Simon Rocker

Anger at National Front inclusion in government inquiry

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The Board of Deputies has protested over the participation of the National Front in a government inquiry into racism in schools.

In a letter to the inquiry head Maurice Smith, a former Chief Inspector of Schools, chief executive Jon Benjamin said it was "deeply concerned" to hear he had met representatives of the NF.

Mr Benjamin wrote: "We are at a loss to understand what you hoped to gain by dignifying the National Front with your time and your attention.

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United Synagogue affiliates elect chair

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The United Synagogue's affiliated congregations have elected their own chairman to fight their corner against attempts by the US to remove theirspecial status.

Reynold Rosenberg, chairman of Welwyn Garden City, one of 16 affiliated US synagogues, will spearhead efforts to resolve the dispute with US leaders.

Affiliated congregations have greater independence and pay less towards US central services than constituent shuls.

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Strong demand for Jewish Haringey primary

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Plans are under way to open a Jewish primary school in Haringey which could have the support of synagogue bodies across the board.

Its promoters believe that the responses to a survey of Jewish families in the catchment area indicate demand for a new one-form entry, state-aided primary.

"Haringey does not have any state-aided Jewish school," said joint project leader Peter Kessler. "What it does have is a large and growing number of Jewish families. It also has an under-supply of primary school places and that under-supply is forecast to get worse and worse in coming years.

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Demand for JCoSS 'exceeds expectations'

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The new Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) is on course for a full first-year intake when it opens in East Barnet in September after receiving well over two applications for every place.

Mike Grabiner, chairman of the cross-communal school, said the number "exceeded all our expectations" and showed "a very significant demand… which can only grow as we establish ourselves".

JCoSS had 453 applicants for 180 places but like other Jewish schools, it will have to wait many weeks before knowing how many pupils are likely to start in autumn.

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Carry on purim

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Perhaps they should start rating Purimspiels like films for child suitability.

Here's a snatch from the festivities at the New North London Synagogue. "A consignment of Viagra was stolen from downturn Purim. Police are looking for three hard-ended criminals."

Which prompted my 11-year-old to ask: "Daddy, why that's funny?"

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Spare the chicken soup

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Among Jewish Book Week highlights was a session on meatlessness between vegetarian authors Jonathan Safran Foer and Etgar Keret.

But while Safran Foer's two young sons are following daddy's diet, Keret junior remains to be convinced, according to Hephzibah Anderson.

"When asked by his four-year-old why he doesn't eat schnitzels," she blogged. "Etgar explained that he thought about the animal being killed and lost his appetite. 'I think the same thought,' his carnivorous son grinned, 'But with me it has the opposite effect.'

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Good habits start young

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Who said young people no longer read newspapers? Pay heed, all you parents, to Emanuel Joseph Latchman, aged one and a half of Golders Green - son of Hannah and Birkbeck College Master, Professor David Latchman - engrossed in his weekly JC.

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A phoney story

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

To those who rushed out to install the new Mitzvah App on your iPhone, after our story last week, an almost sincere apology: Sunday was Purim and the story an invention.

This did not stop the Guardian from ringing up first thing Friday to find out more.

But absolutely true is that you can get a Megillah App, complete with range of noises for the mention of Haman.

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MPs cut kosher expenses

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Congratulations to the All-Party Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism which has got the House of Commons to change its rules to make kosher catering cheaper there. Groups booking functions incur a room charge unless they have a minimum number of guests.
Previously those ordering kosher meals did not count towards the minimum, but now they will.

Charities will be thus spared needless room hire charges, says committee chairman John Mann. Order him a tray of mini latkes and crispy duck pancakes, someone.

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The Chasidic blogger who doesn't believe in God

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

He looks just a regular Chasid among the strictly Orthodox legions of north London's Stamford Hill: his kippah is black velvet, he wears peyot and he is the product of Yiddish-speaking school and yeshivah.

But Pen Tivokeish - to give him his pen-name - harbours a secret. He is part of a religious underworld, the author of a blog where he records his true feelings as a Charedi man who does not believe in God.

