Leon Symons

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.


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.


Four new charities to help teens and families

By Leon Symons, March 4, 2010

Four new charities to help teenagers and families have risen from the ashes of a recession-hit one.

A year ago, the Northwest Clubhouse in Hendon was on the verge of closure after one of its main funders suffered heavy losses in the credit crunch.

"We had to see if there was some way of restructuring so that we could ensure somehow that the services we provided would continue," said one of its leaders, Harris Rosenberg. "We achieved that - and in fact the constituent parts have not only continued but have thrived in the ensuing year."


Charedi anger at homes to be built on school site

By Leon Symons, March 4, 2010

Hackney Council has denied claims by local Charedi leaders that it reneged on an agreement to keep the site of a former school reserved for educational use.

The Lubavitch, Belz and Satmar groups have launched a campaign to oppose a plan to build luxury homes on the site of the former Skinners' School on Stamford Hill .

They intend to demonstrate at a planning committee meeting next week that will consider the application from Berkeley Homes. Letters of support have been sent by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Board of Deputies' president Vivian Wineman.


Man refuses to pay licence in protest of BBC Israel bias

By Leon Symons, February 25, 2010

Jeremy Flashman makes no bones about it: "I hope they send me to prison."

The reason that 45-year-old father of three Mr Flashman is so keen to end up behind bars can be summed up in three letters: BBC.

The telecoms engineer, from Woodford Green in Essex, has become so angered by the BBC and the way it reports Israel that he has refused to pay his television licence.

So when an enforcement officer arrived at his door, Mr Flashman did not hesitate: "I told him I have a television, and I admitted watching it without a licence. He said I would receive a summons within 21 days.


Jewish campaigners attack UK asylum seeker treatment

By Leon Symons, February 25, 2010

Three Jewish human rights leaders and three rabbis have launched an attack in a national newspaper on the way the government treats the children of asylum seekers.

Their action followed a report by the Children's Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, which highlighted the arrest and transportation procedures children had to undergo and the living conditions at Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire.


Hapoalim shuts up shop in Manchester

By Leon Symons, February 25, 2010

Bank Hapoalim is to close its Manchester office with the loss of its three jobs. It will continue to look after its northern clientele from the UK arm's London premises.

Head of business development Saul Zneimer said that although the measure was cost-cutting, the bank was keen to increase its Manchester business.

"We decided it was far more efficient to work out of the London office. Hopefully we will be able to grow and develop our business there."


Gove to Board: How can we fix JFS case?

By Leon Symons, February 25, 2010

Shadow education spokesman Michael Gove has thrown down the gauntlet to the Jewish community over the Supreme Court ruling on JFS admissions.

Guest speaker at Sunday's Board of Deputies meeting in central London, he posed a question to delegates in the event of a Tory administration.

"Tell me what you think we as a government should do to remove the allegation of prejudice against a school that has done such a wonderful job and what we can do to ensure faith schools can carry on doing the fantastic job they do?"


Accountant jailed for £100k fraud

By Leon Symons, February 19, 2010

An accountant has been jailed for two years for fraud and deception involving sums up to £100,000.

Fred Blacher, 65, of Grange Gardens, Pinner, had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing at Isleworth Crown Court in west London to charges of obtaining property by deception, fraud by abuse of his position and dishonestly making a false representation.

He has appeared there again and Judge Edmunds QC sentenced him to two years on each charge, with the sentences running concurrently, giving a total of two years in prison.


WJR’s plan for more medics for Haiti

By Leon Symons, February 18, 2010

The success of its Haiti earthquake fundraising appeal has spurred international aid charity World Jewish Relief to step up the help it is providing to the stricken island.

Chief executive Paul Anticoni has launched an appeal for medical and health experts to form teams to run four mobile clinics.

The teams - a doctor and two primary health care nurses - will visit displacement camps housing thousands of refugees whose homes were destroyed.


MPs urge Israel to work with Palestinian Authority

By Leon Symons, February 18, 2010

Israel's best chance for peace is to work with the current leaders of the Palestinian Authority, according to the leader of a group of MPs which has just visited the region.

Mike Gapes, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, led nine of its 14 MPs from all parties on the four-day trip.

He said on their return: "I believe Israel should recognise that Salam Fayyad and Abu Mazen are the best hope they've got for peace. They are committed to a two-state solution and Israel should respond positively."


Butcher loses fight to stop rival opening

By Leon Symons, February 18, 2010

A Hendon kosher butcher's has lost a battle to prevent a competitor starting up a few doors away.

