Simon Rocker



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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Dayan attacks plan to twin shuls with mosques

By Simon Rocker, March 5, 2009

A Board of Deputies plan for synagogues to twin with mosques in order to improve Muslim-Jewish relations has been attacked by a senior Orthodox rabbi as contrary to Jewish law.

Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein, head of the Federation of Beth Din, wrote to communities under its aegis last Friday to say they should not take part “on religious grounds”.

The initiative was among a number discussed by Jewish interfaith organisations at a special meeting at the Board last week to discuss Jewish-Muslim relations.

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Rabbis warn against 'unsuitable' teacher training on child abuse

By Simon Rocker, March 5, 2009

Strictly Orthodox rabbis have warned schools to beware of unsuitable teacher training material on child abuse.

A letter from the rabbinical council of the London-based Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, alerted Charedi school and kindergarten heads to new government regulations said to be “a difficult and bitter decree against Torah education”.

It also warned of a “danger” posed to teachers by NVQ training material and said teachers should avoid visiting “institutions which are not Charedi” without rabbinical permission.

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Mind your dybbuks

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2009

I see a new film has been released about dybbuk possession, The Unborn, "a Jewish take on The Exorcist" according to our film reviewer Gerald Aaron, who gave it a dismal one-star rating.

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Women can chant Megillah, top rabbi says

By Simon Rocker, March 2, 2009

The world's most authoratitive Sephardi rabbi says that a woman can chant the Megillah on Purim for men if there is no man capable of reading it, according to Ha'aretz.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, in Israel, said the prohibition against men listening to a woman singing would not apply because chanting a sacred text was different.

 

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Charity watchdog attacks Interpal

By Simon Rocker, February 27, 2009

The Charity Commission has criticised the charity Interpal and ordered it to cut ties with an organisation headed by the radical cleric Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.

After a two-year inquiry, the commission said that Interpal’s trustees had “not adequately fulfilled their duties and responsibilities” in monitoring where their money was spent, in a report published today.

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Tearing down the eruv

By Simon Rocker, February 27, 2009

The increasing popularity of Kiryat Yovel, a neighbourhood in Jersualem, with strictly Orthodox families has not pleased all of its residents. Some secular opponents have even resorted to sabotage by regularly vandalising the local eruv. A chemistry professor was actually caught red-handed the other week trying to saw down a pole.

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Shoah-denying bishop barred from preaching in UK

By Simon Rocker, February 26, 2009

Richard Williamson, the maverick bishop who has denied the Holocaust, cannot officiate in Catholic churches in Britain, its representatives stressed, following his return here from Argentina on Wednesday.

The English-born cleric was at the centre of an international controversy after Pope Benedict XVI lifted an excommunication order against him. But last week, the Argentinian authorities gave him 10 days to leave the country, where he had headed a seminary in Buenos Aires.

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JFS entry policy is challenged

By Simon Rocker, February 26, 2009

A legal battle over the right of Jewish schools to define who is a Jew is to be heard by the Court of Appeal.

The case is being brought on behalf of a boy known as “M”, who was turned down by the JFS Comprehensive in Kenton, north London in September 2007 because his mother is a Progressive convert.

After a four-day hearing in March last year, Mr Justice Munby upheld the United Synagogue school’s right to reject applicants who do not meet the Orthodox definition of Jewish status.

He ruled that its entry policy did not breach race relations law.

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