Simon Rocker

Leaders trade blows over Mick Davis Israel criticism

By Simon Rocker, November 25, 2010

A group of prominent British Jews rallied behind UJIA chairman Mick Davis as arguments over his outspoken criticism of Israel reverberated across the community this week.

An open letter signed by 22 men and women, including nine current or past members of the Jewish Leadership Council, backed "public and honest discussion" over Israel and voiced support for Mr Davis for encouraging debate.

The signatories included former UJIA leaders Sir Trevor Chinn and David Cohen, donor Sir Harry Solomon, Bicom chairman Poju Zabludowicz and new peer, JLC vice-president Stanley Fink.

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Limmud reaches the parts….

By Simon Rocker, November 22, 2010

You don't normally expect to find members of the Charedi community at a Limmud event. But Ian Sharer, a strictly Orthodox councillor in Hackney, visited the local Limmud day in the borough for the first time to speak about his work.
What he saw impressed him – in particular a packed session on the completion of the Steinsaltz Talmud.
He says he'd happily go again.

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Sorry girls, I've just got wed

By Simon Rocker, November 22, 2010

We can't bring you a royal wedding but here's a touch of glamour from the nuptial celebrations of promoter Jonathan Shalit and wife Katrina. Here is the happy groom with three of the guests at the party following the West London Synagogue ceremony: singer Jamelia, actress Kelly Brook and broadcaster Myleene Klass.

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Norwood's blue moment

By Simon Rocker, November 22, 2010

A great time was had by all 1,300 guests at the Norwood dinner on Monday – one of Anglo-Jewry's largest fundraising parties. But one number sung by Simon Webbe, former heartthrob of boyband Blue, was not the most obvious choice for a Jewish family charity: Sex on Fire by the Kings of Leon.

The lyrics allude to various amorous feats performed while driving a car. Still, the audience had no problem clapping and singing along, although Mr Webbe did look momentarily uncomfortable, not surprisingly since he was standing right next to the Chief Rabbi's table.

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Heiming up the bard

By Simon Rocker, November 22, 2010

Surprise hit of the Jewish Film Festival was Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish. A hundred Charedim turned up at London's Tricycle theatre, many familiar with cast members who had flown from New York for the screening. "I'm pretty sure that the Tricycle had never seen anything like it," said JFF director Judy Ironside, "and neither had we".

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Covering letter

By Simon Rocker, November 22, 2010

Guardian columnist Deborah Orr, battling against cancer, wrote that she might wear a hijab in the event of hair loss. Whereupon she received a "kind letter" from the League of Jewish Women with "a fetching green scarf", she said, "so that I can dress up and pretend to be a Jewish woman rather than a Muslim woman if needs must".

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Mick goes unrecognised

By Simon Rocker, November 22, 2010

Man of the moment Mick Davis had this anecdote on the vagaries of Jewish leadership. The UJIA chairman went to a dinner party a few days after speaking in defence of Israel at the Trafalgar Square solidarity rally during its Gaza operation last year.

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Report: public money goes to 'anti-Israel' journal

By Simon Rocker, November 18, 2010

More than £767,000 of public money from the Arts Council has gone to the London Review of Books – a publication “virulently hostile” to Israel and Zionism, according to a new report by the media monitoring body, Just Journalism.

The literary journal received its grants from the council – which is funded by the Government and the National Lottery - over a 30-year period, JJ says.

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The most important debate we'll ever have

By Simon Rocker, November 18, 2010

For as long as anyone cares to remember, the lay leaders of British Jewry's major organisations have observed an unwritten code: to avoid public criticism of Israel.

On rare instances, the Board of Deputies might have raised its voice, such as over the Sabra-Shatila massacre of 1982. But by and large, if they had qualms about Israeli policy, community leaders have preferred to convey them privately to Israel behind closed doors.

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Shock over senior UK Jewish leader's Bibi criticism

By Simon Rocker, November 18, 2010

One of British Jewry's most senior leaders this week shattered a longstanding taboo by publicly criticising Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the peace process, voicing moral reservations about some of Israel's policies, and calling for criticism of Israel to be voiced freely throughout thecommunity.

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Top judge: Israel boycotts are 'absurd'

By Simon Rocker, November 18, 2010

One of Britain's leading judges, Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, has dismissed the idea of an academic boycott of Israel as absurd.

