Simon Rocker

The saintly Mr Shapps

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

Is there something new Housing Minister Grant Shapps is not telling us?

Clearly the former BBYO leader enjoys the favour of Prime Minister David Cameron.

But judging from this picture in the Welwyn Hatfield Times, he is in someone's good books even higher up as well.

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Amber cooks for glory

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

I'm pleased to report that 11-year-old Amber, the Junior MasterChef contestant and maker of dream latkes, has made it to the final four. You can see if she gets crowned queen of the young cooks this afternoon at 4.35 on BBC1 or CBBC.

Among her semi-final tasks was preparing the favourite dessert of new Doctor Who Matt Smith: treacle sponge with custard.

Amber's cooking took off after she did a charity barbeque for Chai Cancer Care.

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The 'yid' t-shirt unriddled

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

Last week I showed a Portsmouth fan leaving Wembley after the FA Cup whose t-shirt bore the legend: We've got 99 problems but a yid ain't 1.

It was all perfectly innocent, a reader has written in: he must have had the t-shirt done for the semifinal against Tottenham, whose supporters of course are known as Yids: so all the slogan meant was "at least I'm not a Tottenham fan".

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Magnificent Hendon

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2010

An obit of Lady J has just been posted on the Telegraph Online which concludes:

"The Hespedim (or eulogies) in her honour, following her death on May 7, were delivered before a crowd of 5,000 mourners on the streets of Hendon's magnificent Shirehall estate..."

Shirehall magnificent? Not an adjective I would think you could use for any part of Hendon.

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Amnesty steps up its campaign on Israel

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

Amnesty International's UK branch is continuing to highlight Israel's treatment of the Palestinians with an exhibition in London next month directed against its security barrier.

The event follows a meeting last week hosted by Amnesty International UK entitled "Capital Murder: Inside the Israeli authorities' regime of discrimination and control in Occupied East Jerusalem".

Journalist Ben White, author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginners Guide, described what was happening as "a microcosm of Israeli apartheid".

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Orthodox synagogue membership stable

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

The decline in synagogue membership in the UK has slowed down significantly over the past five years, according to a new survey.

The number of Jewish households which belong to a synagogue fell by just 0.3 per cent since 2005 - compared to an overall drop of 16.8 per cent over the two decades from 1990 to 2010.

But the slowdown is mainly due to the growth of the strictly Orthodox communities, say the authors of the report, jointly published by the Board of Deputies and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).

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Diaspora critics rallying to challenge Israel

By Simon Rocker, Nathan Guttman and Marcus Dysch, May 21, 2010

Signs of growing diaspora discontent with Israeli policy have emerged with the launch of a petition by American Jewish figures calling for a settlement freeze and a compromise over Jerusalem's sovereignty.

For the Sake of Zion was inspired by a European initiative, JCall, headed by French Peace Now earlier this month.

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Wembley's soccer shocker

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

Football's authorities may have tried to kick racism out of the sport but this t-shirt slipped through the Wembley turnstiles at the FA Cup final at the weekend.

Jewish Chelsea supporter Michael Coplans spotted it as spectators left the stadium after the game.

Taking its wearer to be a fan of opposing club Portsmouth, he said; "I can only think the 99 is a reference to their financial problems and the Yid is a reference to [Israeli manager] Avram Grant.

"I was flabbergasted. I sent the picture to a couple of Jewish friends and they were appalled by it, too."

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Greybeard's revenge

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

The Board of Deputies struck a blow for senior citizenry on Sunday when it removed the age limit on the presidency and officer posts.

Lest it ever be thought a gerontocracy, some years ago it imposed a bar on anyone standing for leadership roles after the age of 72.

Support for keeping the limit came from High Court judge Sir Michael Burton, who pointed out that judges retire at 70.

But by a single vote, deputies backed the motion to lift the cap from the ZF's Jonathan Hoffman, a spring chicken in his 50s.

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The BBC goes to shul

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

The BBC has found an unusual way to mark the 200th anniversary of the world's first Reform service this summer.

It is staging a live broadcast of BBC Radio 4's popular Any Questions? from Wimbledon and the District Reform Synagogue on Friday evening July 16.

Shabbat does not come in until after the broadcast, which will be followed by a commemorative service.

According to the BBC, it is the first time the show has been hosted by a synagogue since it began in 1948.

