Simon Rocker

Orthodox oppose education training courses

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2010

Training courses for strictly Orthodox nursery school teachers have come under renewed attack because of material relating to child abuse.

Opponents have circulated a letter from the Rabbinical Council of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations warning of the danger of NVQ courses.

But Hindy Lew, manager of Vista Education and Training, one of the institutions which runs NVQ courses for the Charedi community, said: "The way we teach it, there is no reason for people to be agitating against it."

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Tribune in danger of closing

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2010

Efforts are being made to save the Jewish Tribune after rumours that the Orthodox weekly would be closing after Rosh Hashanah.

This week's issue appeals for help to secure the future of the newspaper, which is published by the UK branch of the Agudas Israel movement.

Alex Strom, a member of the editorial board and a Tribune columnist, said: "It is being published for the time being and I am hopeful it will carry on."

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Will Katie get X-Factor axe?

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2010

After all the excitement over Stacey Solomon last year, is there anyone with the J-factor this year?

Step up Katie Waissel (left) from Hertfordshire, who made her mark at last week's X Factor audition by forgetting the lines to Queen's We Are the Champions and successfully persuading the judges to let her do another song instead.

But the participation of the part-time receptionist - who went under the name Katie Vogel aka Katie V when we spoke to her about her singing ambitions a few months ago - may
be short-lived.

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Into the breach

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2010

Former chairman of the Union of Jewish Students Daniel Sacker has left top PR firm Weber Shandwick and is rumoured to be on his way to the JNF.

Yet to be revealed is what role the Young Jewish Political Network member will play at the charity, which lately parted company with its new chief executive after just six months.

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The BBC plays fair by Israel

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2010

What's come over the BBC? After last week's Panorama on the Gaza flotilla incident - which drew plaudits from the Zionist Federation and had the Palestine Solidarity Campaign fuming - came an item on Radio Four's Today this week about a Norwegian fund blacklisting two Israeli companies.

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Rogue burger

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2010

Drew Barrymore's new comedy Going the Distance, due for released next month, has a scene in which co-star Justin Long eats a burger.

A bit of a problem for the New York Jewish couple who lent their home as a location: they are kosher, but the burger, cooked in their kitchen, most certainly was not. The studio had to replace the grill.

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Kosher guide goes mobile

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2010

It can be hard to keep up with the ins and outs of kashrut. Bounty bars recently returned to the approved list after many years off it - but how would you know?

Help is at hand with a new mobile phone app from Arta Creative Solutions, which can give the run-down on 8,000 products from the London Beth Din's kashrut guide.

A handy device when your child is pestering you to buy something in the sweetshop.

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High and holy days - A book of Jewish wisdom

By Simon Rocker, August 26, 2010

By Andrew Goldstein and Charles Middleburgh
Canterbury Press £14.99

The month of Ellul is traditionally a warm-up for Rosh Hashanah. The rabbis of old knew that it can be difficult to get in the mood for the Days of Awe without some kind of preparation: hence the twice daily recitation from the beginning of the month of Psalm 27, "The Lord is my light", the blowing of the shofar at the end of shacharit and the saying of selichot, penitential prayers, the week before Rosh Hashanah.

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Young Americans

By Simon Rocker, August 25, 2010

Professor Steven Cohen is one of the leading experts on modern-day Jewish identity. There is a fascinating interview with him published by the Institute of Global Jewish Affairs on trends among American Jews, worth reading in full.

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Questions over future of Jewish Tribune

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

Agudas Israel, the strictly Orthodox movement, is considering the future of the weekly Jewish Tribune.

Rumours began circulating this week that the newspaper, which describes itself as “the voice of Anglo-Jewish Orthodoxy”, would be closing as a weekly after Rosh Hashanah.

But Joe Lobenstein, who has been involved in the Tribune since its inception in 1962, said: “The subject is under consideration. No definite decision has been taken so far.”

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Menorahs in the mist: Uganda's lost Jews

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

When Ros Eisen planned a trip to see the rare mountain gorillas of Uganda, little did she know that it would turn into a one-woman aid mission to one of the world's most remote Jewish communities.

The Jews of Putti village set up on their own a few years ago because the Abayudaya community of eastern Uganda was not Orthodox enough.

Ms Eisen, a retired businesswoman from Belsize Park, north-west London, wanted to spend a few extra days in Uganda at the end of her safari. "I starting fiddling on Google and found the Putti Jews - I knew absolutely nothing about them," she said.