Speaking at the annual legal dinner of the British Friends of the Hebrew University in London last week, he recalled his visit to Jerusalem this year to deliver the Lionel Cohen lecture on behalf of the Friends.

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Kosher Celebrity

By Simon Rocker, November 15, 2010

There's a growing campaign to institute kosher bushtucker trials for Jewish contestants on I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

After all, would you rather swallow a plate of wriggling maggots - or consume a bowl of calf's foot jelly?

PS A correspondent has suggested that since there is apparently a surfeit of locusts in Australia at the moment, and locusts are permitted in the Bible (in theory), then they could provide a kosher alternative. There are apparently four main species of locust - and only the Red Locust gets the rabbinical thumbs-up.

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Liberals in reshuffle

By Simon Rocker, November 11, 2010

Rabbi Danny Rich has been awarded a new five year contract as the chief executive of Liberal Judaism.

Leaders of the movement have also reorganised the management team at the Montagu Centre, its central London HQ, in order to allow Rabbi Rich - who took office in 2005 - more time for writing and public speaking.

Lucian Hudson, Liberal Judaism chairman, said: "Danny Rich is an exceptional leader who is held in high regard and with much affection. We are delighted to renew his contract."

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Labour MPs under fire as they meet Hamas

By Simon Rocker, November 11, 2010

Labour Friends of Israel has condemned a meeting held by two of the party's MPs, one a frontbench spokesman, with representatives of Hamas.

Andy Slaughter, who was recently appointed by leader Ed Miliband to his shadow team on justice, and Jeremy Corbyn met Palestinian Legislative Council members Muhammad Totah and Ahmad Atoun in Jerusalem at the weekend.

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US Jews call for kindness

By Simon Rocker, November 11, 2010

A leading American Jewish organisation has launched a campaign to get Jews to speak more kindly to each other, alarmed by the fractious tone that has crept into community debate.

More than 150 rabbis and community leaders have signed up to the Statement of Civility issued by the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), which wants to encourage a "respectful and healthy debate" without acrimony.

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The light and the dark

By Simon Rocker, November 10, 2010

Every few years, there is a renewed campaign to change our clocks in winter.
Instead of putting back the clocks in autumn, as we did just the other week, we should allow an extra hour of morning darkness in order to enjoy an extra hour of daylight in the evening. For one thing, it would reduce traffic accidents after school, say the proponents.

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Praise for prizewinning Israeli medical organisation

By Simon Rocker, November 6, 2010

A leading Israeli medical organisation has won a prize for environmental protection from the International Public Relations Association.

Representatives of Maccabi Healthcare Services received their Golden World Award in London on Friday for a campaign to collect medicines beyond their expiry date.

Since the launch of the initiative 18 months ago, around 240,000 packages containing seven million pills have been collected from Maccabi community clinics around Israel.

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European Jewry vibrant and growing, says report

By Simon Rocker, November 4, 2010

When I searched "European Jewry" recently in our electronic archive, the results came accompanied with words like "Holocaust" or "annihilation". It is as if the Jewish communities of the continent could only be defined in reference to the catastrophic past.

So it is refreshing to see a report which is unashamedly upbeat: European Jewry is "confident, vibrant and growing", according to the The 2010 Survey of New Jewish Initiatives.

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Dastardly Dick's dig

By Simon Rocker, November 4, 2010

The Board of Deputies' 250th anniversary bash with Tony Blair has sold so well, it's being moved to a larger venue.

Expect further snarls from Indie columnist Richard Ingrams, who recently had a go at Blair and the Board, calling it a "body of self-appointed worthies who make it their business to defend the interests of their country against its critics". (By "their country", he means "Israel".)

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Tour teens' Reform voucher aid

By Simon Rocker, November 4, 2010

Every teenager who has had a bar- or batmitzvah in a Reform synagogue is to be given a £100 voucher towards the cost of an Israel summer tour.

Recipients will be able to redeem their voucher if they opt to go on tour with RSY-Netzer. The new scheme has been sponsored in memory of Tilda Warshaw, a prominent Emunah member who died last year.

RSY worker Alma Smith said: "A bar or batmitzvah is an important step along a young person's Jewish journey and we are delighted that we can be a part of such a special occasion."

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