Simon Rocker

Shechitah saved from EU ban

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

Euro-MPs this week rejected proposals that could have curbed kosher meat production in some countries.

Shechitah defence campaigners successfully lobbied members of the European Parliament’s agricultural committee which met in Brussels on Monday.

Henry Grunwald, who chairs the coalition, Shechita EU, said: “It is positive that our efforts have again led towards the recognition of shechitah as one of the humane methods of animal slaughter.”

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Rabbinate in US ‘betray converts’

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

An extraordinary row over conversions has broken out between one of America’s leading modern Orthodox rabbis and the umbrella body for the central Orthodox rabbinate.

Rabbi Avi Weiss, of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, New York, has accused the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) of creating an “alarmist climate” among converts after telling a woman he helped to convert that she must undergo a reconversion.

The RCA explained that the original conversion might not be universally accepted because one member of the rabbinic court that converted her was himself a convert.

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Play performed by Jews and Muslims is celebrated in Lords

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

On Sunday night, London’s Tricycle Theatre staged a play with a difference about the recent Gaza war — it was performed by a group of young local Muslims and Jews.

Homecoming was the latest project of Muju, the Muslim-Jewish arts group founded four years ago.

“People had warned us against doing it because it’s such an emotive issue,” said Georgina Bednar, who co-chairs Muju with Salman Siddiqui. “But we wanted to face the elephant in the room — which we did to a sell-out audience.”

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UCL's Jewish studies faculty gets top rating

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

The UK’s only Jewish studies and Hebrew department, at University College London, has been officially rated as one of the country’s top research centres in the field of religion.

UCL was ranked third with Oxford and Cambridge out of the UK’s theology and religion departments after the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), the system used by government to evaluate universities for funding.

The top institution in the country was Durham.

Dr Ada Rapoport-Albert, head of UCL’s Hebrew and Jewish studies department, said the result was particularly notable.

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What the Koran says about the land of Israel

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

According to the Hamas charter, Palestine is an Islamic endowment “for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection” which no one may renounce. The Arab-Israeli conflict is seen as not just a political dispute but an implacably religious one.

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Dead Sea Scrolls Sect A Myth, Says Top Scholar

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2009

Rachel Elior, Hebrew University professor, expert on mysticism and popular lecturer at Limmud, has thrown a cat among the scholarly pigeons.
In her new book out next month, she argues that the Essenes, the ascetic sect commonly believed to have been the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, are a myth.
Instead, the ancient documents are the work of a priestly family, she contends. 


 

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Bash Street Hasmo

By Simon Rocker, March 17, 2009

If you are a Hasmonean High School old boy - or even if you are not - then you might be interested in these reminiscences of the school from the 1980s circulating around the blogosphere.
They come courtesy of the Melchett Mike blog of former pupil Mike Isaacson, who paints a less than reverent portrait of Jewish school life.
Here's a taster:

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Say a little prayer... for £72

By Simon Rocker, March 13, 2009

If you can't get  to the Western Wall yourself, you can always arrange to have a prayer said there on your behalf... for a donation. A recent ad placed in an Orthodox newspaper by the British Friends of Kupat Ha'ir offers some top-notch spiritual aid: you can submit up to three names to be prayed for by one "outstanding" Torah scholar in return for a minimum donation of £72: or order an entire minyan of "outstanding talmidei chachamim" at a minimum £72 per person prayed for.

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South Bank harmony

By Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

The Spiro Ark joined forces with the Muslim-owned Vigo Group to host a sell-out concert of interfaith music on London’s South Bank on Saturday night.

Vigo co-sponsored an appearance at the Purcell Room of Berakah, featuring musicians from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds.

Berakah (“blessing” in Arabic) was founded by Muslim guitarist Mo Nazam and its repertoire runs from the mystical Hebrew hymn, Yedid Nefesh, to fusions of klezmer violin and Middle Eastern rhythms inspired by Sufi folklore.

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Enjoy a festive city break in Alfama, Lisbon

By Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

From atop their pillar, the Marqués de Pombal and his pet lion survey the preparations taking place for the night’s festivities. It is the eve of the Feast of St Anthony, patron saint of Lisbon, on June 12, and along Liberty Avenue, beer stalls, barriers and spectator stands have been put up for the parade.