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Sex, faith and Mr Balls

By Simon Rocker, February 26, 2010

Schools Secretary Ed Balls may have come under fire this week for making too many concessions to faith schools over sex education.

But the reality is, it doesn't seem all that clear precisely how the national guidelines will play out in the classroom.

While religious schools will not be able to opt out of requirements to teach "sex and relationships education", they will be able to present it according to their own religious values. However, Mr Balls stressed, they will not be able to teach their views of their own faith alone.

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JNF sues board member for £700k costs

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

JNF UK could be heading for a new High Court case later this year after suing a former board member for nearly £700,000.

The charity claims that Maurice Sherling (known as Charlie), owes the money to cover the JNF's legal fees in its past dispute with its Israeli associate Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL).

Mr Sherling, managing director of Sherling Steel, Ireland's largest independently owned steel supplier, paid £579,095 towards JNF's legal costs in the UK and Israel, according to papers filed by his lawyers in the High Court.

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Human rights group takes UK to court over Israel sanctions

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

A Palestinian human rights group is making a fresh attempt through the courts to force the British government to adopt sanctions against Israel.

The West Bank-based Al Haq wants a ruling that Britain is in breach of its human rights obligations by failing to take action.

The group, represented by the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, lost an application for a judicial review to hear its case in the High Court last year.

But an appeal, which will be contested by the Foreign Office, was due to begin in the Court of Appeal yesterday.

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Faith schools must teach sex and contraception

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

State-aided religious schools will have to teach about contraception and ceremonies for gay couples in future, according to new rules being introduced by the government.

Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, stressed that faith schools would not be able to opt out of new requirements for sex education, due to come into force next year.

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Grandmother's bid to become Sephardi exec

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

A London grandmother is bidding to become what is believed to be the first female executive member of Britain's oldest Orthodox synagogue body.

Doris Osen is standing for election next month to the mahamad of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, despite reservations from the Sephardi Beth Din as to whether Jewish law permits her to serve on it.

Mrs Osen, in her 70s, is descended from two of the families who founded Bevis Marks Synagogue in the City of London in 1701 and has chaired a number of the synagogue's committees down the years.

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Rabbi regrets praise for child abuser

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

A senior member of London's strictly Orthodox rabbinate says he was unaware that an American rabbi he publicly praised was a convicted child abuser.

Rabbi Ze'ev Feldman, of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, wrote a letter endorsing a fundraising event in Stamford Hill this week to help pay for the weddings of four children of Rabbi Yisroel Moshe Weingarten.

Rabbi Weingarten, a member of the Satmar sect, was last year jailed for 30 years by a New York court for abusing one of his daughters.

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Fine time for a trip to Austen country

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

Astonishingly, when Jane Austen was laid to rest in Winchester Cathedral in 1817, only four people attended the funeral. Today thousands would line the streets in homage. And 200 years on, there's no let-up in the commemoration of the nation's favourite literary daughter.

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Stacey pigs out on ITV

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

I am sure Stacey Solomon must have had many an offer to sing at simchahs since X Factor stardom, but she certainly won't be advising on the catering.

Not after her appearance on Monday's This Morning show on ITV, where she was invited to sample the recipe of the day.

"This is the reason I came," cooed King Solomon High School's most famous graduate as she took a mouthful of the dish - belly of pork with shallots and gherkins.

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Ali for Jerusalem?

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

Could Muhammad Ali be bound for Israel to take part in trials to treat Parkinson's Disease at Hadassah Hospital next year?

The boxing legend's daughter Rasheda Ali sits on the advisory board of Israeli company BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, which is looking at stem cell treatments.

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Privy to US secrets

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

What do the great men of the United Synagogue turn to for inspiration?

Spotted in the gents at the organisation's headquarters last week was a copy of Pulled Off At Half-Time, a collection of "football's finest quotes and funniest quips" with a foreword from former England international, Rabbi Rodney Marsh.

Next week: inside the loos at the London Beth Din.

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