Simon Rocker

Tom Jones goes yiddish

By Simon Rocker, December 29, 2010

Before the year is out, let me add my own salute to the evergreen Sir Tom Jones, who turned 70 in summer.

Lesser known among his musical repertoire is a rendering of the Sophie Tucker classic, My Yiddishe Momme, which has earned more than 300,000 Youtube hits (according to David Mishon, who drew my attention to it).

Not quite up there among his greatest hits Sex Bomb and Delilah, I grant you, but it would have gone down a storm in The Catskills.

Sir Tom says that he learned the song from his father but is it possible he could have picked it up from another source?

More..

Martial tips for cabbies

By Simon Rocker, December 29, 2010

The Israeli self-defence technique, krav maga, has found a new group of adepts - London cabbies.
The Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association has started to teach courses to its members in order to fend off attacks from abusive passengers and robbers on the streets.

More..

Board president against invite to Palestinian envoy

By Simon Rocker, December 24, 2010

Vivian Wineman, the president of the Board of Deputies, is opposed to issuing an invitation to Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Authority’s UK envoy, to speak to the Board.

Mr Wineman had been urged to invite Professor Hassassian by the Board’s treasurer Laurence Brass, after the idea was suggest ed by another deputy at recent Board meetings.

But Mr Wineman, speaking from Israel on Friday, said that although the suggestion was still to be discussed by the executive, he was opposed to it.

More..

Minn-imum of fuss please

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

There is long service - and then there is the service notched up by Alex Minn who has recently stepped down after 55 years as the secretary of one of British Jewry's oldest organisations, the Initiation Society, which regulates Orthodox mohelim.

"They didn't want me to go," said the 90-year old communal servant. "But I thought in all fairness it was time to hand over. I am not looking for another job."

In fact, his record of service stretches back even further since he joined the administration of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation back in 1953.

More..

Board publishes Zionism for clergy

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

The Board of Deputies has responded to growing anti-Israel feeling among Christians by publishing a defence of Zionism from leading rabbis.

Five thousand copies have been published of a 30-page collection of essays, entitled Zionism: A Jewish Communal Response from the UK.

Its editor, Liberal Judaism chairman Lucian Hudson, , said it was "designed to make clear that Jews across the community are united in the belief that Zionism is central to Judaism. We hope it will be read by many ordinary church members."

More..

BBC Nativity says 'no room at shul'

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

A leading rabbi has protested to the BBC that a scene in its dramatisation of The Nativity this week was an anti-Jewish libel.

Rabbi Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue, a member of a panel that advises the BBC on religion, took issue with the third of the four-part series which was due to have been broadcast on BBC1 on Wednesday night. It was written by EastEnders scriptwriter Tony Jordan.

More..

Board urged to invite PA envoy to talk

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

A senior officer of the Board of Deputies has urged president Vivian Wineman to issue a "historic" invitation to the Palestinian Authority's UK Ambassador, Manuel Hassassian, to address British Jewry's main representative body.

Board treasurer Laurence Brass, in a letter to Mr Wineman, said it would be right to open dialogue with the Palestinian envoy even if it incurred criticism from right-wingers "who have tended to dominate" its Middle East agenda.

More..

Sunny despite the snow

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

Heathrow chaplain Rabbi Hershi Vogel was a busy man this week, as you might imagine, answering pleas for help from passengers stranded at the snowbound airport

Except that Rabbi Vogel himself was a victim of the weather: he, wife Zelda and their youngest child, nine-week-old Elisheva, were marooned for more than a day at Amsterdam airport trying to get home.

Still, he took calls on his mobile from people in London looking for "places to stay, food and if I could help with tickets!"

More..

How Isadore became trendy

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

Laura Ashley has a new designer tile out which goes by the name of "Isadore". Is this the start of some retro-Jewish name trend. John Galliano's Morrie range perhaps or Irving by Chanel.

More..

Mick and Ron still friends

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

Mick Davis and Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor remain on good terms, despite the contretemps over the UJIA chairman's outspoken remarks on Israel and the envoy's public rebuke of him. The pair were spotted out on a stroll the other day - in perfect amity, according to the reader who recognised them.

More..