The fourth branch of Albert Bendahan's Kosher Delicatessen chain opened on Monday in Brent Street, on the corner of Heriot Road, close to the premises of Nissim Glatt Kosher, established by Nissim Chabbat eight years ago. Both are under the supervision of the London Board for Shechitah (LBS).

"We fought against this," said Mr Chabbat's wife Lilian. "We wrote letters and we spoke to the LBS but nobody listened. Many of our suppliers complained on our behalf.


Delamere Forest school plans move

By Leon Symons, February 18, 2010

Delamere Forest special needs school is to close its property in the Cheshire countryside after 88 years to realise a long-held ambition to move to north Manchester, close to the Jewish community.

The move results from a partnership with the Together Trust, a non-Jewish social care organisation helping children and adults with special needs.


Longest ‘chained wife’ freed after husband’s death

By Leon Symons, February 15, 2010

The husband of the woman who was believed to be the world's longest-serving agunah – “chained wife” – has died.

Susan Zinkin and Israel Errol Elias divorced in the civil courts in 1962, but he refused to give her a get, or religious divorce.

Ms Zinkin was therefore unable to remarry under Orthodox auspices, or have more children without them being labelled mamser, or illegitimate.

News of the death of Mr Elias, who was 86 and lived in Golders Green, emerged on Monday.


Headteacher admits breaching race guidelines

By Leon Symons, February 12, 2010

The head teacher of a school accused of racial and religious discrimination admitted at an employment tribunal that she had not followed local authority guidelines.

Jill Hankey, former head of Bigland Green Primary School in Tower Hamlets, east London, said she had been aware of guidelines that advised teachers on how to deal with racist incidents involving pupils and teachers and their aftermath.

Supply teacher Nicholas Kafouris had told her of an incident where a nine-year-old Muslim boy whose arm he brushed said to him: “Don’t touch me, you’re a Christian.”


Man who refused wife a get loses action against JC

By Leon Symons, February 11, 2010

A man who complained about the JC’s coverage of his refusal to give his wife a get has lost his action against the paper.

Edward Saleh’s wife Miriam divorced him three years ago. But he left her an agunah — a chained woman — unless she agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of a Beth Din that would seek to re-open the issues settled in her civil action.

Ms Saleh refused and, even now, is still unable to remarry according to Jewish law.

This week the newspaper watchdog, the Press Complaints Commission, rejected Mr Saleh’s claim that the JC’s report was inaccurate.


School that 'allowed antisemitism' lost 19 teachers

By Leon Symons, February 10, 2010

Nineteen teachers left an east London primary school accused of racial and religious discrimination in just six years, an employment tribunal has heard.

The teachers were employed at Bigland Green Primary School in Tower Hamlets and, according to Nicholas Kafouris, who is suing the school, this was due in part to the head, Jill Hankey.

“She upset a lot of teachers of different cultures and faiths,” Mr Kafouris said in answer to a question from one of the members of the tribunal in central London.


Teacher 'sacked for challenging antisemitism'

By Leon Symons, February 9, 2010

A Christian teacher who claims he was forced out of his job for reporting his pupils’ antisemitic and anti-Christian comments clashed repeatedly with a barrister at an employment tribunal.

Nicholas Kafouris, 52, claimed that pupils at predominantly Muslim Bigland Primary School in Tower Hamlets, east London, had said in lessons that they “hated Jews and Christians”, had praised the Twin Towers perpetrators as heroes and martyrs and said they wanted to be “Islamic bombers” when they grew up.


Cash for Israel-UK research

By Leon Symons, January 21, 2010

The government is to increase financial aid for a scheme that has enhanced links between British and Israeli academics.

Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said that an extra £29,000 will be given to the British Israel Research and Academic Exchange partnership (BIRAX), which was set up as a bulwark against a threatened academic boycott of Israel.

The partnership, now in its second year, has given support to 15 innovative scientific research projects ranging from galaxy clusters to motor neuron degeneration and involving 17 different universities in Britain and Israel.


UCU under fire for 'institutional racism'

By Leon Symons, January 21, 2010

The University and College Union has been accused of being antisemitic and institutionally racist by one of its members at a seminar it was running — to fight antisemitism.

The union, whose repeated attempts to introduce an academic boycott of Israel have led to a number of resignations, was the subject of a scathing attack by David Hirsh, who runs the Engage anti-boycott website.