Simon Rocker



Bombing civilians

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2009

In any modern war zone, whether it's Afghanistan, Gaza or Sri Lanka, armies confront  the problem: how far to go to minimise casualties to civilians when pursuing fighters in their midst.

There's a thoughtful essay on the subject from Avishai Margalit and Michael Walzer in the New York Review of Books, who take issue with arguments that the safety of soldiers takes precedence over civilians on the enemy side.

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Wineman is new Deputies' president

By Simon Rocker, May 18, 2009

Vivian Wineman, a commercial lawyer, was elected president of the Board of Deputies on Sunday. He will hold the position for the next three years.

In the most hotly-contested election since the Board’s creation in 1760, with a record four candidates, he succeeds barrister Henry Grunwald, who steps down at the end of the month.

Mr Wineman, 59. a member of Hampstead Garden Suburb United Synagogue and the Board’s current senior vice-president, beat the former president of the United Synagogue, Peter Sheldon , by 131 votes to 64 in the third round of the ballot.

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Council of Christians and Jews launches forum

By Simon Rocker, May 14, 2009

The Council of Christians and Jews has launched a forum for supporters to underwrite programmes to counter antisemitism among youth.

It is chaired by Bishop of Manchester the Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, who welcomed guests to the first “Chairman’s Circle” at Lambeth Palace.

“If there is to be a real and successful attempt to turn back the tide of antisemitism in this country,” he said, “it will only happen if we engage those young people who are in such danger of forgetting past history.”

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JCoSS worries Orthodox rabbis

By Simon Rocker, May 14, 2009

United Synagogue rabbis have voiced concern at the impact of the Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS), the first cross-communal Jewish secondary school, which is due to open in Barnet next year.

They made their anxieties plain at a session with US lay leaders during the annual US rabbinical conference in Hemel Hempstead.

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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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