Simon Rocker

Bicom chair's Exodus link

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

Bicom chairman Poju Zabludowicz was among guests at a launch for Operation Exodus, a new book about the refugee boat intercepted by the British before it reached Palestine in 1947.

The event was arranged by London TV producer Jill Samuels, founder of the charity Films Without Borders, who did the interviews for the book.

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Jewish Theology in Our Time

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

Edited by Rabbi Elliot J Cosgrove
Jewish Lights, $24.99

We are told so often that Jewish practice is more important than belief that it is possible to think that belief really is not that important at all. Yet belief is the blood that flows through the veins of Judaism; it might not be visible but Judaism would wither without it.

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Gay wedding notice banned

By Simon Rocker, October 7, 2010

A Jewish newspaper in New Jersey has banned same-sex marriage announcements, the day after the first happy couple had their nuptials printed. Justin Rosen and Avi Smolen's wedding announcement was in the Jewish Standard, complete with a smiling picture of the couple.

The newspaper said that following "negative comments", other such announcements would not be printed. Editor Rebecca Kaplan Boroson wrote an editorial explaining that it was a "divisive issue". But after outraged comments on the newspaper's website, publisher James Janoff said they were reconsidering their decision.

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Getting their lines crossed

By Simon Rocker, October 7, 2010

A simple tale of a Cardiff mum's anger at yobs on a train took a dark twist when the Press Association sent out an illustration with the news story - a picture of the Auschwitz rail tracks.

Blamed on "human error", the picture appeared alongside the story on local newspaper websites including the Cambridge News. PA apologised and removed the picture, saying in a statement: "We apologise for any offence caused by this unfortunate human error.

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Cricket trip to Dachau

By Simon Rocker, October 7, 2010

England's cricket team have enjoyed a pre-Ashes bonding tour of Bavaria, sampling the local brew, abseiling... and visiting Dachau.

The team and management visited the concentration camp during their five-day trip.

Last year the team visited another site of devastation: Flanders, Belgium. But details of that trip were kept shrouded in secrecy.

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IPhone home to Israel

By Simon Rocker, October 7, 2010

Ditch the guide books. Israel's tourism ministry has launched a new gadget for the tech-savvy traveller. Visitors can download the free iPhone app which will identify your location and show you local events happening on that day.

The app has the bonus of making you fit right in when you're in Israel – you'll spend most of your day with eyes glued to the screen of your iPhone.

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Ed's relative values

By Simon Rocker, October 7, 2010

Many have questioned the influence on Ed Miliband of his mother Marion Kozak, a supporter of Jews for Justice for Palestinians.

But a closer look at his family history reveals an altogether more positive influence. Aunt Nan Keen (nee Miliband) worked for publishers Valentine Mitchell, which was owned by the JC.

The children and relatives of JC staff are clearly destined for greatness. The JC's former advertising manager Tony Mandelson, had a son who was once famous, apparently.

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Flagship synagogue's 'financial irregularities'

By Simon Rocker, September 28, 2010

Leaders of the UK's flagship Reform congregation, the West London Synagogue, are investigating possible financial irregularities in excess of £100,000.

Losses of £144,000 have already been identified for last year, according to the newly available accounts. But the final total could be higher.

The accounts describe the amount involved as "significant" but the exact figure will not be known "until the investigation work is completed".

West London's trustees intend to "pursue vigorously for full recovery of any losses that have been incurred".

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Amy and Mark make up

By Simon Rocker, September 28, 2010

In the seasonal spirit of forgiveness, Amy Winehouse has made peace after lashing out at fellow Jewish musician Mark Ronson.

The troubled singer, who calls herself the "Jewish lioness", on her Twitter page, got her claws into Ronson after he claimed credit for her album Back to Black, tweeting "ronson you're dead to me."

But the star was quick to explain away her anger, albeit in language the rest of us might struggle with. On her personal Twitter account amyjademermaid she wrote: "Ronson i love you; that make it better? you knoww i love you- it's a jew thingz x whup rza."

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BNP man attacks writer

By Simon Rocker, September 28, 2010

The BNP's ex spokesman has accused a columnist of being part of a Jewish campaign to destroy society. Stuart Russell - also known by his pseudonym Phil Edwards - retired from the BNP in 2007 to "spend time playing piano". But tinkling the keys is now playing second fiddle to sending abusive messages to journalists. He wrote to the Observer's Eva Wiseman after she published a column on lesbianism.