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Fuming father of the bride

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

I am not surprised that well-to-do American businessman Richard Gabrielson was angry about his son-in-law.

He reportedly had no idea he had one until he read online that his lovely daughter Alex had met 30-year-old Surrey divorcee Nick Bond in a Las Vegas bar and married him a few hours later.

She is a Catholic and her father apparently wanted a grand church wedding. Nick is Jewish and when asked by the Daily Mail whether his wife knew, he responded that he wasn’t practising.
But didn’t his wife notice he was circumcised, mused the newspaper. “It didn’t come up,” he said.

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Winner's daveners

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

Veteran foodster Michael Winner revealed a new euphemism in his Sunday Times column: "Saturday boys". A "marvellous" phrase that he'd recently heard to describe Jewish men. "Because they go (in theory) to synagogue on Saturday," he explained.

See you in shul, Michael.

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Why put the patriarchs before the matriarchs?

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

In Jew Vs Jew, his book on religious divisions in American Jewry, Samuel Freedman recalled an incident that happened one Shabbat morning at a trendy egalitarian minyan in California in the late 80s. Men and women enjoyed an equal role while using a traditional liturgy.

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The Great Shul-School Test

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

If Jewish schools are doing their job, then one visible effect should be increasing synagogue attendance over Yomtov.
More and more parents are opting to send their children to Jewish schools: and since they are spared the dilemma of whether to send them school on festivals, shul is the obvious place to for them to go.
But is that actually happening in practice? I'd be interested to know.

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Rosh Pinah under fire over admissions

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

Barnet Council has received complaints over admissions to the nursery of Rosh Pinah School in Edgware for September.

The JC has been unable to confirm the reasons for the objections although one local parent claimed that the two-form entry school had failed to abide by its admissions rules. Governors' chair Barbara Hotz was unavailable for comment despite repeated requests.

A council spokesman said: "We have received a few complaints from parents applying for places at Rosh Pinah Nursery School. We are working closely with the school to support them with their admission arrangements."

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Women to get vote in Federation elections

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

After more than a century, women in the Federation of Synagogues are set to get the vote in synagogue elections.

Leaders of the Orthodox organisation, founded in 1887, are planning to change its constitution to enable the move later this year.

It was over 30 years ago when the Federation's then rabbinic leader, Dayan Michael Fisher, reaffirmed the bar on women's participation in elections. But now the head of the Federation Beth Din, Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein, has given his approval for change.

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Zionist Congress swings to the left

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

At least one "election" turned left this week: Britain's delegation to the Zionist Congress in Jerusalem.

After horse-trading which almost puts Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in the shade, the majority of Britain's delegation will come from the religious and political left.

The Zionist Supreme Court has issued a ruling on the UK's 19 delegates following appeals from the Progressive religious Zionist movement, Pro-Zion, and the Jewish Labour Movement.

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Andrew Feldman is Conservatives' secret weapon

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

A key player in David Cameron's rise to power is his Oxford University contemporary, now co-chairman of the Conservative Party, Andrew Feldman.

He helped to run the campaign that propelled Mr Cameron to the Tory leadership four and half years ago, rejuvenating a party demoralised after three electoral defeats at the hands of Tony Blair.

First deputy treasurer, then chief executive since 2008, the 44-year-old businessman is, according to one party insider, "smart", "loyal to his friends" and "wedded to Dave".

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Amber masters the latkes

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

Who says that humble Jewish food cannot rise to culinary heights?

Eleven-year-old Amber triumphed this week in her heat of BBC children's channel CBBC's Junior MasterChef by offering "traditional Jewish latkes", as she explained them.

Co-judge, actress Nadia Sawalha, cooed over the "gorgeous crunchy potatoes", which were dished up with flat Greek meatballs and inspired by Amber's great-grandfather who used to make them.

Amber (the BBC is withholding surnames) was one of 31 nine to 12-year-olds chosen for the series out of more than 2,000 applicants.

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Mr None gets the habit

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

And now we have a government, we can return to the more pressing issue of whether Mr None of the Above, who contested the Chingford and Woodford Green seat in Essex in the election, will revert to his former name of Adam Osen.

"It's a bit too soon to make decisions," he confided this week. But encouraged by his 202 votes as an independent, he said his "tentative game plan" was to resume in local politics after restoring his finances. "I haven't earned anything for five months. I want to build a thriving business to support any political ambitions."

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