Simon Rocker



New school rules ‘mockery of Jewish values’

By Simon Rocker, September 14, 2009

Predictably, a fair amount of criticism has greeted the new entry rules that JFS and other secondary schools have been forced to adopt after the Court of Appeal ruling which said that they could no longer use the Jewish status of parents to determine admissions.
Take the Jewish Tribune columnist Ben Yitzchok who in the latest edition, condemns the “stupidity” of the new religious test introduced by JFS, which is based on synagogue attendance and other practice.

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Chief Rabbi to become Lord Sacks of Aldgate

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2009

The Chief Rabbi will officially become a peer on October 27 when he enters the House of Lords as Lords Sacks of Aldgate.

He will be sponsored by Lord Winston and the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey.

Explaining why he had chosen to nominate the East End of London district, he said; “My late father sold cloth in Commercial Road and my grandmother ran Frumkins wine shop. I wanted not to forget my roots. That’s where I used to help out help when I was a child and where my earliest memories are.”

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Charity Commission warns Cardiff home

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

The only Jewish old age home in Wales has been told it must do more to publicise help for people unable to pay its fees if it is to remain a charity.

Penylan House in Cardiff was informed by the Charity Commission that it had failed to meet the legal requirement to provide “public benefit”.

In a report on the home, the commission noted “the lack of clear information that assistance may be available for those who cannot afford the fees”.

It also found “the absence of a clear, budgeted plan of targeted assistance to help in cases where top-up fees cannot be afforded”.

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Primary chair 'forced out over JCoSS'

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

The chairman of Simon Marks Jewish Primary in Hackney has been forced to step down because, he claims, of his support for linking it with the new cross-communal Jewish Community Secondary School.

Simon Marks’s foundation body, the Scopus Jewish Educational Trust, has confirmed its decision not to reappoint Peter Kessler as a foundation governor after his three-year term expired.

He attributed the trust’s action to his backing for making Simon Marks a feeder for JCoSS, which is due to open in East Barnet next September.

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Government anti-terror funding 'is going to radicals'

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

A key government programme to counter Islamist extremism has given money to groups that have promoted radical ideas, according to a new report.

The TaxPayers’ Alliance, a ginger group monitoring public spending, says that the government should consider scrapping “Preventing Violent Extremism”, known as Prevent, a £50 million-plus scheme which is part of its anti-terrorism strategy.

The TPA, analysing more than £12 million spent on Prevent so far, accused the government of leaving it up to ill-equipped local councils to allocate the money.

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Jewish aid to Pakistan breaks down barriers

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

A charity’s aid work in Pakistan helped to create a more positive image of Judaism, according to a report published this week.

It cites World Jewish Relief as an example of what religious organisations can achieve in providing help overseas.

Authors Edward Kessler and Miriam Arkush, who produced Keeping Faith in Development for the Woolf Institute of Abrahamic Faiths in Cambridge, recommend that faith-based organisations should do more to collaborate over international development to foster inter-religious understanding.

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JFS admits child of non-Orthodox convert

By Simon Rocker, September 10, 2009

JFS has accepted the child of a non-Orthodox-converted mother as a first-year pupil, despite its previous rejection of such children because they are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbi.

The Orthodox school, based in Kenton, north London, refused to admit any U-turn or say whether the decision had been taken because of a Court of Appeal ruling earlier this summer declaring its entry policy to be unlawful.

Russell Kett, chairman of JFS governors, said: “The school does not comment on individual applicants or students.”

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Marrying out? Come to Israel instead

By Simon Rocker, September 9, 2009
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An anti-assimilation campaign with Israeli government backing is generating fierce controversy, according to Ha’aretz.

The newspaper reports: “The campaign… urges Israelis to report the particulars of acquaintances living abroad so that these people, who are ‘in danger’ of marrying non-Jews, can be persuaded to come to Israel.

“The 10-day Hebrew-language campaign has been mounted by MASA, a partnership between the Jewish Agency and the Israeli government that helps finance and market Israel programs for diaspora Jews.

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If you know someone marrying out, Israel wants to know

By Simon Rocker, September 7, 2009

An anti-assimilation campaign with Israeli government backing is generating fierce controversy, according to Ha’aretz.

The newspaper reports: “The campaign… urges Israelis to report the particulars of acquaintances living abroad so that these people, who are ‘in danger’ of marrying non-Jews, can be persuaded to come to Israel.