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Bear to be Lord Mayor?

By Simon Rocker, September 28, 2010

Jewish businessman Michael Bear is tipped as the new Lord Mayor of London when elections take place this November.

The alderman and former Sheriff is the City of London's preferred candidate for Mayor.

Bear, who made his career in business and civil engineering, is a member of New North London Masorti synagogue and a former Clifton College pupil. Rabbi Abraham Levy of Bevis Marks Synagogue is expected to be appointed as his chaplain if he wins the election.

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Here comes the rain

By Simon Rocker, September 22, 2010

Of course, it couldn’t last. We've had sun all week but according to forecasts, Succot will bring back the rain. Beware those booth-blasting downpours.

Happy tabernacling.

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Prayer for IDF Druze allowed

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2010

Orthodox rabbis have been told that there is no problem with including the name of a Druze serviceman among prayers for Israel's missing soldiers.

Rabbi Julian Shindler, director of rabbinic liaison in the Office of the Chief Rabbi, emailed rabbis to say that they can mention Majdy Halabi, who disappeared five years ago.

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Peer praises Chief Rabbi for 'beautiful' Pope reception

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2010

Lord Patten, the co-ordinator of the Pope's visit, said that one of its most moving moments were the Chief Rabbi's words at Friday's interfaith meeting.

Lord Patten, assessing the visit, singled out the "the most beautifully expressed statement about the relationship between faiths" made by Lord Sacks.

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British left plans own Israel lobby

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2010

The face of Israel advocacy in the UK could be changed by a group of young activists who plan to start a new campaign organisation inspired by the liberal American lobby group, J Street.

The key figure in the initiative is Hannah Weisfeld (right), who recently left her job as social action co-ordinator of the Jewish Community Centre for London in order to pursue it.

Others involved include Guardian and JC columnist Jonathan Freedland.

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Questions over West London Synagogue finances

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2010

Leaders of the UK’s flagship Reform congregation, the West London Synagogue, are investigating possible financial regularities of more than £100,000.

Losses of £144,000 have already been identified for last year, according to the newly available accounts– but the final total could be higher.

The accounts describe the amount involved as “significant” but say it would not be possible to fully quantify “until the investigation work is completed”.

West London’s trustees intend to “pursue vigorously full recovery of any losses that have been incurred”, they state.

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You're hired - nearly

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2010

Former JC sports reporter Craig Silver came agonisingly close to making the final cut for the next series of BBC TV's The Apprentice.

The former King Solomon pupil got down to the last pool of 15 male candidates from thousands of hopefuls. With his eye on the winner's £250,000 prize, the 24-year-old estate agent passed several stages before missing out on the chance of a boardoom duel with Lord Sugar. "The application process was gruelling but the experience gave me a buzz," he said. "My big plan was to open a traditional English sweet shop in New York."

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Yom Kippur, the cool fast

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2010

Is the whole world turning Jewish? Here's Peaches Geldof (right) sporting a kippah at a pre-Yom Kippur meal with of-the-faith boyfriend, film director Eli Roth, in a picture posted on Twitter. (Or else she was indulging in a little papal emulation).

Another celebrity faster was actress and Kabbalah student Demi Moore who joined Jewish husband Ashton Kutcher in a day of abstinence before they ended their fast in Applebees Grill Bar.

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Grainy day rabbis

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2010

Come September and naturally the learned men of the London Beth Din are thinking about Jewish festivals: Pesach. Top dayan Menachem Gelley was out the other week behind the wheel of a combine harvester, gathering wheat for next spring's shemurah matzah.

The LBD certainly gets out and about in the cause of kashrut, from inspecting guar gum in Pakistan to keeping the kitchens safe from treif on Yeshiva University's annual Mediterranean cruise. The name of the boat was Costa Fortuna - no reflection, I'm told, on the supervision fees.

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The Cohen coat explained

By Simon Rocker, September 21, 2010

I can now tell you how the "Cohen Coat", recently featured here, got its name.

Makers All Saints called the garment after idiosyncratic American filmmakers, the Coen brothers. Fortunately, their style is better than their spelling: the cinematic duo go sans h.

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