Simon Rocker

Birmingham mosque defends Saudi speakers

By Simon Rocker, December 24, 2009

Birmingham’s Green Lane Mosque has defended its invitations to two Saudi-based invitations condemned as “antisemitic and anti-sectarian” by another Muslim organisation.

British Muslims for Secular Democracy had called on the mosque to cancel scheduled appearances this weekend by Faisal al-Jassim and Abdul Aziz Al-Sadhan.

The anti-extremist think-tank had also denounced the invitations to the two preachers, publishing extracts from their sermons.

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Analysis: No reason to think a consensus is at hand

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2009

When, two years ago, an 11-year-old boy was rejected by Europe’s largest Jewish school, no one would have foreseen the consequences: three court hearings costing hundreds of thousands of pounds, the interference of the secular authorities in the affairs of a religious minority, and the forced overhaul of entry polices which had served Jewish schools for decades.

But the roots of the JFS conflict lie outside this country: they are part of a global battle over the definition of who is a Jew which has been gradually heating up in the post-war years and may well become fiercer yet.

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Convert challenge to Chief after JFS

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2009

The Board of Deputies faces an uphill battle to secure non-Orthodox support for a change in the law in order to override last week’s Supreme Court judgment on Jewish school admissions.

The Liberal, Masorti and Reform movements have all indicated that their support for any change to the Equality Bill, currently going through Parliament, will be conditional on their converts being accepted into mainstream Orthodox schools.

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Muslims slam hate speakers

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2009

A Muslim campaign group has called for the withdrawal of an invitation to two Saudi-based preachers it denounced as “antisemitic,” who are due to speak at a Birmingham mosque at the weekend.

Faisal al-Jasem and Abdul Az As-Sadhan are scheduled to appear at the winter conference of the Green Lane Mosque.

But in a letter to the mosque, leaders of British Muslims for Secular Democracy said that they had read about the teachings of the two men “with great alarm”.

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Nude bikers' cold reception

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2009

Riding bicycles may be ecologically sound but not in New York’s strictly Orthodox enclave of Williamsburg.

Chasidic residents successfully lobbied for the removal of a bike lane, citing parking problems and reportedly the invasion of scantily-clad riders.

In response, two-wheeled objectors had planned a protest last Saturday with a topless ride through the area.

But providence, and the weather, intervened: the downturn in temperatures forced the stripped protesters to cover up.

Is there a prayer for frost?

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One over the eight in Essex

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2009

I hope you had yourselves a merry Chanucah. They certainly did at Buckhurst Hill Chabad House in Essex, with this whisky-filled menorah.

The 7ft lamp was made of pipes containing 65 litres of single malt donated by the Tullibardine Distillery in the Scottish Highlands.

A tap fitted to the stem of the menorah ensured that Rabbi Odom Brandman (pictured) and company could enjoy a regular flow of l’chaims.

Beats doughnuts any day.

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Mandy amid the latkes

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2009

Although Gordon Brown was off in Copenhagen trying to cool the planet, Lord Mandelson was on hand to dispense good cheer at last week’s Downing Street Chanucah party.

Premier latkas all round for those there to enjoy them. But while entertainment types such as Josh Howie and Vanessa Feltz were present, many a communal official was miffed at not being on the guest list.

Still, there’s always Purim.

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Guardian apologises

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2009

Hallelujah, an apology from the Guardian on Tuesday, which said it should not have put headline “Israel admits harvesting Palestinian organs” on a story about the admission, from an ex-head of a forensic institute, that, in the 1990s, specialists took organs from the bodies of Israeli soldiers and citizens, Palestinians and foreign workers without permission from families. The headline “did not match the article”, the paper said.

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Inside story: bad-guy broiges

By Simon Rocker, December 17, 2009

A striking trio of Jewish prisoners is currently doing time in the remote surroundings of the North Carolina Correctional Facility, USA. Jonathan Pollard, convicted of spying for Israel, is far from keen on the company of his Jewish cellmate, a rapist and murderer. He does, though, have a regular lunch with the third Jew: Bernie Madoff. Lunch companions they may be, but the Diary has learned that Pollard is barely more enamoured with the stupendous swindler, whose lack of remorse irks Pollard. According to Our Man On The Inside, Pollard regards Madoff as lowlife.

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Free speech – Good Lord!

