Simon Rocker

Jewish trusts top UK charities list

By Simon Rocker, June 25, 2009

More than a fifth of the 100 top-spending family trusts in Britain are of Jewish origin, according to a new study published this week.

The research, Family Foundation Philanthropy 2009, compares the philanthropic scene in four countries — the UK, the US, Italy and Germany — and is sponsored by the Pears Foundation, which itself appears at number 41 on the UK list with grants of £4.4 million in 2007.

Its author, Cathy Pharoah, of London’s Cass Business School, notes that Jewish trusts have “particularly helped to shape the UK family foundation world”.

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George Galloway rapped by Ofcom for radio show

By Simon Rocker, June 25, 2009

George Galloway, the Respect MP, breached guidelines on impartiality when he encouraged listeners to demonstrate against Israel on his Talksport radio show, the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has found.

It said his programme had moved away “from legitimate debate and started to campaign on a major matter of controversy” by calling on people to join protests against Israel’s actions in Gaza.

At one point, Mr Galloway, who presents a twice-weekly evening phone-in at the station on topical issues, said: “Stand up, stand up against the great crime that took place in Gaza today.”

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A big headache for Jewish schools

By Simon Rocker, June 25, 2009

The Court of Appeal’s ruling today that the entry policy of JFS – and by extension, many other Jewish schools – is in breach of the Race Relations Act will come as little surprise to those who attended the three-day hearing.
But that makes it no less historic: what the court has said is that the traditional rules for deciding who is a Jew – matrilineal descent –cannot be used for deciding who can enter a Jewish school.

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Picture special: an unorthodox view of Stamford Hill

By Simon Rocker, June 25, 2009

The strictly Orthodox community of London’s Stamford Hill generally prefers to guard its privacy. But now a unique window into this thriving society has been opened by a gifted photographer — and the internet.

Over the past few months, hundreds of David Braun’s pictures have appeared on the photo-sharing website Flickr. He has been able to gain unique access to the community because he lives there, the scion of a Satmar Chasidic family and one of eight siblings.

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Jewish school entry policies are unlawful, court rules

By Simon Rocker, June 25, 2009

Many Jewish schools in the UK will be forced to tear up their entry rules after the admissions policy of the largest school, JFS, was today ruled racially discriminatory.

In a landmark judgment, the Court of Appeal said that it was illegal for Jewish schools to admit pupils on the basis of whether their mother was Jewish or not.

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The Lubavitch rabbi and the ‘Kill children' controversy

By Simon Rocker, June 22, 2009

Rabbi Manis Friedman is a veteran Lubavitch lecturer whose students at one time included Bob Dylan in Minnesota.

But now he has become the centre of controversy over remarks he made to an American Jewish magazine saying that the “only way to fight a moral war” is to “kill men, women and children”.

He was one of the rabbis invited by Moment’s Ask the rabbi column to respond to the question, “How should Jews treat their Arab neighbours?”
Here is most of his published response:

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Hands off our rabbis, Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 19, 2009

English rabbis are apparently highly prized among Jerusalem's strictly Orthodox community.

But the Jewish Tribune columnist Ben Yitzchok is none too impressed at rumours that representatives from Israel are "fishing around" London in the hope of recruiting rabbinic talent.

Let them grow their own rather than deprive London's strictly Orthodox community of "another one of their treasured rabbonim", he advises in this week's edition.

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Light relief in fight on Shabbat sensors

By Simon Rocker, June 18, 2009

An Orthodox couple have made a claim for religious discrimination over sensor-operated lights outside their flat which they say stops them leaving it on Shabbat.

Gordon Coleman, the former chief executive of the Federation of Synagogues, and his wife Dena, the headteacher of Yavneh College in Hertfordshire, are suing the Embassy Court Residential Management Company in Bournemouth County Court.

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Vivian Wineman will head the JLC

By Simon Rocker, June 18, 2009

The Jewish Leadership Council has ended speculation over its top job by confirming that new Board of Deputies’ president Vivian Wineman has taken over as its chair.

Since its inception six years ago, the council has been led by its founding chairman Henry Grunwald, who retired from the presidency of the Board last month after a maximum six consecutive years in office.

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Fur-fetched

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2009

A proposal in Israel to ban imports of fur could have unfortunate consequences for the Chasidic community: it could put a stop to streimels, the ornamental hats worn on Shabbat and festivals (and once described by the late Peter Cook as “furry frisbees”).
Synthetic alternatives are available, apparently.

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Anger management, rabbinical style

By Simon Rocker, June 15, 2009

Rabbis don’t often talk openly about the problems that they have with congregants.

But in an article for the latest edition of Common Ground , the magazine of the Council of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer reveals how he coped with “a small but vociferous” element at his previous community (Northwood).

“It seemed to be that whatever I did, I could not please them and their unfair criticism and machinations put a tremendous strain upon me and my family,” he writes.

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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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