Simon Rocker



Defender of the Faith

By Simon Rocker, October 15, 2010

You may be happy to hear that the Jewish Tribune, whose future a few weeks ago seemed parlous, is still around - and still biting.

Here is its veteran columnist Ben Yitzchok, in the latest issue, taking a potshot at the Chief Rabbi over his Rosh Hashanah broadcast:

"During the debate Lord Sacks was asked by one of the critics whether he could be certain of Hashem's existence," he wrote.

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Jews back Muslim marriage visa challenge

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

A Muslim couple's legal challenge to the rules on marriage visas is being supported by the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.

The Court of Appeal will hear a claim next week that it is unfair to stop foreign spouses from outside the European Union coming to Britain if they are under 21.

In November 2008, the last government raised the minimum age for marriage visas from 18 to 21, as a way to deter forced marriages.

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JLC in shift to boost Jewish legitimacy

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

The Jewish Leadership Council is to change its structure in order to give it greater legitimacy within the Jewish community.

Members appointed in a personal capacity, such as Lord Woolf and Sir Victor Blank, will no longer have a vote at the council but serve instead in an advisory capacity, as vice-presidents.

Instead, voting rights are to be restricted to leaders of the 16 Jewish organisations currently represented on the council.

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Friday night not valid for school admissions

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

A Reform rabbi has challenged the entry rules used by some Orthodox schools because they take into account synagogue attendance only on Saturday mornings and not Friday nights.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith, of London's North-Western Reform Synagogue, said that the entry policy used by JFS was "galling".

But the school said that its entry criteria had been devised simply for administrative ease and not for any religious reasons.

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Barmitzvahs still on at school

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

King Solomon High School in Redbridge says it will continue to let pupils celebrate their bar and batmitzvahs in school.

Last week JFS in north London announced it was ending bnei mitzvah ceremonies at the request of local congregations which felt that they might discourage youngsters from having them in synagogue.

But King Solomon head Spencer Lewis said this week: "We have always offered our students the opportunity to celebrate their barmitzvah at the school. We believe it is important that we do this and almost all the families who take this up are not members of

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Human rights award for Israeli duo

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

You do not often see guests dancing at an Anglo-Jewish charity dinner.

But many were on their feet at the New Israel Fund's annual Human Rights awards on Sunday to celebrate this year's winners: Israeli singers Noa and Mira.

The duo, Achinoam Nini who is Jewish and Mira Awad who is Arab, represented Israel in the 2009 Eurovision song contest. They had been due to perform in London earlier this year at the Zionist Federation's Israel Independence concert but Ms Arad withdrew amid political controversy.

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Grade stands by the BBC

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

The BBC may have spent more than a quarter of a million pounds resisting solicitor Steven Sugar's Freedom of Information campaign to force it to release the 2004 Balen report on its Middle East coverage.

But the corporation's stance is defended by its former chairman Michael Grade. The document had no place in the public domain, he said to a Board of Deputies lunch on Tuesday.

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Osborne for Board bash

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

Chancellor George Osborne will join the Board of Deputies for their 250th anniversary dinner next month (one place at least where he can avoid the word "cuts"). Meanwhile, fellow speaker Tony Blair, who can fetch up to £200,000 for a lecture, has waived his fee.

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Chewing over the booker

By Simon Rocker, October 14, 2010

Howard Jacobson may have scooped Britain's top literary prize but, alas, he missed out on the Bunny Booker.

North London journalist Carol Muskoron offered her twist on this week's competition by giving all shortlisted Booker titles to her rabbits Audrey and Harrison to eat.

The book they munched the most would be the winner. But alas, The Finkler Question proved not to be so chewsworthy, coming only third.

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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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