Simon Rocker

UK rabbis banned from Gaza over security fears

By Simon Rocker, April 2, 2009

Two prominent British Liberal rabbis have been denied entry to Gaza after the Israeli authorities said it was too dangerous for them to visit.

Rabbi David Goldberg, emeritus rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John’s Wood, and Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, had originally obtained Israeli clearance.

But when they arrived at the Erez crossing point into Gaza on the Sunday before last, Rabbi Goldberg said an Israeli officer told them: “Sorry, you can’t go, we’ve had security information that it would be dangerous.”

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Kabbalist takes on ghost

By Simon Rocker, April 2, 2009

A top kabbalist has been asked to help a United Synagogue rabbi whose home is reportedly being visited by the ghost of a past minister.

Website reports on the haunting referred to an unnamed London rabbi, who the JC now understands to be Rabbi Yitzchok Sufrin, the part-time minister of Enfield and Winchmore Hill Synagogue in Middlesex.

The haunted rabbi initially turned to Rabbi Levy Yitzhak Raskin, a Lubavitch dayan in London, who contacted the Jerusalem office of the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE).

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The unacceptable face of modesty

By Simon Rocker, April 1, 2009

On Sunday a man in Jerusalem was jailed for beating up a woman on behalf of a "modesty patrol", a group of strictly Orthodox vigilantes who thought she was unsuitable to live in the neighbourhood. Rabbi Yakov Horowitz speaks out against "this barbaric attack" in his blog.

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Here comes the sun

By Simon Rocker, March 30, 2009

One of Judaism's rarest rituals is performed next week, early in the morning on the eve of Pesach - the blessing on the sun. If you want to know more about it, you can read Rabbi David Hulbert's article in the current edition of the JC. The blessing is said only once every 28 years. Why 28?
Here's Rabbi Hulbert's explanation:
The source is to be found in the first tractate of the Talmud, Berachot (59b):

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The scourge of the flying sweets

By Simon Rocker, March 27, 2009

We wrote not so long ago about the perils of throwing sweets in synagogue on simchahs. The central Lubavitch synagogue has now introduced strict rules governing the launch of such missiles after a warden nearly lost an eye from a piece of candy thrown at an aufruf last week.

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Governors resign in school dispute

By Simon Rocker, March 26, 2009

The chairman and four other governors of Rosh Pinah Jewish Primary in Edgware have resigned in a dispute with the school’s foundation body.

Roy Freedman, chairman of the 420-pupil school for the past three years, quit after a governors’ meeting on Tuesday, along with joint vice-chairman Melanie Laban and Howard Berg, Philip Ellis and Adrian Dayne.

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‘Striking’ liberalism among European Jewish leaders

By Simon Rocker, March 26, 2009

Just 17 per cent of European Jewish leaders would prefer a hawkish government in Israel compared with 69 per cent who would not, according to a new survey.

The poll also found that rising intermarriage and alienation from the Jewish community are considered far more serious threats to Jewish life than antisemitism.

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Julia Neuberger tells students to shun aliyah

By Simon Rocker, March 26, 2009

Baroness Neuberger, the president of Liberal Judaism, has told British gap-year students in Israel to return home to be community leaders rather than settle in Israel.

She made the point this week during a keynote address at the five-day convention of the World Union of Progressive Judaism in Jerusalem.

Speaking on her return to the UK, Baroness Neuberger said she had wanted to emphasise that if Zionist youth groups encouraged all its gap-year graduates to go to Israel, then “what hopes for leadership for us?”

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Sect tries to buy a church

By Simon Rocker, March 26, 2009

The Manchester Jewish Representative Council has protested against the proposed sale of a local church to the breakaway Catholic sect to which Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson belongs.

Council president Barbara Goldstone said allowing the Society for Saint Pius X (SSPX) to buy St George’s, a disused Anglican church in Gorton, would “only destroy the religious harmony in the city of which we are very proud”.

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UN chief says Israel’s Gaza policies fuel radicalism

By Simon Rocker, March 26, 2009

Israeli policies in Gaza have proved counterproductive and are only fuelling more radicalism, according to the head of the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees there.

John Ging, director of operations for UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency), met Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Foreign Office officials in London on Monday on the way to Washington to brief officials of the Obama administration.

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They don't call it the bread of affliction for nothing

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2009

Economists may have been suprised by the rise of the cost of food,  but Pesach shoppers certainly won't. According to the Jewish Tribune, the price of one brand of American hand-baked shemura matzah on sale here has risen from £10 per lb last year to £12.75 now. And another popular shemurah brand has gone up from £16 per two lb to £23. Matzah is traditonally called lechem oni, the bread of the poor. For how much longer?

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Wanted: Jewish leaders with Jewish knowledge

By Simon Rocker, March 24, 2009

Jewish leaders are committed, well-educated and professionally successful - but lack Jewish knowledge, according to a survey of more than 250 Jewish opinion-formers in Europe. Their management skills and financial acumen were more likely to be rated weak rather than strong. Out of eight attributes, their commitment and general education came top, while Jewish knowledge was well down at the bottom. For more about the poll, and views on Israel and antisemitism, see this coming Friday's JC.

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US cuts back on education

By Simon Rocker, March 19, 2009

Jewish schools should take over teacher training and curriculum development from the United Synagogue, the US believes.

The US wants to “shift responsibi-lity to where it belongs”, its president, Simon Hochhauser, told a meeting of its council in Hendon on Monday.

Until now, the US’s Agency for Jewish Education has overseen teacher training and the production of Jewish studies material.

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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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