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I have not become a horse

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2009

To anyone who might have noticed that yesterday's 4 o’clock race at Epsom included a runner called “Rocker”, I just want to re-assure you that I have not been changed, like some figure of Greek myth who has incurred the wrath of the gods, into a horse.

But to any loyal reader who might have taken a punt, I apologise – my equine namesake only came in fourth.

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Peacenik's fear over Israel

By Simon Rocker, September 3, 2009

One of Israel’s leading peace activists has denied that he and others in the peace movement, who have criticised Israel openly, had contributed to the atmosphere in which it was being demonised as an apartheid state.

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Bevis Marks Rabbi row deepens

By Simon Rocker, September 3, 2009

The dispute over the suspended rabbi of Bevis Marks Synagogue in London deepened this week after fresh attacks by his supporters on the handling of his suspension by Sephardi leaders.

Rabbi Natan Asmoucha was suspended six weeks ago by the mahamad (executive) of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation over his involvement in an interfaith rally against high bank interest rates in July.

But now supporters are furious at the proposed postponement of a special meeting of the congregation, called to put a vote of no confidence in the executive.

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New points system for JFS entry

By Simon Rocker, September 3, 2009

New rules published this week by JFS in Kenton, North London — and likely to be followed by other Jewish secondaries — will offer places on the basis of points scored for synagogue attendance and other observance.

Parents will also need a certificate signed by their rabbi or another community official to testify to religious practice — mirroring the procedure in some Catholic schools.

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Sell It Not

By Simon Rocker, September 2, 2009

Here’s a slice of red-toothed rabbinics from Matthew Wagner, writing in the Jerusalem Post. It begins:

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Tom Jones, ShabbesGoy

By Simon Rocker, September 1, 2009

Dig deep enough and it seems that everyone has some kind of Jewish connection. And so it is with Sir Tom Jones. Mr Sex Bomb revealed to Bimah, the magazine of Welsh Jewry, that he had once, to use his own words, been a "Shabbesgoy" in Pontypridd.

"All the boys would hang around outside the shul on a Saturday eager to get a few pennies from the rabbi for going in and starting up the fire," he told compatriot Hannah Tobin who bumped in to him in Las Vegas.

And no the rabbi didn't sing, "Come on boyo, light my fire."

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Seen a ghost - who do you call?

By Simon Rocker, August 27, 2009

Both the lollypop lady and the baker on his delivery round saw it from the street — visible through a bedroom window was an 11-year-old girl, floating, it seemed, in mid-air. The story of the Enfield Poltergeist has continued to intrigue ghost-hunters since the first reports some 30 years ago of a single mother and her children being afflicted by apparently unexplained phenomena in their north London council house.

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Bevis Marks Rabbi’s hearing delayed

By Simon Rocker, August 20, 2009

The executive of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation has postponed a disciplinary hearing for the rabbi of Bevis Marks Synagogue in the East End of London because he is understood to be on sick leave.

Rabbi Natan Asmoucha received a final warning after a first hearing two weeks ago when the mahamad (executive) said he had taken part without authorisation in an interfaith demonstration against high bank interest rates last month.

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MPs 'regret' use of UK arms by Israel in Gaza

By Simon Rocker, August 20, 2009

A committee of MPs has said it was regrettable that arms components made in the UK were “almost certainly” used by Israel in the conflict in Gaza earlier this year.

In a report published on Wednesday, the arms export controls committee recommended that the government "continue to do everything possible to ensure that this does not happen in future".

It also backed the refusal to licence the sale of certain components to Israel since the Lebanon war of 2006.

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Another derecognised conversion

By Simon Rocker, August 13, 2009

In this week's JC, I write about why it would be difficult to reach agreement for a universally recognised standard of conversion. But as if any more evidence of the obstacles were needed, the Jerusalem Post reports another example of an Israeli Orthodox convert having her conversion invalidated by the official rabbinate.

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Who will carry the torch for Jewish unity?

By Simon Rocker, August 13, 2009

In his typically forthright way, Gerald Ronson, the president of the new Jewish Community Secondary School, explained the reason behind its opening next year: “It is important that in our community we do have a first-class faith school which will take on board non-halachic, together with halachic, children,” he said in a YouTube interview, adding: “It’s not me that makes the issue of whether you are halachic, non-halachic… You want to go to a Jewish school? You should be able to go to a Jewish school.”

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