Simon Rocker

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.

More..

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.

More..

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.

More..

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.

More..

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.

More..

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.

More..

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.

More..

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.

More..

My yiddishe Mozart

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

Music-lovers will be thrilled to hear that Sadler's Wells is to stage its newly completed version of an unfinished Mozart opera in the summer.

The genius composer wrote two acts of the work which is called Zaide before he put it to one side. He must have been waiting for Booba.

More..

Bedding down for Israel

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

Much eye-popping online at the Canadian Federation of Jewish Students' new campaign to promote Israel to their fellow campusites.

Called "Size Doesn't Matter", it was launched with a video featuring a man in bed naked but for a strategically placed brochure of Israel, along with a woman making cheesy puns about oral sex.

It is "pretty provocative", agreed the federation's Rebecca Cherniak. But it is "a quick and witty way to grab the attention" of students many of whom "can't even pinpoint where Israel is on the map".

More..



After book-burning comes computer-smashing

By Simon Rocker, February 24, 2010

Sacred vandalism, 21st-century style: a rabbi destroying a computer, which you can watch on the website Yeshivah World.

More..



An eye for an eye? A no for no.

By Simon Rocker, February 23, 2010

In a comment piece on Express Online, Chris Royford-Davis led the cheers for the Dubai assassination widely believed to be Mossad's handiwork.

His article, entitled “Why Can’t This Country Follow Israel’s Lead” included the paragraph:

More..

Sharp decline in gap years to Israel

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2010

The number of youngsters taking gap years in Israel fell dramatically this year because of the financial climate.

Only around 60 went to Israel this year, compared to more than 100 a year over the past three, according to FZY, the UK's largest Zionist youth movement.

And Bnei Akiva, the religious Zionist movement, experienced a slide from about 40 to the lower 20s.

But leaders hope that numbers will begin to climb again this autumn with BA anticipating as many as 55 recruits to its yeshivah and year schemes which can cost as much as £16,000.

More..

Our friend, Chairman Ken

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2010

It is reassuring to see that some in football's high places are acting to stamp out antisemitism on the terraces.

I bring you Leeds United chairman Ken Bates, fresh from Tuesday's game v Walsall, where he referred in the programme to a complaint from a fan about the chanting at the recent cup tie against Spurs.

"The substituting of 'Auschwitz' and 'Belsen' when the Spurs fans were singing that they were 'on the road to Wembley' is so old hat," he wrote.

More..

Driving rabbis quackers

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2010

If you can't tell the difference between a mallard and a muscovy, you could be in trouble.

A poultry abattoir in New York's strictly Orthodox enclave of Kiryas Joel was recently ordered by rabbis to recall a consignment of doubtful ducks.

Now, the Torah specifies only what birds you cannot eat and duck is not among them. Later rabbis, however, instituted a rule permitting only birds where there existed an established local tradition of consumption.

More..

Lube milk for China

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2010

A first for China- no longer will strictly kosher residents have to make do with powdered milk to dispense on their cornflakes.

A group of Beijing cows have been persuaded to lend their udders for the production of chalav Yisrael, fresh supervised milk. The dairy impresario is British-born Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, head of Lubavitch in the Chinese capital.

More..

Going for Goldie

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2010

Goldie Hawn has apparently charmed the Tories with the idea of importing some of her education methods into UK schools.

Her charitable foundation promotes "deep belly breathing" and other exercises designed to help children focus better.

The goldilocked actress has a longstanding interest in Eastern spirituality as a Jewish Buddhist, or Buju - or should that be Jubu?

More..

See the family silver

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2010

When Plymouth’s tiny Jewish community sold many of their antique artefacts at the end of last year to help pay for the upkeep of their 18th-century listed synagogue, there were the usual mutterings about Anglo-Jewry flogging off the family silver.

Historic items such as these often end up overseas; but at least some parts of the Plymouth collection were saved for the nation. They were bought by the British Museum in London and, now back from the conservators, they are going on view from Monday.

More..



The Pontiff and the Prophylactics

By Simon Rocker, February 12, 2010

My favourite headline from the religious press this week: "Vatican shelves 200-page condom study."
(from the Catholic journal, The Tablet)

More..

Michael Wolkind: I defended the BNP

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

This week’s Torah portion is clear: if a thief breaks into your house at night, you are entitled to take his life — though not in daylight.

How much force householders can use against intruders is once again under debate in Britain, following the case of Munir Hussain, the Buckinghamshire businessman jailed, then freed on appeal last month, after clubbing a burglar.

Despite calls for change, Michael Wolkind QC, the barrister who represented him, believes that the law should stand as it is.

More..