Simon Rocker

Blears praises shuls for interfaith work

By Simon Rocker, May 14, 2009

More than three-quarters of mainstream synagogues do some kind of interfaith work, according to a survey to be published next week by the Board of Deputies.

The results “show what some may think of as a surprising degree of engagement in interfaith activity by the broad swathe of our community,” said Board chief executive Jon Benjamin. “But this confirms what many of us already know — that the Jewish community is keen to play its part in wider society and to share its experience of successfully integrating into British society.”

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Lieberman welcome to visit, say Deputies

By Simon Rocker, May 14, 2009

Israel’s controversial Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman would be welcome at the Board of Deputies, the four contenders for its presidency agreed this week.

The electoral success of his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party in February provoked disquiet among UK Jews, with several prominent rabbis condemning his attitude towards Arabs.

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Jews thought of Jesus first, says Bible scholar

By Simon Rocker, May 14, 2009

The idea of a Messiah who is killed and then resurrected is a Jewish one that pre-dates Christianity, according to a Hebrew University scholar.

Israel Knohl, a professor of Bible, believes the evidence lies in the “Gabriel Revelation”, an inscription on a stone found at the Dead Sea, which dates back to the beginning of the first century CE or the end of the century before.

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JFS entry case is appealed

By Simon Rocker, May 14, 2009

An Appeal Court case opened this week into whether the entry policy of Britain’s largest Orthodox school breaches anti-discrimination laws.

It has been brought on behalf of “M”, a boy who was refused a place by JFS in London for September 2007 because his mother was converted by a non-Orthodox rabbi and therefore considered not Jewish by the school’s religious authority, the Chief Rabbi.

Lawyers for the boy maintain that to decide entry on the basis of whether a child’s mother is Jewish or not is racially discriminatory.

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Lubavitch messianics condemned

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2009

An American halachic authority, Rabbi Menashe Klein, has hit out at those who believe the last Lubavitcher Rebbe was the Messiah.

You can read more here.

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Court raps US teacher for slamming creationism

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2009

A teacher in a public school in southern California violated the constitutional separation between church and state when he condemned creationism as "superstitious nonsense", a court has found.
Guardian commentator Andrew Brown concludes: "The result of this case... is that evolution becomes harder to teach, and creationism harder to mock, because science and atheism have become so entangled in the public mind."

 

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Chief Rabbi’s siddur could go global

By Simon Rocker, May 7, 2009

A new edition of the siddur by Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks could become the standard prayerbook for the English-speaking modern Orthodox world.

The translation and commentary, first done for his revision of the Singer’s siddur in the UK two years ago, has been incorporated into a new edition shortly to be published by Koren in Jerusalem.

“The Koren Sacks Siddur is the first new Orthodox siddur for North America in a generation,” said Sheryl Abbey of Koren Publishers.

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Stolen scroll sheds light on exile days

By Simon Rocker, May 7, 2009

A 2,000-year-old papyrus fragment offering rare evidence of early Jewish history was seized by police in Jerusalem on Tuesday. Two men were arrested.

The 15 lines of Hebrew, written in the style of the Dead Sea Scrolls, contains a the phrase “year four to the destruction of Israel” — a reference possibly to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE or the Roman defeat of the Bar Kochba revolt nearly 70 years later.

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New boycott threat from UCU

By Simon Rocker, May 7, 2009

Anti-boycott campaigners fear that a fresh attempt could be made to implement sanctions against Israeli universities when higher education lecturers meet at their annual union congress at the end of the month.

The University and College Union refused to comment on whether any debate on Israel would take place, saying that the agenda for the meeting in Bournemouth in three weeks will be published next week.

But the JC has learned that the union’s national executive has approved the submission of three motions on “Palestine”, raising the alarm among anti-boycott activists.

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Field wide open in hunt for Deputies’ leader

By Simon Rocker, May 7, 2009

The most hotly contested leadership election in the 250-year-old history of the Board of Deputies remains an open race with no front-runner yet emerging for president, after a straw poll by the JC.

