Simon Rocker



The barmitzvah party behind bars

By Simon Rocker, June 12, 2009

Five prison officials, including a rabbinical chaplain, have been disciplined after the following incident reported by The Times Online:
“When the fraudster Tuvia Stern arrived back in New York, he found prison authorities surprisingly accommodating.
“The former fugitive, jailed for three and a half years in March for fraud, was allowed to throw two parties for his family behind bars, even hiring his own kosher caterers and a prominent Jewish singer.

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Spain honours men who fought fascists

By Simon Rocker, June 11, 2009

Three men in their nineties were among the last British veterans of the Spanish civil war honoured by the Spanish Embassy in London on Tuesday.
Sam Lesser, Lou Kenton and Joseph Kahn were part of a group of seven UK and Irish volunteers of the International Brigade awarded Spanish citizenship 70 years after the end of the conflict.

“It was exciting, enjoyable and a huge honour to have my Spanish passport bestowed on me,” said Mr Kahn, 93, of Maida Vale, north west London.

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Simcha on the Square is cancelled

By Simon Rocker, June 11, 2009

Simcha on the Square, the annual celebration of Jewish culture in Trafalgar Square, has been cancelled this year because organisers have been unable to secure enough funding from the Greater London Authority.
Instead, the GLA will be sponsoring a beefed-up Klezmer in the Park to take place in Regent’s Park on September 6.

The GLA had underwritten almost half the £100,000 cost of last year’s Simcha, the third since its inauguration.

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Spielberg reels in UK man to run Holocaust archive

By Simon Rocker, June 11, 2009

The founding director of Britain’s first Holocaust museum, Stephen Smith, is leaving the country to head a major archive of survivor testimonies established by film-maker Steven Spielberg.

Dr Smith, who opened the Holocaust Centre in Laxton, Nottinghamshire, in 1995 with his brother James, is to be the new executive director of the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, based at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

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Don't drink and dance

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2009

Here’s a rabbi who thinks simchah dancing has got too rowdy.

Writing of his experience of a recent wedding, Rabbi Dovid Landesman comments: “Frankly, the movements would have done the ‘bros’ in the ‘hood’ proud.”

More on Cross Currents

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Exclusive: Mars bars go kosher

By Simon Rocker, June 4, 2009

Rabbis will be soon able to snack on one of the best-loved chocolate products when Mars Bars go under kosher supervison.

The London Beth Din’s kashrut division has signed a contract with Mars to certify products made in its Slough factory.

As well as the popular snack bar, the division has also certified Galaxy Block, Galaxy Ripple, Snickers, Minstrels and three flavours of Tracker Bars.

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Review: The Lost Ark Of The Covenant

By Simon Rocker, June 4, 2009

Tudor Parfitt,
HarperCollins, £9.99

The lost ark of Solomon’s Temple is Judaism’s equivalent of the Holy Grail, one of the prizes most eagerly sought by archaeological trophy-hunters. Every few years a book appears claiming to have discovered the missing artefact, out of circulation for 2,500 years.

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UCU rep quits after pro-boycott vote

By Simon Rocker, June 4, 2009

An executive member of the University and College Union has quit after its annual congress in Bournemouth last week voted to hold a conference to discuss boycotting Israel.

It was the third year running that the question of an Israel boycott has been aired at the congress.

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Orthodox seek visa law change

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2009

The Government is looking at proposals to offset new visa laws which have hit young strictly Orthodox Jews who want to marry partners from abroad.

The age for a spouse being granted permission to live in Britain was raised last November from 18 to 21 in a move designed mainly to combat forced marriages among the Asian community.

But representatives of the Charedi community, whose members traditionally marry young, say that this is stopping young people from Israel or the US coming to marry in the UK.

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Fears that Bill may force shuls to hire non-Jews

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2009

The Board of Deputies is studying the implications of the new Equality Bill amid concerns that it could become harder for religious organisations to restrict jobs to members of their own faith.

