Simon Rocker

Reform launches outreach arm as alternative to Aish

By Simon Rocker, October 17, 2008

The Reform movement is about to take the first step to launch an alternative to Aish, the Orthodox outreach organisation for young adults.

A residential weekend next month will be the inaugural event by the Assembly of Reform Rabbis to offer a "non-fundamentalist" alternative.

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Reluctant mohels skew birth figures

By Simon Rocker, October 17, 2008

The Board of Deputies says it is being hampered in the collection of Jewish birth statistics because not all mohelim (circumcisers) are providing figures for brits performed each year.

The number of births is based on the annual circumcisions performed by mohelim registered with the respective Orthodox and Progressive societies.

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Church leader may sue over City ‘slur’

By Simon Rocker, October 17, 2008

A senior Church of England figure is taking legal advice after the Israeli anti-Zionist Gilad Atzmon claimed that he was suggesting the financial world should be "de-Judified".

John Reynolds, chair of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, which advises the Church on its assets, argued in The Observer last month that more Christians should work in the City.

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Seminar explores Saudi plan

By Simon Rocker, October 17, 2008

A three-day seminar at a Quaker retreat centre in Oxford was this week due to explore whether a Saudi-led Arab peace initiative is the best hope for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It was sponsored by the Oxford Research Group, an independent think-tank active in conflict resolution.

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Winters failed to tell truth in court

By Simon Rocker, October 17, 2008

Simon Winters, the former chief executive of JNF UK, was this week castigated by a High Court judge for failing to tell the truth in a failed legal action he brought against leading lawyers Mishcon de Reya.

Mr Winters, who left the charity he had headed since 1996 this summer, had sought an injunction to stop Mishcon acting for JNF in a dispute over the termination of his employment, claiming that there was a conflict of interest because the lawyers had previously acted personally for him.

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Orthodox and Masorti pool prayers

By Simon Rocker, October 17, 2008

Amid the fractiousness of religious divisions, it is easy to forget that sometimes Jews do get along with each other. Members of Borehamwood's United Synagogue and the new Masorti group had separately picked the same spot for tashlich, the ceremony of casting one's sins into the water at Rosh Hashanah. They had pre-arranged to go down to the brook at different times: when the day came, there was a muddle and both parties turned up simultaneously. Rather than one group stand on its rights, however, they simply put aside their differences and performed the ritual together.

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Were succah-builders responsible for a run on cable-ties?

By Simon Rocker, October 16, 2008

Last week I reproduced online an article about how to make a succah from bamboos bound together by cable ties (devised by my neighbour Edgar Samuel). As Succot approached, I went to the hardware store over the road to buy some plastic cable ties only to find the type I wanted were out of stock - and when the shop assistant checked on his computer, they also seemed in short supply in other branches in travel range. Are there more bamboo-booth builders out there than I imagine?

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Alternative centre gets new Willesden home

By Simon Rocker, October 10, 2008

Moishe House, the London alternative community centre run by a group of young people in their home, has moved to another location in Willesden.

The new house, a few roads away from the previous premises, is closer to Brondesbury Synagogue, said Joel Stanley, one of the five housemates.

In the year it has been in operation, "we've had a 1,000 people pass through our door".

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Board leads online review of women in the community

By Simon Rocker, October 10, 2008

A new survey into Jewish women was launched this week with an online questionnaire on the Board of Deputies website.

It is planned as a follow-up study to the 1994 review of women in the Jewish community conducted at the behest of Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.

The head of the original review was Rosalind Preston, a former president of the National Council of Women, who has returned to oversee the project which this time will be carried out in partnership with the Board.

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Beth Din set to hear mikveh pleas

By Simon Rocker, October 10, 2008

The London Beth Din has agreed to hear a dispute into the building of a mikveh in Cambridge which has split the trustees of the charity set up to support it.

David Gilinsky, of the Cambridge Community Mikvah Charitable Trust, has filed a complaint against his fellow trustees over alleged delays in plans to build the city's first ritual bath.

