this week.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) confirmed that the case of John Errol Heibner, convicted in 1976 of Mrs Gold's murder, will be referred back to the Court of Appeal.

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Obama envoy praises the CST

By Leon Symons, March 11, 2010

Barack Obama's special envoy against antisemitism lavished praise on the Community Security Trust when addressing its annual dinner in London.

Hannah Rosenthal said the CST's work in recording and analysing antisemitic incidents was invaluable to American agencies dealing with hate crime.

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Stamford Hill couple attacked by burglars

By Leon Symons, March 11, 2010

A Stamford Hill couple were attacked and tied up by a gang of burglars who broke into their home in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

It is believed the five-strong gang entered the Castlewood Road property through an unsecured window.

They woke the couple, who are in their early thirties. Their children were asleep in other rooms.

After tying them up and assaulting them, the gang took the keys to the husband's office in Clapton Common but failed to open it. They otherwise fled the house empty-handed.

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Rabbi cancels engagements because of illness

By Leon Symons, March 11, 2010

Bushey Synagogue's Rabbi Meir Salasnik has cancelled all engagements for the next few months because of ill health.

Congregants have been informed of the news by letter. The shul gave no indication of his illness but said "the early prognosis is positive". Alternative arrangements will be made through the synagogue office for congregants who had booked the rabbi to officiate at a function.

Rabbi Salasnik, 58, has been minister at Bushey since 1979. He is secretary of the Chief Rabbi's cabinet and is responsible for hospital visitation.

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Jewish nurseries are hugely oversubscribed

By Leon Symons, March 11, 2010

Nurseries at voluntary-aided schools are facing almost unprecedented demand for places in September, with some receiving five applications per place.

Although it is recognised that parents will make applications to a number of schools, head teachers have expressed concern about the small number of places remaining after siblings have been accommodated.

Simon Goulden, education consultant at the United Synagogue, said a number of issues had impacted on the situation this year.

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