Simon Rocker

Chief Rabbi to give lecture on conversion

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2010

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and Dayan Menachem Gelley, senior dayan of the London Beth Din, are to take part in a lecture series next month on one of the controversial contemporary topics - conversion.

They are among speakers who feature in a seven-part course on "understanding conversion" beginning next Wednesday night at the London School of Jewish Studies in Hendon.

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Bowing out of the Brits

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2010

Let me extend good wishes for a long and healthy retirement to Alex Minn, secretary of the Initiation Society - the quaintly-named body that regulates circumcision - who is finally stepping down after 55 years in the role.

Reckoning himself the "longest serving Jewish civil servant", he turns 90 in September. "The time has come to make way for a younger man," he said.

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Barmitzvah Boy on DVD

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2010

Maureen Lipman has long bewailed the BBC's failure to release her late husband Jack Rosenthal's plays on DVD.

At last, good news: independent distributors Acorn Media have taken on the challenge and are planning to bring out a box set of his TV classics such as The Barmitzvah Boy and The Evacuees early next year.

Acorn's Peter Smart said: "We monitor all the requests we get and Jack Rosenthal comes up time and time again."

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Acclaim for Israeli chef

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2010

Israeli cuisine has gained international recognition after Food & Wine magazine listed Tel Aviv's Yonatan Roshfeld at the top of its most promising chefs for 2010.

His first restaurant, Herbert Samuel, has a neo-Middle eastern flavour, while Spain meets Israel at the second, Tapas Ahad Ha'am. They are named after the first High Commissioner of Palestine and the champion of cultural Zionism.

A rather loftier choice of name than The Fat Duck or El Bulli.

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Shellfish singles

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2010

What is redder than a lobster?

Answer: a rabbi's face when he spots one on the menu of a Jewish organisation.

A reader from the North of England was exercised about an email shot he received from American JDate for a singles weekend in California next month.

Along with the promise of "incredible beach", "gorgeous accommodation", Martinis and women - apparently more numerous than men - there is, of course, the food: sushi, steaks and lobster.

Put the lid on the pot and give them a class in Leviticus, I say.

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Threatened prof wins out

By Simon Rocker, April 29, 2010

London-born academic David Newman, of Ben Gurion University, came in for some stick last autumn after appearing in a Channel 4 programme about the Israel lobby.

One Anglo governor of the university, Michael Gross, was so apoplectic that he emailed Professor Newman to say: "I will use whatever influence I have at BGU to have you thrown out… I hope you perish."

Lest the message was lost, he followed up with: "The sooner you are removed from BGU and the face of the earth, the better."

How much influence does the fulminating Mr Gross wield, you may wonder.

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The Mice and the Rabbi in the Cupboard

By Simon Rocker, April 28, 2010

I came across a reference on a blog to people keeping Reb Shayale in their cupboards to ward off mice.
I confess to not having the foggiest idea of what this meant, so I googled it up.
And for those similarly perplexed, here is the answer courtesy of the
Shtetlinks
website.

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Sex abuse in the yeshivah world

By Simon Rocker, April 26, 2010

While the Vatican continues to reel from revelations of priestly child abuse, closer to home a number of court cases have exposed alleged paedophilia in the strictly Orthodox world.
In a much commented-on blogpost, the Orthodox scholar Marc Shapiro has offered insight into why its incidence was previously covered up.
This is what Professor Shapiro writes (on the Seforim blog, see footnote 8 to the entry for April 15):

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The late, late Yom Ha'atzmaut

By Simon Rocker, April 23, 2010

For some, two days Yomtov is one day too many. But could the Israeli Embassy here be going even further by extending Yom Ha'atzamut to a fourth day?

Israel officially celebrated its independence on Tuesday - but the London embassy's annual knees-up for its friends was taking place today.

We await Rav Prosor's explanation.

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Rabbis call for action on Congo

By Simon Rocker, April 23, 2010

More than 50 rabbis including Reform head Rabbi Tony Bayfield and Liberal chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich have called on political leaders to make it an “absolute priority” for the next parliament to act to save war-ravaged Congo.

In a letter published in today’s Guardian, they say that the loss of life had reached nearly five and half million people by 2007 – with 45,000 still dying every month.

