Simon Rocker

Never mind the dybbuks

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

We recently ran a story on a Brazilian supposedly possessed by a dybbuk who tried to have it exorcised over the internet. The ghostly squatter has proved resistant to rabbinic efforts to dislodge it even after the man was brought to Jerusalem.

According to web chatter, an excommunication order was put on the dybbuk by the very-strictly Orthodox Rav Moshe Sternbuch of the Eda Charedit. But pouring cold water on the rumours, he told the VosIzneias newsite that the possessed man is sick and ought to see a doctor.

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Please don't step on this

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

Welcome to the newest addition to Israel’s fauna, recently discovered among the sand dunes of the Arava in the south.

The Haifa University researchers who identified it say it is the largest spider of its type in the Middle East with a leg span of up to 14 centimetres.

But scientists are worried that mining projects in the area could threaten the habitat of this and other, as yet unknown, creatures.

The spider goes by the name of cerbalus aravensis — which doesn’t mean Cuddles.

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Shalom to the taliban

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

Don’t knock the Taliban – they may be our cousins.

An Indian scientist is doing research in Tel Aviv to see if there is any truth to the belief that the Pathans, the ethnic group from which the Taliban are largely derived, may come from one of Israel’s Ten Lost Tribes. She will compare DNA samples of Israeli Jews with those of Pathans from North India.

Imagine if it proves true — mass aliyah from Afghanistan.

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Wintry wedding

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

They were planning to lift the roof of the newly renovated Kinloss Suite at Finchley Synagogue this week — literally.

The reopened banqueting rooms are equipped with a retractable roof which enables couples to have a traditional outdoor chupah while guests keep warm inside. The first bride due to enjoy the new facility was a grand-daughter of ex-London Beth Din head, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu.

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Chris Evans's rogue pie

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2010

Only a few days into the post-Wogan slot on BBC Radio Two’s breakfast show, Chris Evans has disturbed a JC reader. Not him exactly, but regular contributor to the show’s Pause for the Day, Rabbi Pete Tobias of the Liberal Synagogue in Elstree.

As Evans handed over Tuesday’s show, the next presenter, Ken Bruce, asked after a pork pie lying around the studio. Our reader thought he heard Evans suggest the pie had been scoffed – by the rabbi. “Well, he is a Liberal rabbi,” Bruce quipped.

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What turns young American Jews on

By Simon Rocker, January 12, 2010

Reasons to be cheerful: leading social scientist Steven Cohen highlighted some of the positive trends within American Jewry during a recent visit to London. You can now read a report of his observations here.

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Never mind the dybbuks, go see a doctor

By Simon Rocker, January 12, 2010

Here’s a new twist to the story of the Brazilian man supposedly possessed by a dybbuk, who recently underwent an attempted internet exorcism by a kabbalist.
Now a leading strictly Orthodox rabbi has offered an alternative, and rather less mystical, remedy: try a doctor.

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Airport scanners are too revealing, say Euro-rabbis

By Simon Rocker, January 11, 2010

When there was talk of deploying full body scanners at airports, I wondered if any rabbinic objection would come on the grounds that the machines would be too revealing.
Well here it is, according to Ha’aretz.

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Sand’s anti-people book is taken apart in The Guardian

By Simon Rocker, January 11, 2010

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg delivers a damning verdict on Shlomo Sand’s controversial book “The Invention of the Jewish People” in a Guardian review.
He writes: “Its sweeping attempt to take apart the entire history of the Jewish people from its origins to present-day Israel and prove it to be a wilful fabrication is marred by tendentious premises, the misreading of key events and the ignoring of central texts and insitutions.”
For more, read here.

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Religion is sick

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2010

The headline to Rabbi Jeremy Rosen's latest blog says it all. Never one to mince his words, this reflection on some of the scandals that have broken out in the Jewish world over the past year is outspoken even by his standards.