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Masorti gets £79k boost from European Union

By Simon Rocker, October 10, 2008

The Masorti movement has received a grant of €100,000 (£79,000) from the European Union to develop its work in Europe.

The money, from the EU's Lifelong Learning Programme, will be used for projects involving 10 Masorti groups in eight countries: the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Holland and Portugal.

Gill Caplin, the London-based incoming chairman of Masorti Europe, said: "Our communities are all growing and our role is to help them develop in size and knowledge.

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Palestinian envoy to speak at Reform shul

By Simon Rocker, October 10, 2008

The Palestinian Authority's UK envoy has been invited to address a meeting of Reform synagogues next month.

Professor Manuel Hassassian will speak at the North Western Reform Synagogue (Alyth Gardens) in London at an event jointly hosted by the synagogue, Finchley Reform Synagogue and the Progressive Zionist movement, Pro Zion.

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For the DIY novice: an easy-to-build succah

By Simon Rocker, October 3, 2008

It must seem a curious sight to a non-Jewish neighbour. You look out of your bedroom window and suddenly canvas and wooden shacks are sprouting in Jewish gardens as though the houses had given birth to strange little offspring.

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Evangelicals renew calls to convert Jews

By Simon Rocker, October 3, 2008

A major British evangelical movement, which last year hosted the Chief Rabbi as a guest speaker, has endorsed a call to spread the gospel among Jews.

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) urged members to renew their "commitment to the task of Jewish evangelism" in a document issued after a recent meeting of a special task force.

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Foreign office memorial 'omits key names'

By Simon Rocker, September 26, 2008

The Association of Jewish Refugees has decided not to sponsor a Foreign Office memorial to diplomats who saved people from the Nazis - because there is no mention of Jews.

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, is due to unveil the plaque at the Foreign Office in a ceremony in November. It will read: "To commemorate those British diplomats who by their personal endeavours helped to rescue victims of Nazi oppression."

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Chief Rabbi’s New Year message about family

By Simon Rocker, September 26, 2008

The priceless value of family life is the theme of the Chief Rabbi's annual New Year BBC broadcast this year.

Sir Jonathan Sacks's film, Faith in the Family, which is to be shown on BBC1 at 11.20 pm on Sunday, looks at pressures on contemporary families.

"Family is the foundation of so much else," he observes, "of faith and community and the future. It's about the place of loyalty and love in society. And how much we value the things that don't have a price."

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Museum celebrates rescue of Czech scrolls

By Simon Rocker, September 26, 2008

A new museum at the Westminster Synagogue tells the story of its famous collection of Czech scrolls rescued from the Holocaust. A state-of-the-art display with audio-visual and computer facilities was unveiled last week on the third floor of the synagogue's premises in Kent House, Knightsbridge.

The exhibition, "The Silent Messengers", is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 4pm but can be viewed at other times by arrangement.

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The rabbi who’s in the honey

By Simon Rocker, September 24, 2008

It is probably just as well that Rosh Hashanah takes place now rather in a couple of months' time. According to recent reports, stocks of British honey could run out before the end of the year.

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We don’t do broiges like we used to

By Simon Rocker, September 24, 2008

For all the tensions that exist between Orthodox and non-Orthodox, we probably manage them more civilly than in the past. Go back to 1853, for example. When the first delegates from the West London Synagogue (the country's first reformist synagogue) came to the Board of Deputies, the debate over whether they should be allowed to take their seats became so heated that the police were called. But when the constable arrived, the wardens of the Great Synagogue, who included Sir Anthony de Rothschild, would not allow him to enter the building.

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Why rabbis should wear harder hats

By Simon Rocker, September 23, 2008

I'm not surprised that a rabbi suffered injury from a sweet thrown in synagogue for a simchah. What was once a gentle shower has become a hailstorm as the bimah comes under regular bombardment from teenagers who seem to be training for some new Olympic sport. It can't be long before health and safety rules require rabbis to wear cricket helmets for barmitzvahs.

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