“What these shocking figures cannot convey is the scale of ongoing rape, torture and humiliation,” they write.

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ASA urged to reverse ban on Western Wall adverts

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

The Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) is being urged to appeal against a ban on a holiday advert which described Judaism's holiest monument, the Western Wall, as part of Israel - after the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complainant's claim that it was actually in the Occupied Territories.

The Board of Deputies said it was strongly pressing IGTO to contest last week's decision by the ASA.

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JC reporter picks up top journalism prize

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

The JC's Middle East correspondent, Anshel Pfeffer, has been awarded the prestigious B'nai B'rith award for journalism.

Mr Pfeffer, 36, has worked for the paper for three years. He reported from Mumbai in the aftermath of the terror attacks and covered Operation Cast Lead, the Jerusalem riots and the Israeli elections.

He also covered the Israeli angle on universal jurisdiction in the UK after a warrant was issued in London for the arrest of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

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Bagel eater beats volcano

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Let's toast Manchester businessman Martin Abramson who made it to Israel for Yom Ha'atzmaut, despite the flight embargo caused by the volcanic ash cloud.

While thousands of Israeli and other passengers were grounded, he took to the dusty skies in a tiny single-engined Piper Saratoga, which bore him from Pannshanger Airfield in Hertfordshire to Madrid in time to catch an El Al flight.

His pilot was former JNF chief executive Simon Winters who said: "I love flying and was pleased to be able to assist in a friend's hour of need."

It took them five hours to reach Madrid.

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Al Murray at the embassy

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Comedian Al Murray, best known as the Pub Landlord, is not the most obvious visitor to the Israeli Embassy. But he was due to visit its Kensington HQ yesterday at the invitation of Ambassador Ron Prosor.

Murray happens to be the great-great-great-grandson of the novelist William Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair, whose home the embassy once was.

Given the EU's stance on Israel, the Ambassador might well be tempted to borrow one of the Landlord's catchphrases, "Back off Brussels".

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The old ones are the best

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

It's good to know the Guardian zealously maintains its reputation for classic misprints. Here's the paper's correction last Friday to an item about the expected line-up at the Glastonbury rock festival this summer: "The group Frightened Rabbi should have been the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit." Bravo.

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Return of travel boss

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Welcome back Rafi Shalev as UK and Ireland director of the Israel Government Tourist Office. Rafi had to be airlifted to Israel last year after a nasty motorbike spill in the Lake District.

I trust we'll see no repeat of one of the office's more risque stunts; guests at a travel convention here last summer received a goodie bag containing condoms with the slogan, "Come to Israel and be satisfied".

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Some like it glatt

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Among creditors of administration-placed Portsmouth Football Club is an unexpected entry: Kings Kosher of Manchester.

How come the FA Cup finalists owe it £858.37? Perhaps manager Avraham Grant enjoys a kosher hot dog after his Thai massage.

But I gather that the recipient of the "finest glatt kosher" meat is the club's Israeli international defender, Tal Ben Haim.

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Do our schools make us better Jews?

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Whatever the pros and cons of school league tables, they have probably done wonders for Jewish day schools. The proven academic track record of Jewish schools year in, year out, must be one reason why parents have been turning to them in ever-increasing numbers to the point that six out of every 10 Jewish children in the UK currently attend one.

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Lib Dem Lords deputy leader causes Board walkout

By Simon Rocker, April 19, 2010

Lord Wallace, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader in the Lords, has defended Baroness Tonge’s “over-emotional approach” to Palestinian rights in a wide-ranging address to the Board of Deputies on Sunday.

He explained that she has not been expelled from the party because “we do sadly find the current Likud Party very intolerant of all criticism”.

His remarks prompted a number of Deputies to walk out in protest.

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Lubavitch aids stranded air passengers

By Simon Rocker, April 16, 2010

Hendon’s Chabad House is expecting more than 100 guests at tonight’s Shabbat meal - most of them passengers grounded because of the volcanic dust cloud preventing flights taking off from London.

“We’ve had a lot of people calling up wanting a place to eat, a place to sleep,” said Chabad’s Rabbi Dovid Katz. “We have a massive pot of chicken soup ready.”

Having recently run a Seder for 300 people, mostly Israelis, in Golders Green, Rabbi Katz said: “It makes me feel like Pesach is happening again!”

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