Simon Rocker

Millionaire's great giveaway

By Simon Rocker, June 4, 2015

Harold Grinspoon, the American philanthropist behind PJ Library, has joined the elite Giving Pledge group, who have pledged to give at least half their wealth away. Parents of young children in a number of countries, including the UK, can receive a free Jewish book from PJ every month.

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Commons or garden yiddish

By Simon Rocker, June 4, 2015

Veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, who likes nothing better than skewering Tories, had his chance the other day when he rose to correct Leader of the House Chris Grayling, who had pronounced chutzpah with a "ch" as in "church". Mind you, Mr Skinner's correction sounded closer to "h" as in "hat" rather than "ch" as in loch. Just as well he represents Bolsover rather than Llanelli.

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Mason's fishy tale

By Simon Rocker, June 4, 2015

You might think that Jackie Mason would stick to chopped herring but the New York comedian is a sushi-lover, having first sampled it in Tokyo. "I was convinced it would never catch on," he told the Sunday Times. "It's lucky I'm not in the restaurant business."

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Rabbi's good vibrations

By Simon Rocker, June 4, 2015

Israeli Orthodox Rabbi Natan Alexander has been attracting attention with his new website, Better2gether, which sells sex toys for religious couples. But no room in its vibrator range for the model featured in the JC a couple of years ago - the "rampant rabbi".

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Corden's kosher steak-out

By Simon Rocker, June 4, 2015

James Corden, the British host of The Late, Late Show on American TV (centre), did a kosher turn this week, with a sketch serving behind the counter of a Jewish butcher. Wishing customers "Good Shabbos" behind a poster for the Great Cholent Cookoff and "kvelling" at the prospect of Friday-night dinner, he seemed to enjoy his outing. Next: Graham Norton at the Kosher Deli?

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Equalities Commission says Belz school ban is unlawful

By Simon Rocker, June 1, 2015

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has said that it would be unlawful for a school to bar children if their mothers drive.

Leaders of the Belz sect, one of the largest Chasidic groups, in Stamford Hill, north London have told parents that the children of women drivers would not be permitted to attend its schools from next term.

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Gay cakes and women drivers

By Simon Rocker, May 29, 2015

In Northern Ireland, a Christian-run bakery is appealing against a ruling that it broke the law when it refused an order to make a cake celebrating gay marriage.

It’s a case that tests the balance between equality and religious freedom.

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Chief Rabbi launches new shul in Hendon

By Simon Rocker, May 28, 2015

A new United Synagogue congregation is to be launched by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in Hendon, north-west London, in a fortnight.

Magen Avot, which will hold services at the Hendon Hall Hotel until it finds a permanent home, has been founded mainly by ex-members of North Hendon Synagogue.

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Life is not ours to cut short, says Chief, but Progressives back assisted dying

By Simon Rocker, May 28, 2015

One of the strongest advocates for assisted dying is the Jewish human rights lawyer Lord Joffe, who has made repeated attempts to win parliamentary approval for it.

But when the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer introduced a bill last year that would have allowed doctors to supply lethal drugs to someone given less than six months to live, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis joined the Archbishop of

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Interview: Jonathan Arkush

By Simon Rocker, May 28, 2015

The day after his election as president of the Board of Deputies Jonathan Arkush was walking through the jewellery district of Hatton Garden to his chambers near the Royal Courts of Justice. "People were stepping on to the pavement who were complete strangers to me to shake my hand," he recalled.

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Comic who's going places

By Simon Rocker, May 28, 2015

Self-deprecation is a key skill in the arsenal of any self-respecting Jew. Just ask stand-up comic Philip Simon, who was recently named Lastminute Comedy/Kill for a Seat's Comedian of the Year.

The 36-year-old, from Borehamwood, beat off stiff competition from 300 other acts to claim the title, after entertaining the crowd with the foibles of his Jewish life.

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Bucks Fizz for regal bagel

By Simon Rocker, May 28, 2015

What greater proof could you have that the bagel has become part of British culture than that it is served in the very highest of high society - Buckingham Palace?

Along with such traditional fare as cucumber sandwiches, scones and Victoria sponge, smoked salmon bagel was on the menu this year for the Queen's Garden Party.

There's hope for shmaltz herring crackers yet.

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Kuwait Airways' Mystery Read

By Simon Rocker, May 28, 2015

When Andrew Feldman recently travelled to the States from London with Kuwait Airways, he found a "massive batch of JCs" being handed out as he boarded the plane. "It was extremely bizarre," he revealed. "In general, the entertainment left a lot to be desired, but I was pleasantly surprised to pick up my free copy." The question is: how did they get there?

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Souper Choice for TV Chef

By Simon Rocker, May 28, 2015

Regina Waldman received an MBE for her charity work four years ago.

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Stamford Hill sect bans women drivers

By Simon Rocker, May 28, 2015

The British leaders of a major Chasidic sect have declared that women should not be allowed to drive.
In a letter sent out last week, Belz rabbis said that having female drivers goes against “the traditional rules of modesty in our camp” and against the norms of Chasidic institutions.

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Chief Rabbi urges community to report sex abuse allegations to police

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2015

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has stated that any allegation of child sexual abuse must be reported to the police “without delay”, following last week’s conviction of a Charedi teacher for sexual assault.

All rabbis under the authority of the chief rabbi are to be asked to attend a mandatory seminar being organised by the United Synagogue to alert them to the dangers of abuse.

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‘Declining’ Reading cannot afford to keep its minister

By Simon Rocker, May 25, 2015

Reading Hebrew Congregation is to make its rabbi and rebbetzin redundant because it can no longer afford to keep them.

Rabbi Zvi and Shira Solomons, who arrived from Liverpool seven years ago, will lose their posts at the end of the month.

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Come to the learning party this Shavuot

By Simon Rocker, May 22, 2015

Shavuot is often regarded as the Cinderella of major festivals that often slips by unnoticed. While shuls may be greened up and cholestorol levels rise with the proliferation of cheesecake, there are no home practices associated with it such as succah or Seder.

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Why bad jews are good news

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2015

It seems we can't get enough of Bad Jews. Josh Harmon's new comedy about an American Jewish family has proved so popular that London's Arts Theatre is extending its run for six weeks until July 11.

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This label's no fable

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2015

Maybe Jamie Oliver ought to be sent in to revamp kosher airline meals. You wouldn't want to add up the additives in this barbeque chicken served on a BA flight to London from New York. "By the time I had read the label, I was ready to land," said passenger Michael Fishberg.

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