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American Orthodox Rabbi Attacks Hardline Conversion Trends

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Rabbi Marc Angel, writing in The Forward, criticises the trend towards stricter conversion policies."Good, talented and well-intentioned Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora have been eliminated as recognised gatekeepers to the Jewish people," he says. For more read here.

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European rabbis attack American conversion group

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Members of the London Beth Din have attacked a controversial conversion organisation with which their former head, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, is involved.

The LBD judges signed a statement from the Conference of European Rabbis, protesting at the American-based Eternal Jewish Family setting up in Europe and calling for the cancellation on its seminar in Munich this week.

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Panorama to screen Israel film

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

The first edition of BBC1’s main current affairs programme, Panorama, in 2010, is to look at Israeli policy in Jerusalem.

Promoting next Monday night’s documentary, the programme’s website says: “The fight is on for the holiest city in the holy land. The Israelis say Jerusalem must never be divided; the Palestinians say the east of the city is theirs and must become the capital of a new state.”

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JPR says Boyd is new chief

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Jonathan Boyd, the acting director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research since April, has been confirmed as its executive director.

Mr Boyd, who has previously worked with the UJIA and the Joint Distribution Committee’s International Centre for Community Development, joined the institute a year ago as a research fellow.

He will oversee the launch this week of the first national online survey of British Jews’ attitudes towards Israel. It is being conducted by Ipsos Mori.

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Gaza questioned in Israel poll

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

The most detailed survey of what British Jews think of Israel was launched today by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

Conducted by Ipsos Mori and commissioned by the Pears Foundation, it consists of a questionnaire that takes about 15 minutes to complete online.

Correspondents are asked, among other things, if they think Israel’s incursion into Gaza a year ago was an act of self-defence, whether West Bank settlements should be expanded and whether Israeli actions cause antisemitism in Britain.

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Q&A on JFS

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Why did the Board of Deputies want to amend the Equality Bill to overturn the Supreme Court judgement on Jewish school admissions?

The Supreme Court ruled that Jewish schools can no longer admit children simply on the basis of whether their parents are Jewish. This is because Jews are considered by law as an ethnic group (like Sikhs, but not Christians or Muslims) and to choose children according to parental descent is a matter of ethnic origin, therefore a case of racial discrimination.

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JFS fight collapses as Board retreats

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Jewish leaders this week dramatically dropped plans to press for a change in the law to overturn the recent Supreme Court decision on Jewish school admissions.

On Tuesday the Board of Deputies called off a meeting planned for the next day with synagogue leaders, which was to have discussed introducing an amendment to the government’s Equality Bill.

Vivian Wineman, president of the Board, said that there was widespread agreement that it was better not to go immediately for legislative change in case it produced “unintended consequences”.

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Joan's brush with security

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

After last month’s bomb attempt on an American plane, security experts say we need more sophisticated profiling of passengers to spot likely suspects before they get too far. So watch out, then, if you are an elderly Jewish comedienne.

The redoubtable Joan Rivers was stopped on Sunday from boarding a plane from Costa Rica back to the USA. Officials’ suspicions were aroused because her passport bore dual names, Joan Rosenberg aka Joan Rivers (Rosenberg her late husband’s name).

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Crisis in the kosher kitchen

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

I think someone better declare a state of emergency. My wife’s copy of Evelyn Rose’s International Jewish Cookbook has fallen to bits but when she tried to order a new copy, she found it was unavailable. How could this be, since the Bible of kosher cuisine must surely be the most popular book in Anglo-Jewish homes after the siddur?

Publishers Anova reassure me that the book is “not out of print” but “out of stock”. An updated, illustrated version is in preparation but not due out till the end of the year, or even early next.

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Our yiddishe madam

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

I thought Big Brother had been put out of its misery but Channel 4 is inflicting one last celebrity version on us.

For followers of small screen Jewry, among this year’s entrants is Heidi Fleiss, whose claim to fame lies largely in having being jailed in the 1990s for supplying call girls to Hollywood’s rich and famous.

Her activities have since included running a laundrette in Nevada. The programme-makers must hope she’ll be washing her dirty linen in public.

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