Leon Symons

Limmud to be biggest-ever

By Leon Symons, November 26, 2009

Limmud 2009 will be the biggest ever, with almost 2,500 people from all over Britain so far signed up for Anglo-Jewry’s largest single event.

Such is the demand for this year’s conference that all the accommodation at the University of Warwick, where Limmud has been held for the past two years, has been booked already.

The organisers have held talks with the university to try to find more rooms.

Co-chair Rebecca Lester said: “The increased demand is the result of better marketing of the conference. More people have heard about us and want to take part.”

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Israel critics pledge their backing for Goldstone

By Leon Symons, November 26, 2009

Anglo-Jewish groups which are strongly critical of Israel are planning a public show of support for the Goldstone Report on Israel’s action in Gaza.

Independent Jewish Voices and Jews for Justice for Palestinians are among a number of organisations who intend to place an open letter addressed to Prime Minister Gordon Brown in The Times.

Noting that “British Jews do not speak with one voice”, they welcome the Goldstone Report and condemn what they call the “vilification” of Judge Richard Goldstone.

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European hate crimes should be monitored, says report

By Leon Symons, November 19, 2009

Efforts to crack down on antisemitism and other hate crimes in Europe are being hampered by erratic reporting and monitoring, according to a new report.

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights said in its hates crimes incidents report for 2008 that “a lack of accurate, comprehensive data on hate crimes undermines that ability of states to understand fully and deal effectively with the problem of hate crimes”.

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Hamas education website slammed by Unesco

By Leon Symons, November 19, 2009

A website used by Hamas to educate children and young people in Gaza violates every international educational standard set by Unesco, according to a new report.

The website, Al-Fateh, “instructs its young audience in hatred and incites them to bloodshed and suicide… [it] is against the fundamental rights of children”, says the report.

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Israeli police to get lessons in UK

By Leon Symons, November 19, 2009

Sixteen senior Israeli policemen are being brought to Britain to take part in a special training programme to improve their relations with the country’s Arab citizens.

The brigadier-generals, one of whom may become the head of the Israeli police force, will spend five days at the end of November with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and four days with the Metropolitan Police in London.

The trip has been organised by the Abraham Fund Initiative (AFI), which is dedicated to improving co-existence between Israelis and Arabs living in Israel.

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Jews asked by lawyer for views on assisted suicide

By Leon Symons, November 19, 2009

The Director of Public Prosecutions is calling on Jewish communities across England and Wales to give their views on his interim policy on assisted suicide.

Keir Starmer, who leads the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), has published the factors he takes into account when deciding whether or not to allow prosecutions for assisted suicide.

Mr Starmer said: “I am keen for as many people as possible to take part in this debate, including Jewish communities throughout England and Wales.

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Antisemitism institute to be opened at Birkbeck

By Leon Symons, November 19, 2009

The first academic institute in Britain to deal solely with antisemitism — only the second in Europe — is to be set up in London, funded by £1.5 million from the Pears Foundation.

The new institute will occupy a building on the campus at Birkbeck College, part of the University of London, and will be next to the proposed new home of the Wiener Library, the world’s oldest Holocaust memorial institution, which will offer its resources to the project.

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Boris Johnson backs Jewish festival

By Leon Symons, November 19, 2009

A major new showcase for Anglo-Jewish culture, based loosely on the Edinburgh Festival, is to be launched next spring with the backing of London’s City Hall.

The month-long Open Jewish Cultural Festival will provide a platform for Jewish performance from Britain and abroad, and will include some established events.

One option being considered by festival organisers is to open with Jewish Book Week and close with the formal opening of the new Jewish Museum at its new home in Camden.

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British ambassador: Israeli rights are in the bible

By Leon Symons, November 19, 2009

The deep mistrust that exists between Israel and the Palestinians will only be exacerbated by the announcement this week of 900 new homes in occupied territory, according to Britain’s ambassador in Tel Aviv.

Tom Phillips, in Britain this week, said: “I don’t know why the Israelis are doing this. There’s clearly a negotiation with the US over the nature of more building, a moratorium on settlements which it is hoped will be enough to get peace talks going again.

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Remembrance Day abuse scout cautioned

By Leon Symons, November 16, 2009

A 17-year-old scout who shouted antisemitic abuse at a Remembrance Day ceremony has been cautioned by police.

