Simon Rocker

Interview: Joseph Dweck

By Simon Rocker, September 12, 2014

The St John's Wood home occupied by Britain's previous three chief rabbis has been vacant for nearly a year, with Chief Rabbi Mirvis having opted for Hendon instead.

But the impressive period residence has recently acquired a new tenant - Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, who will be installed into office on Sunday week.

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Challenge to school’s entry rules

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

Representatives of King David High School, Manchester, are to meet officials from the watchdog that oversees schools admissions next week after a challenge to its entry rules.

The Orthodox school is one of around 50 schools from different faiths whose rules have been questioned by the Fair Admissions Campaign.

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Board chief: MCB link was an act of 'leadership'

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

The new chief executive of the Board of Deputies, Gillian Merron, has stood by the Board's controversial joint statement with the Muslim Council of Britain in her first interview since taking office.

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US says Board seen to 'lack leadership'

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman was under fresh pressure this week after the United Synagogue issued a letter commenting on the Board's "perceived lack of effective leadership".

But US president Stephen Pack made clear on Wednesday that it did not support moves to oust him from office.

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The rabbi behind the American Jacobs affair

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

The New London Synagogue, founded by Rabbi Louis Jacobs after his exile from the United Synagogue, has been celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

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Scrum down for Shabbat UK

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

The countdown has begun for Chief Rabbi Mirvis's Shabbat UK, just six weeks away.

More than a hundred shuls, schools and groups have signed up to special events to promote Shabbat observance and celebration.

Already scheduled is a mass challah bake beforehand in which thousands are expected to take part.

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Copied copper scroll is one to treasure

By Simon Rocker, September 5, 2014

A couple who have made high-quality facsimiles of illustrated medieval manuscipts and even of the Dead Sea Scrolls have embarked on their most difficult challenge yet - to make a replica of the mysterious Copper Scroll.

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Taking liberties with Torah stories

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

The rabbis of old made daring leaps of the imagination when commenting on the stories of the Torah, creating what we call midrash.

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Few gripes with Gyllenhaal

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

Here's a surprise statistic: BBC2's eight-week drama on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Honourable Woman, which ended last month, provoked just two complaints. Given the heat usually generated by anything about the Middle East on TV and its coincidence with the Israel-Hamas war, that is an extraordinarily low grumble rate.

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WJR joins with Islamic Relief in Iraq vigil

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

The Reform movement's Senior Rabbi, Laura Janner-Klausner, has spoken at a multi-faith vigil jointly organised by a Muslim charity accused by Israel of links with Hamas.

Islamic Relief Worldwide co-sponsored Wednesday's event on behalf of Iraq's endangered minorities with World Jewish Relief and Christian Aid.

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Masorti gets the taste for growth

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

Masorti Judaism is looking to spread its wings with initiatives planned in a number of new locations.

Its chief executive Matt Plen reported that there had been two activities in Muswell Hill, "we're doing an initial activity in Mill Hill and we're also looking at launching a study group in south Manchester".

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He's now heading the Fed

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

London Rabbi Avi Lazarus started work this week as the Federation of Synagogues' new chief executive.

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Islamic charity launches probe over Hamas funding claims

By Simon Rocker, September 2, 2014

A leading Muslim charity in the UK is carrying out an internal investigation into its aid to Palestinians following Israeli claims of links to Hamas.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon banned Birmingham-based Islamic Relief Worldwide from operating in the West Bank in June, accusing it of funnelling money to Hamas-controlled organisations.

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Why Baruch Spinoza is still excommunicated

By Simon Rocker, August 28, 2014

The year 1656 is usually remembered as the date of the readmission of Jews to England. But something else happened then, regarded by some as an infamous act that remains a lingering stain on European Jewry.

Amsterdam's Sephardi authorities pronounced a cherem, a ban of excommunication, on the rationalist philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

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'As gunmen came in, we hid in the cellar'

By Simon Rocker, August 22, 2014

Decimated by the Nazis and repressed under Stalin, Jews in Ukraine have been rebuilding their communal life over the past two decades since the collapse of Communism.

But now many face an uncertain future as fighting continues in the east of the country between government forces and pro-Russia separatists.

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Stamford Hill school scores well with Ofsted inspectors

By Simon Rocker, August 21, 2014

A Chasidic girls' primary school in Stamford Hill has impressed Ofsted inspectors.

Bnos Zion of Bobov, an independent school for 158 girls aged from three to 12 serving the Bobov Chasidic community, was rated good after a visit from Ofsted, with the behaviour and care of pupils found to be outstanding.

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Women wait for cash to save equality bid

By Simon Rocker, August 15, 2014

A campaign to improve equality for women in Jewish organisations is waiting to see if it will get further financial support from the Jewish Leadership Council.

Women in Jewish Leadership had expected a grant of £15,000 from the JLC for a second year, matching a similar pledge from the Board of Deputies.

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Equality commission launches survey on religion

By Simon Rocker, August 14, 2014

The Equality and Human Rights Commission wants to find out more about whether people’s religious practices are being respected at work.

There are existing laws to prevent discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

But the commission says that little is known how often issues relating to religion crop up in the workplace.

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Jews join Iraq protest at Downing Street

By Simon Rocker, August 14, 2014

A group of Jews joined a demonstration outside Downing Street yesterday to highlight the threat facing minorities in Iraq from Islamic State jihadists.

Members of Harif, the association for Jews from the Middle East and North Africa, were part of a 500-strong protest organised by Solidarity Against Isis (the previous name of Islamic State).

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Dark story behind the festival of love

By Simon Rocker, August 11, 2014

Tu b’Av, which falls today, is probably the least-known festival on the Jewish calendar. Probably only regular daveners of shacharit will notice because the prayers of supplication which would normally be said that morning are omitted.

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