Jon Benjamin, the Board’s chief executive, said he was consulting heads of other Jewish organisations about the proposed legislation, which received a second Commons reading last month.

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This is not Zionism

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2009

Rabbi Sidney Schwartz, writing in the Jewish Week,exposes a disturbing incident that took place on this year’s Salute to Israel parade in New York:

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Getting the big picture

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2009

You might not think twice about a name like “Weinberg” among supporters of a new Israel-linked charity.

But Rob Weinberg, trustee of the Friends of the Haifa Foundation UK, is not your average north-west Jewish Londoner: he is in fact a Bahá’í, who grew up in Canterbury.

He was recruited to the charity by Bat-Zion Susskind-Sacks — sister-in-law of Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks — who set it up to promote the city as a symbol of multifaith harmony.

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More Britain's Got Talmud

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2009

The Talmud is second only to the Bible in religious importance for Jews: or as Rabbi Norman Solomon elegantly puts it, “If Scripture is the sun, the Talmud is the moon that reflects its light.”
Today, there are probably more Jews than at any time in history seriously studying Talmud, but still its language and difficult style make it inaccessible to the majority.

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Still no cash for tribunal winner

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2009

A former employee of an Orthodox charity is owed thousands in compensation, months after winning an unfair dismissal claim against it.

Geraldine Fainer was awarded more than £17,000 by Watford Employment Tribunal in December after losing her job at The Clubhouse, a charity which supports Orthodox youngsters and their families in London.

But a spokesman for the organisation said that it had gone into liquidation last month.

Last Friday, Barnet County Court ordered to be paid to Ms Fainer £6,500 which had been previously frozen in two of the charity’s bank accounts.

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Cambridge mulls rival mikveh plans

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2009

A public showdown is looming over plans to open Cambridge’s first mikveh.

An open meeting has been called by the Cambridge Community Mikveh Charity (CCMC) for Sunday week, in the presence of a dayan from the London Beth Din, which held a hearing into the mikveh controversy six months ago.

David Gilinsky, a trustee of the CCMC, took his fellow-trustees to the Beth Din, complaining of “procrastination” over the project. He and his wife Ofra have offered land they own in Milton Road as a location for the ritual bath.

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Smile Hitler. The Nazis invade trainspotters’ day out

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2009

Organisers of a Second World War re-enactment event have apologised after some participants breached its dress code and sported swastikas.

Men in German military uniforms were seen displaying the Nazi emblems at the East Lancashire Light Railway’s annual “wartime weekend” in Bury.

But Andy Coward, the railway’s general manager, said that such insignia were off-limits and people would have been asked to remove them if they had been spotted.

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Amos Elon, Israel’s critical voice, is silent

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2009

One of Israel’s most distinguished authors and journalists, Amos Elon, a longstanding critic of the country’s occupation of the West Bank, died in Italy on Monday aged 82.

Vienna-born, Elon moved to Palestine when he was seven, in 1933. He grew up in Tel Aviv and served three years in the Hagana, before going on to begin his life-long love affair with history, reading history and law first at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and then at Cambridge.

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Boycott warning at UCU congress

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2009

Academics heading for their annual congress this week were warned by their leaders that any call for a boycott of Israel would be declared null and void.

Half a dozen motions of varying degrees of hostility towards Israel were tabled for debate on today (Wednesday afternoon) on the first day of the congress of the University and College Union in Bournemouth.

But the union’s executive warned that two of them could bring legal repercussions by targeting Israeli institutions.

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Britain's Got Talmud

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2009

If you want a rabbinic take on the Susan Boyle phenomenon, try this from Yitzchok Addlestein writing on the Cross Currents blog:

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The Pope Revisited

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI may have made no faux pas during his visit to the Middle East but you might have got the impression that he had a rather cool reception in Israel. There were various gripes – eg “Survivors angered by Pope's ‘lukewarm’ Yad Vashem speech”.

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