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Antisemitic abuse by scout on Remembrance Day

By Leon Symons, November 13, 2009

A teenage scout is to be interviewed by police about antisemitic abuse shouted at Jewish ex-servicemen during a Remembrance Day service in Romford, Essex.

Shouts of “here come the Jews, let’s kill the Jews” punctuated a march-past by hundreds of ex-soldiers, including a contingent of the Association of Jewish Ex-servicemen and Women.

The shouts came from a group of Romford Explorer scouts in uniform who were accompanied by adults

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Sex education gets a cautious welcome

By Leon Symons, November 12, 2009

Jewish education leaders have given a guarded welcome to the government’s announcement of its plans for sex education in schools.

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, unveiled plans to make personal, social, health and economic education compulsory in schools from 2011.

Faith schools will have to teach the new curriculum, but “within the tenets of their faith”, said Mr Balls.

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Palestinian unions say Israel boycott would harm them

By Leon Symons, November 12, 2009

The leader of Palestine’s equivalent of the TUC has told a delegation of British trade unionists that they are not interested in general boycotts of Israel.

Shaher Saeed, general secretary of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), told representatives of seven unions that the organisation had so little interest in the subject it had never discussed boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and therefore had no policy on the subject.

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Community letter attacks government on Kaminski

By Leon Symons, November 9, 2009

Anglo-Jewry has launched a second public attack on the government in a week. A letter published in the Daily Telegraph signed by some communal leaders called on Foreign Secretary David Miliband to withdraw accusations he made against the Conservatives’ new European allies. A number of the signatories were Tory party supporters.

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Israeli cleared of causing policeman's death

By Leon Symons, November 6, 2009

An Israeli has been cleared of causing the death by dangerous driving of an off-duty motor-cycle policeman.

Liron Shnaider, a 26-year-old musician who lives in Golders Green, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of careless driving and will be sentenced next month.

Shnaider was acquitted after a four-day trial at Isleworth Crown Court during which his counsel, Jonathan Goldberg QC, demonstrated that the accident in April that brought about the death of 36-year-old PC Chris Dent occurred because of a sequence of unfortunate events.

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Yavneh deputy head leaves

By Leon Symons, November 5, 2009

The deputy head of Yavneh College in Borehamwood is leaving to head a new academy school in Essex.

Matthew Slater joined Yavneh in 2005, a year before it opened, and has been instrumental in overseeing most of the building work that has transformed it into a state-of-the-art school.

He is leaving at the end of this term to become principal of Drapers’ Academy in Harold Hill, a project similar to Yavneh in that the new school will be developed from existing buildings.

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Rabbis call for kashrut price cuts

By Leon Symons, November 5, 2009

A Tesco chicken was waved, figuratively speaking, above the heads of some of Europe’s leading rabbis at a conference in Brussels last week.

More than 100 rabbis met to discuss kashrut and how to make it cheaper.

The £2 Tesco chicken was cited as an example of cheap non-kosher food being sold across Europe. A kosher chicken costs five times more.

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Polish filmmaker in death-threat claim

By Leon Symons, November 5, 2009

A London-based Polish filmmaker says he has received death threats and been the target of a hate campaign for making a film about antisemitism.

Aro Korol believed that the campaign led to him being photographed by people who, he claimed, were Polish government agents.

His claims were strenuously denied by the Polish Embassy, although it admitted that a Catholic political party had complained to the Polish Foreign Ministry about the film, saying it would cause serious offence.

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Last piano-maker in UK closes down

By Leon Symons, November 5, 2009

The last piano-maker in Britain, which started life in the heart of north London’s Jewish community, has closed its doors just 18 months short of its centenary.

Michael Kemble started Kemble and Co in Stoke Newington in 1903 and now his grandson, Brian, has completed the last two pianos to be made in the UK — literally. He put the last strings in the last piano himself.

Now production has been taken over by the Japanese company Yamaha, with which Kemble has worked since 1968.

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BBC says: we must give voice to Hamas

By Leon Symons, November 5, 2009

The BBC Trust has said that the terror organisation Hamas “should be treated fairly and a right of reply conferred where appropriate”.

The response was revealed after the Trust rejected a complaint from solicitor Andrew White, who runs a pro-Israeli website, beyondimages.info.

He had complained originally that a website article about a BBC Panorama programme on Gaza gave a “very skewed” view of Hamas, airbrushing out much of its violent actions against Israel and Palestinians in Gaza.

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