Simon Rocker

Heavy metal secrets from a Mid-East cave

By Simon Rocker, March 3, 2011

Robert Feather is out to prove the sceptics wrong. A metallurgist with a passion for archaeology, he has been asked to help authenticate what he believes could be one of the most exciting religious discoveries since the Dead Sea Scrolls.

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Labour group attacked over boycott backing

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

Hendon Labour Party has protested to the leader of the Labour group on Tower Hamlets Council over its support for a resolution to boycott Israel.

Councillors in the east London borough last month voted in favour of sanctions against the "pariah state".

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Reform gets Rich with executive choice

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

The Movement for Reform Judaism, which has been professionally headed by a rabbi for the past 16 years, has chosen public relations expert Ben Rich to be its new chief executive.

He will succeed executive director Rabbi Shoshana Boyd-Gelfand full-time in May, although he will begin working with her next month to ensure a smooth transition.

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JNF say no to UK Arab task force

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

JNF UK has decided to keep its distance from a recently established task force to increase awareness among British Jews of issues faced by Israel's Arab citizens.

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Leadership Council role re-think

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

JNF UK has refused to quell speculation that it is reconsidering its membership of the Jewish Leadership Council.

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UK pushes for two states 'by September'

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

The Board of Deputies has asked for a meeting with Foreign Secretary William Hague amid concern that the UK government holds Israel responsible for the deadlock in the Middle East peace process and is

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“Katzav is innocent”

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

Israeli ex-President Moshe Katzav awaits sentencing after being convicted of rape last month.

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Trotsky and the pop star

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

Genealogists, here is a mission for you. The Evening Standard reported that Sylvia Young, founder of the London theatrical school, believes she is related to Leon Trotsky.

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BBC's history in the making

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

After recently revealing BBC plans for a Simon Schama history of the Jews, I can now give more details.

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Don't let down the donkeys

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

There are some causes that transcend political divisions in the Middle East and one of them is donkeys with sore noses.

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He's clear, certainly

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

Pity poor Robert Fisk, whose judgement has been made to look, er, rather strange by recent events.

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Mel the man for Madoff?

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2011

Hollywood is reportedly planning to make a film about fraudster Bernard Madoff, now in the second year of his 150-year jail term.

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Priest House

By Simon Rocker, February 21, 2011

When we embarked on my son's pilgrimage to Alton Towers, we took friends' advice and avoided the hotels at the theme park.

We broke our journey a 45-minute drive away at the Priest House in the village of Castle Donnington.

The four-star Handpicked Hotel is a pretty stopover, set at the end of a country lane along a serene stretch of the Trent. Taking tea on the terrace or watching the blue dragonfly nibble the bushes on a riverbank proved ideal respite after a hard day's rollercoasting.

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The poncho you can pray in

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

After the Coen coat and the Shalom top shown here in recent months, could this be the ultimate in Jewish chic?

The spring offering depicted below is on sale here in high street fashion chain H & M.

But the Swedish-based company claims its designers did not draw on the synagogue.

"A Jewish prayer shawl was not used as inspiration," said an H & M spokesman. "The poncho style top was designed with current trends in mind. This one in particular is inspired by the '70's."

Still, I shudder to think what some rabbis will make of the garment if they spot it in the ladies' gallery.

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A lost tribe calls from Fiji

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

Since King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, according to the Bible, it is not surprising that many peoples claim the energetic sovereign to have been their ancestor.

The representative of a new group of reputed descendants has emailed us for help, from Fiji. The Itaukei Jews - itaukei means "indigenous" in Fijian - wish to be recognised as of the faith and request a visit from our "chief president" to research their history and genealogy.

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St Matthew goes to shul

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

Shul-goers were left wondering over the United Synagogue's leaflet on the weekly Torah portion last Shabbat. A helpful illustration of the High Priest's costume came with a quotation from an unexpected source, the Gospel of Matthew.

Could the Archbishop of Canterbury be making a bid to be next Chief Rabbi?

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A woman named Netanya

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

What with Channel 4's The Promise and a documentary on children in Gaza, TV coverage of Israel was grimmer than usual this week. But a moment's relief came on BBC1's Graham Norton Show on Monday. A young woman in the red chair slot, where members of the public tell anecdotes, introduced herself as "Netanya" from Norfolk.

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Ben Rich named as new Reform Judaism head

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2011

The Movement for Reform Judaism has appointed public relations consultant Ben Rich to be its next chief executive.

He will succeed executive director Rabbi Shoshana Boyd-Gelfand full-time in May, although he will begin working with her next month to ensure a smooth transition.

Mr Rich, 44, is already familiar with the movement, having acted as its PR adviser on projects such as the launch of the Reform siddur three years ago.

His communal experience also includes work for the Jewish Community Secondary School and Mitzvah Day.

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No need to stand on one leg

By Simon Rocker, February 17, 2011

There is a famous talmudic story in which Rabbi Hillel is asked by a would-be convert if he could study the Torah while standing on one leg.

Well, now he could have been recommended The 100-Minute Torah by Rabbi Cliff Cohen of Thanet and District Reform Synagogue. Consisting of 50 short chapters with extracts from the Hebrew Bible and rabbinic teachings, it is the latest in a series of brief guides to sacred books including the Koran produced by the 100-Minute Press.

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Friday nights will count for Jewish school entry

By Simon Rocker, February 17, 2011

JFS, Yavneh College and King Solomon High School have agreed to alter their entry rules next year to allow Friday night synagogue attendance to count towards proof of religious practice.

Applicants have to go to a certain number of Shabbat services during the year to fulfil admission requirements.

But the policy this year applied only to Saturday morning attendance.

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