Simon Rocker

Celebrities sign up to the Chief's Shabbat project

By Simon Rocker, September 23, 2014

Chief Rabbi Mirvis's Shabbat UK event, set to take place in four weeks, has received endorsement from celebrities.

Actress Maureen Lipman, radio presenter Vanessa Feltz and singer-songwriter Alex Clare have recorded promotional videos, encouraging participation in Shabbat activities.

More than 100 synagogues, school and other groups are planning events to enhance celebration and observance o

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'Don't shut out those with qualms on Gaza'

By Simon Rocker, September 23, 2014

A senior United Synagogue rabbi said this week that the community should not shut out Jews who had qualms about Israeli actions in Gaza.

Hampstead Synagogue's Rabbi Michael Harris, speaking at a conference on modern Orthodoxy in London, said that he had felt "uneasy throughout the past summer that the community's official bodies were making no room for people who had moral qualms about some of

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New Sephardi leader is 'good news'

By Simon Rocker, September 23, 2014

A string quartet greeted guests as they entered the historic candlelit sanctuary of Bevis Marks.

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Ambassador hails Britons aiming to become Israelis

By Simon Rocker, September 23, 2014

Joseph Moses, has given up his job at the Board of Deputies where he was among those battling against the boycott of Israel. Instead, he is heading for a new life in Israel - as one of the hundreds of British Jews making aliyah this year.

"It's always been in the back of my mind," he said.

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'Israel missing a window of opportunity in Middle East’

By Simon Rocker, September 19, 2014

Israel’s expropriation of 1,000 acres of West Bank land to extend the Etzion settlement bloc was a “huge mistake”, according to the incoming president of the New Israel Fund, Talia Sasson.

The current situation in the Middle East gave Israel the chance to restart peace talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, she argued.

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Ofsted swoops on more Jewish schools

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2014

Following last week's shock inspection report downgrading JFS from an outstanding school to one requiring improvement, three more state-aided Jewish schools have been the subject of unannounced visits from Ofsted.

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Progressives forge closer ties to attract unaffiliated

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2014

The Reform and Liberal movements have agreed a formal alliance, pledging greater co-operation in order to strengthen the overall Progressive presence within the community.

Although merger talks took place between the two movements 30 years ago, they have never been reopened.

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Interview: Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2014

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has given his whole-hearted backing for Shabbat prayer groups for Orthodox women - once regarded as so controversial that his predecessor Lord Sacks barred them from synagogues for many years.

In his first interview since taking office a year ago, the chief rabbi said that women's prayer groups were "an excellent facility for us to have in our communities".

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Bake-off launch for Shabbat UK

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2014

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said he has been "swept away" by community reaction to his Shabbat UK initiative, set to take place next month.

More than 100 synagogues, schools and other groups are planning events to enhance celebration and observance of the day of rest on October 24 and 25.

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Open Orthodox rabbi to address UK conference

By Simon Rocker, September 17, 2014

One of the United States’s leading American modern Orthodox rabbis is coming to the UK for a two-day conference organised by a young religious activist.

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Ofsted swoops on more Jewish schools

By Simon Rocker, September 16, 2014

Following last week’s shock inspection report, downgrading JFS from an outstanding school to one requiring improvement, two more state-aided Jewish schools have been the subject of unannounced visits from Ofsted.

Inspectors swooped today on Beis Yaakov, a strictly Orthodox girls high school in Salford.

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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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