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The UN campaign trying to make insulting a faith an international crime

By Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

It became an iconic image: a book by an award-winning writer burned on the streets of Britain. In September 1988, Salman Rushdie published his novel The Satanic Verses, which contained an irreverent alternative life of the Prophet Muhammad. While literary critics debated its artistic merits, elsewhere a storm was gathering. Many Muslims felt deeply affronted by what they saw as an assault on their faith and, in January 1989, some took to the streets in Bradford to demonstrate, culminating in the now notorious book-burning.

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Oxfam official to be shown Sderot

By Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

The head of the Reform movement, Rabbi Tony Bayfield, is to take a senior representative of Oxfam next week to Sderot, the southern Israeli town that has been the prime target of rocket attacks from Gaza.

“We will be going to a school in Sderot,” he told a meeting of the Reform council on Sunday, “and he can see Israeli children who have been physically and psychologically traumatised by the war to understand a bit better that there are two sides to the story.”

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UKIP leader attacks ‘trendy’ Israel-hate in EU Parliament

By Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

There is a “strong bias” against Israel within the European Union and an emergence of “almost a trendy new form of antisemitism” in politics, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party believes.

Nigel Farage, head of the party’s delegation of nine Euro-MPs, hit out in an interview with the JC at hostility towards the Jewish state.

“There is within the European institutions a very strong anti-Israel bias,” he said. “I would almost say — and I am bit nervous of saying this — there’s almost a new trendy form of antisemitism creeping in…

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Race is on for Board president

By Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

The most hotly contested leadership campaign in the 249-year history of the Board of Deputies is under way with four candidates already in the race to become its president.

And nominations do not close until May 1, with deputies due to vote for their leader on May 17.

This week, senior vice-president Vivian Wineman, vice-president Flo Kaufmann, former vice-president Jerry Lewis and former United Synagogue president Peter Sheldon all confirmed that they are standing for the position.

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Analysis: Converts left in crisis by rabbinical courts

By Simon Rocker, March 12, 2009

The annulment of Yossi Fackenheim’s conversion has yet again called into question the conduct of Israel’s rabbinic courts. Not only is the fact that he is the son of one of the 20th century’s leading Jewish theologians bound to produce outrage over his treatment; so, too, is the very idea of retroactively stripping a person of their Jewish status.

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Anyone for cricket?

By Simon Rocker, March 10, 2009

Glancing at Ha'aretz online today, I noticed a small ad entitled "Play Jewish Cricket". Further inspection revealed it to be an invitation to come and play in London - for Southgate Synagogue Club. Not quite the MCC, I grant you, but no doubt there's a queue of willing applicants....

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Developer loses appeal over four metres of land

By Simon Rocker, March 5, 2009

A property developer and his son have lost their appeal in an action that centred on a piece of land less than four metres wide.

Lord Justice Mummery told the Court of Appeal that the legal costs of the dispute between two London Sephardi families — Freddy Ezekiel and his son Mark, and brothers David and Haim Kohali — had “probably topped” the price of the original land deal.

In September 1999, the Ezekiels agreed to buy two plots of land from the Kohalis in Hendon, North-West London, for £300,000.

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Key survivor is remembered

By Simon Rocker, March 5, 2009

One of the UK's best known Holocaust survivors was remembered at a memorial service on Sunday, a year after his death at the age of 97.

London-born Leon Greenman endured six Nazi camps but lost his wife Esther and two-year-old son Barney at Auschwitz.

He honoured the pledge he made in the camp to tell what happened "with every breath until his last," recalled Ruth-Anne Lenga, education consultant at the Jewish Museum, who organised the commemoration at the Sternberg Centre in Finchley.

For more than 60 years, Mr Greenman addressed countless school, youth and other groups a

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Row over messianic CCJ link

By Simon Rocker, March 5, 2009

The former director of the London branch of Jews for Jesus has advised the Council of Christians and Jews on an educational pack about Passover.

Richard Harvey, who lectures at All Nations, an independent evangelical college in Hertfordshire, is described on the CCJ website as “a leading Torah scholar and expert in the Jewish roots of the early Christian church”.

But Rabbi Shmuel Arkush, director of the anti-missionary Operation Judaism, was surprised at the choice of adviser.

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