By Simon Rocker, December 17, 2009

It Seems that the recently ennobled Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks is beginning to find his feet in the House of Lords. But, as he explained to delegates at Sunday’s JNF conference in Hendon, acclimatising to the rarefied air of the upper chamber has not been an entirely straightforward process.

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A darling seeking lovers

By Simon Rocker, December 17, 2009

Are you a single Jewish lady looking for love? Are you husband-hunting? Are you the last single girl among your friends? Do you have a pushy mother who sets you up on dates?

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Sitting pretty with Rachel

By Simon Rocker, December 17, 2009

Want to sit on a celebrity cuddle couch? It could be yours for £300. Alex Bourne, actor and Maccabi league star striker, better known as the other half of singer Rachel Stevens, is offering the couple’s year-old purple sofa for sale on Facebook. And Alex is prepared to take a £1,700 loss on the £2,000 that he forked out a year ago.

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Charities miss out on cash

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Charities are missing out by not claiming extra tax relief through Gift Aid on cash donations, according to the Charity Commission.

It says that each £10 could attract an extra £2.50 through Gift Aid — with an additional 30p that can be reclaimed from the Inland Revenue until April 2011.

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Matt Lucas and Ron Prosor make 2010 Who's Who

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor and comedian Matt Lucas are among the new Jewish entrants to the bible of British achievement, the 2010 edition of Who’s Who.

No hobbies are ascribed to the ambassador, but for the 35-year-old co-star of Little Britain, eating crisps and crumpets and watching football are listed among his recreations.

Channel Five controller Richard Woolfe, the chairman of London Fashion Week Harold Tillman, and paragliding theatre director Mark Rubinstein also make their debut this time.

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Err, thanks. Fascist pub lunch raises money for hospital

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Supporters of an extreme right-wing Hungarian party allied to the BNP have formed a group to promote its views in Britain.

Around 50 people came to a north London pub on Sunday for a meeting of the Jobbik Friends of Hungary UK, set up by Hungarian expats, according to the Jobbik party’s English website.

But describing the move as an “unwelcome development”, a Community Security Trust spokesman said: “We have more than enough of our own right-wing extremists, and do not need to import any more.”

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Rabbi's lavish embassy welcome signals new dawn in Polish ties

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

The Polish Embassy held a kosher reception on Tuesday to welcome the first rabbi born in Poland to serve in the country for 40 years.

Remarkably, Rabbi Maciej Pawlak did not even find out he was Jewish until he was 15.

Now, aged 32, he is the living embodiment of the revival of Jewish life in Poland as principal of the Lauder-Morasha Jewish day school with 200 children in Warsaw.

Hosted by the embassy, his visit to the UK was due to include an address at yesterday’s annual Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies conference at the embassy.

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The Board grows fangs at long last

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Scrolling through the archive of press releases from the Board would leave you with the impression that its main activity in recent years has been paying courtesy calls on embassies around London.

But something appears to have changed in the past few weeks.

A series of statements on assorted issues suggests that British Jewry’s main representative body wants to be seen as more assertive and vocal. An organisation for which “concern” appeared to be the strongest word in its vocabulary, has now turned into “Angry, of Bloomsbury Square”.

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First talks for JLC and the Board

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

The executives of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council held a joint meeting on Monday for the first time since the JLC’s formation six years ago.

A Board spokesman said: “I am sure this will be the first of many more. We work together on a day-to-day basis, so this is a natural progression of events.”

The meeting was planned six months ago after the election of Vivian Wineman as president of the Board and head of the council.

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Board of Deputies row over radio comments

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

The Board of Deputies has issued a statement to make clear that comments on radio by its treasurer supporting a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem were made in a personal capacity.

Laurence Brass told BBC Radio Manchester’s Jewish programme last week that while he welcomed Israel’s 10-month freeze on building in settlements, he would have liked it to have been extended to East Jerusalem.

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Tylney Hall

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Henry James observed that few things in life can be more agreeable “than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”. Not everyone adheres to the ritual in the way James had in mind. But the novelist could rest content knowing that at Tylney Hall in Hampshire, tea is taken seriously, with white cloths and china cups, served in a stately lounge with a view of a croquet lawn.

In fact, from the imposing red-brick façade with its fountains, to the wood-panelled luxury within, and the gardens and grounds, Tylney gets the country house thing right.

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