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Boot camp aids Yomtov preparation

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

A group of young Jews who ran alternative Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services in 2009 have gone one better this year by launching a pre-festival programme.

Grassroots Jews are staging a series of events under the title Ellul Boot Camp, a reference to the traditional month of preparation before the Ten Days of Repentance.

It kicks off on Sunday with Warrior Art Play Day - a creative exploration of the High Holy Day themes - at the London Moishe House in Willesden.

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West London announces Rabbi Winer's departure date

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

The search has begun for a new spiritual leader for the Reform movement's flagship congregation, the West London Synagogue, after this week's announcement of the impending retirement of Rabbi Mark Winer.

Earlier this year, congregants were informed that Rabbi Winer, 67, would be stepping down, but without a date being given.

But West London chairman Jonathan Lass ended speculation in a letter informing members that Rabbi Winer would retire next month on Succot.

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Read all about it on the BBC

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

The Diary declares war on anyone who has a bad word to say about Grandma's House, the BBC's new Jewish family sitcom.

How could we do other than proclaim its genius after Monday night's episode which featured copious shots of a character reading the JC?

I cannot reveal the cunning wiles that got us round the Beeb's normally impassable product placement defences and would be the envy of market departments everywhere.

Meanwhile, the show, which is co-written by Simon Amstell and Dan Swimer, is likely to add to the stock of Yiddishisms that have entered everyday language.

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Happy birthdays

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

Shimon Peres could be seen toe-tapping his way through the International at a musical tribute for his 87th birthday in a Tel Aviv theatre on Monday. He was the only audience member able to sing the words of the socialist anthem, played as a nod to his youthful radicalism.

The Israeli president's party was certainly less raucous than Stacey Solomon's 21st birthday bash, reported by the Sun this week. "She was drinking loads and swearing like a trooper," said a guest. "People were getting totally wasted."

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Blossoming Benayouns

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

Chelsea midfielder Yossi Benayoun had to dash to Stamford Bridge from the bedside of wife Mirit to to make last Saturday's 5.30 kick-off, following the birth of their third child, a son, earlier in the day.

This has left kosher supporters speculating: if the brit takes place on time tomorrow, will the Israeli international be able still to get up north to play later in the away game at Wigan? Or could we be about to witness the country's first on-field circumcision? Surely Roman Abramovich could help rustle up a minyan.

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A coat fit for priests

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

Trendy British fashion house All Saints are retailing this double-breasted coat for men for the autumn season.

It's 75 per cent wool, fully lined, and costs £250.

So what's it doing here rather than on the fashion pages?

Well, this stylish new item happens to be known as a "Cohen Coat".

Why would anyone call a coat Cohen? I wish I could say, but I'm still awaiting the answer from All Saints.

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The rabbi who had his brit when he was 20

By Simon Rocker, August 19, 2010

One of the phenomena of post-War Judaism is the ba'al teshuvah movement. Thousands of young Jews from secular or moderately traditional homes have opted for Orthodoxy and a more devout religious lifestyle. But few can have made quite such a leap as Rabbi Jonny Hughes.

He is on the staff of Midrash Shmuel, a yeshivah in Israel popular with English-speaking students. He has just published his first book on one of the luminaries of the Torah world, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik. But if you had suggested a decade ago where he would be today, he probably would have laughed in disbelief.

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JNF chaos as chief departs

By Simon Rocker, August 12, 2010

JNF UK has parted company with its new chief executive after just a few months in office, the second head to go in two years.

Elliot Conway, who joined after a lengthy search by the charity for a chief executive following the acrimonious departure of his predecessor, left on Wednesday.

The JC has also learned that a senior employee, Hilary Cane, who runs JNF's multi-million pound charity voucher scheme, has been suspended.

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Deputies at mosque exhibition

By Simon Rocker, August 12, 2010

A Board of Deputies delegation toured an exhibition on Islam's relations with other faiths at the Islamic Cultural Centre at the Regents Park Mosque in London.

Shahid Munir, director of research for Exhibition Islam, reported "a lot of enthusiasm from the Jewish community" for the display.

A particular highlight, he said, was a rare showing "of Torah scrolls which were written across the Islamic world where sofers [scribes] wrote in many exquisite styles".

Rabbis were also taken around the exhibition by Mehri Niknam, founder of interfaith charity the Joseph Foundation.

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