When nominations closed last Friday, there were a record four candidates competing to be president of British Jewry’s main representative body for the next three years, with seven for the three vice-presidencies.

More than half of the 27 deputies polled — around 10 per cent of the 268 eligible to vote in Sunday’s week election — have yet to make up their mind.

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Collaboration on Jewish studies

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

Trainee Progressive rabbis will be taking degrees at a leading academic institution where Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks is a visiting professor.

King’s College, London has for several years offered an MA in Jewish studies in conjunction with the Orthodox London School of Jewish Studies.

Now King’s has entered into a similar partnership with the Leo Baeck College, London’s Progressive rabbinic academy.

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Power play by rabbis

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

United Synagogue rabbis want a greater say in deciding its religious policy.

A draft constitution of the Rabbinical Council of the US (RCUS), which has been seen by the JC, advocates that rabbis should be “an equal partner with the Chief Rabbinate and the London Beth Din” in determining the religious direction of the US.

The document also says that the RCUS “must ratify prior to implementation all policies that affect the rabbinate as well as any policy that affects the spiritual and religious direction of the United Synagogue”.

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How Jewish and Muslim kids can get together

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

For all the passions aroused by Israel’s incursion into Gaza at the beginning of the year, joint Muslim-Jewish initiatives have been progressing.

In February, the Spiro Ark co-hosted a concert on London’s South Bank by Berakah, an interfaith band of Muslim, Jewish and Christian musicians. Its partner was the Vigo Group, a company owned by the Muslim Shah family, who came on board when they happened to buy the building next door to the Spiro’s headquarters and got chatting.

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Kosher caterer bites the dust

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

Kosher caterer Sharett has gone into liquidation after the failure of attempts to keep it afloat.

An order to wind up the north-west London company, which was started by Neal Sharpe and Ruth Synett in 1991, was made at the Insolvency Court on April 16.

In January last year, Sharett entered into a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) in order to stay in business and repay creditors more than £200,000.

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Knock, knock: it’s Wizo on the doorstep

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

Wizo UK is to devote its annual Jewish Women’s Week next week to support for countering domestic violence in Israel under the campaign title of “Knock, Knock”.

Andy Epstein, chair of Wizo, said that it was “doubly appropriate as Jewish Women’s Week is the only Home Office authorised door-to-door campaign in the Jewish community.

“The ‘Knock, Knock’ title also refers to the hard knocks people take in life, both physical and mental. The money raised will help to support our projects for women and children suffering from domestic violence in Israel.”

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New award for Britain’s Shoah heroes

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

An award is to be created by the government to honour British heroes of the Holocaust who risked their lives to rescue those persecuted by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Liam Byrne, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, announced the initiative on Wednesday, the day after Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid his first visit to Auschwitz, accompanied by his wife Sarah.

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MP: no need to alter arms to Israel policy

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

Andrew Gwynne, parliamentary chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, says there is no need for the government to change its policy over arm sales to Israel following a review of exports announced last week by the Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Mr Miliband told the Commons that the government was “looking at all extant licences to see whether any of these need to be re-considered in light of recent events in Gaza”.

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Treif Flu

By Simon Rocker, April 30, 2009

It's not only Israel's deputy health minister who wants swine flu renamed because of religious sensitivities. Representatives of Britain's pig famers also want the appellation dropped because they fear it may damage pork sales.

Among the Orthodox press here, Hamodia refers to it as "swine flu" but it's "Mexican flu" in the Jewish Tribune.

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Dear Gordon, here’s £4m to spend on students

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2009

Naim Dangoor, the nonagenarian Iraqi-born philanthropist, has offered a donation of £4 million to British universities — in the hope that the government matches the gift.

Dr Dangoor, who gave £1million four years ago to fund a thousand £1,000 scholarships at UK universities, put his idea in a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown last week.

He explained that he had heard on radio and television that young people were being told that “because of the credit crunch, they can’t obtain new jobs and they can’t go to university. I want to make life easier for them”.

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