Justice for twelth Lord

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

There has been much murmuring among legal folk about Sir John Dyson being the only Supreme Court judge not to be called Lord (or Lady): he was appointed after the court replaced the Law Lords. Now the Queen has intervened and Sir John will be known as Lord Dyson, after all.

More..

Mel Gibson's dodgy jibe

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

Mel Gibson is never going to win that Anti-Defamation League man of the year award. The Australian actor notoriously ranted against Jews in a outburst after being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in 2006.

Now actress Winona Ryder - who lost relatives in the Holocaust - has revealed an encounter she had with him at a Hollywood party some 15 years ago.

"Somehow, it came up that I was Jewish," she recalled in an interview with GQ magazine. "He said something about 'oven dodgers' but I didn't get it. I'd never heard that before."

More..

Davis row 'sideshow' says Sacks

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2010

The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has said that controversy over UJIA leader Mick Davis's criticisms of Israel is "the wrong debate" which distracts from the real issue.

Lord Sacks had previously made only a brief statement, saying there was "much to be gained" from honest debate over Israel as long as it came with unshakeable commitment.

But he has now changed tack in an essay on last week's Torah portion, published on the United Synagogue website.

More..

Board backs Netanyahu's condemnation of anti-Arab rentals

By Simon Rocker, December 9, 2010

The Board of Deputies has welcomed Israeli President Shimon Peres’s condemnation of rabbis who have told Jews they should not rent home to Arabs in Israel.

A number of prominent rabbis backed Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s declaration that it was forbidden to rent or sell land in Israel to non-Jews.

More..

Minyan men get a rabbi

By Simon Rocker, December 9, 2010

Borehamwood's new Sephardi minyan has taken an important step towards consolidation with the appointment of its first rabbi.

Rabbi Jeff Berger, who has been taking services from September - first once, then twice a month - will move with his family to Borehamwood from Maida Vale in January.

His new part-time post is being supported by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, looking to establish its first new community for some 40 years.

More..

JNF forced to make more staff redundant

By Simon Rocker, December 9, 2010

JNF UK expects to have to make further staff cuts as a result of the economic climate.

The charity, which recently closed a number of regional offices, said that further streamlining may lead to "a number of redundancies". The future of JNF's education department is under review. The charity's Edgware headquarters has been put up for sale, although a new location has yet to be found.

More..



Pius the Great

By Simon Rocker, December 6, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI’s recent interview with Peter Siewald generated a lot of media excitement, mainly over his remarks on condoms.
But worth noting are some of the other things he said. According to the Catholic magazine The Tablet, Benedict claimed that controversial wartime Pope Pius XII “save more Jews than anyone else” and was “one of the great righteous men”.
He also acknowledged that Bishop Richard Williamson, from the renegade ultra-conservative SSPX group, would not have been readmitted to the Church if the Vatican had known in advance of his Holocaust-denying views.

More..

Church rethink on Old Testament art

By Simon Rocker, December 2, 2010

The Church of England this week agreed to reconsider the future of a set of historic paintings linked to Jewish emancipation in the UK after concerted opposition to their sale.

The portraits of Jacob and his 12 sons by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran - now believed to be worth £15 million - have hung since 1756 in Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland, the official residence of the Bishop of Durham.

But local campaigners have earned the pictures a partial reprieve after plans by the Church to put them up for auction came to light last month.

More..

Reform chief to leave for social action job

By Simon Rocker, December 2, 2010

The Reform movement’s leadership succession plans have been derailed by the decision of Rabbi Shoshaha Boyd Gelfand, the designated chief executive, to leave for a new job outside the organisation.

Rabbi Boyd Gelfand, the current executive director, was due to take over the professional reins of the organisation from Rabbi Tony Bayfield, who retires as head of movement at the end of the year.

But she has instead chosen to become the new director of JHub, the centre for Jewish social action enterprise and innovation.

More..

Archbishop tackles Big Society at shul

By Simon Rocker, December 2, 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams proved a top draw when delivering his first address at a synagogue since taking office.

Hampstead Synagogue's hall was packed to hear the Archbishop deliver the annual Sir Isaiah Berlin lecture, inaugurated in memory of the Oxford philosopher who died in 1997.

Guests at the lecture - "Faith and Enlightment; Friend or Foe?" - included former Conservative leader Michael Howard, who asked Dr Williams for his view of the Tories' Big Society idea.

More..