Simon Rocker

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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Who killed the anti-eruv website?

By Simon Rocker, September 23, 2008

The North-West London eruv has become such an established fixture since the five and a half years since it went live that it is hard to remember the opposition it generated when it was first mooted a decade ago. Some secular Jews talked hysterically of new ghettos, the good folk of Hampstead Garden Suburb complained of treelines being spoiled by alien poles.

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United Synagogue welcomes Non-Orthodox unity plan

By Simon Rocker, September 19, 2008

The United Synagogue has welcomed last week's call by non-Orthodox leaders for greater partnership as "good news for the community".

In an article in today's JC, Simon Hochhauser, the president of the US, applauded the Statement on Communal Collaboration issued by the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements - but without revealing whether Britain's largest Orthodox body would also be signing it.

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Cambridge falls out over mikveh plans

By Simon Rocker, September 19, 2008

Plans to build the first mikveh (ritual bath) in Cambridge have led to a rift among the trustees of the charity set up to support it.

One trustee, David Gilinsky, is trying to take his fellow trustees from the Cambridge Community Mikvah Charitable Trust to the London Beth Din, claiming that they are obstructing the project. Three years ago, Mr Gilinsky and his wife, Ofra, obtained planning permission to convert an outhouse into a mikveh at a Cambridge property which they have set up as Hama'ayan, "the Cambridge and Suffolk Jewish Community".

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Rabbinical council gives green light to lay eulogies

By Simon Rocker, September 19, 2008

New guidelines allowing lay people to speak at funerals are to be introduced by the United Synagogue "in the next few weeks", its president Simon Hochhauser said on Monday.

The relaxation of previous rules restricting eulogies to ministers was announced last month by the leaders of the US's Rabbinical Council (RCUS). But the rabbis were subsequently told by US head office to hold fire on the new policy, pending further consultations.

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Why the Accords failed to build the promised bridges

By Simon Rocker, September 12, 2008

The so-called Stanmore Accords of 1998 were an attempt to rebuild bridges between the mainstream Orthodox and non-Orthodox after the worst eruption of communal conflict in 30 years.

In August 1996, the much-loved leader Rabbi Hugo Gryn died, but the absence of the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, from his funeral, caused anger among Progressives. In order to make amends, Sir Jonathan agreed to lead the tributes for Rabbi Gryn at a memorial service organised by the Board of Deputies the following February.

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‘We are still too divided. Time for a new strategy’

By Simon Rocker, September 12, 2008

The "statement on communal collaboration", issued today by the leaders of Britain's Reform, Liberal and Masorti movement, was born out of frustration and hope.

Frustration that the Stanmore Accords, the 10-year-old peace pact signed by the three movements and the United Synagogue, has produced too little of the practical co-operation proposed a decade ago.

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JNF UK decides to back old enemy charity

By Simon Rocker, September 12, 2008

JNF UK this week announced a new agreement to support Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael in Jerusalem, finally putting their costly legal dispute behind them.

In a deal reached in Jerusalem, JNF UK agreed to fundraise for KKL projects in Israel, while retaining freedom to support additional causes of its own choice in Israel.

JNF UK, which will remain an independent charity, will be able to use both the JNF and KKL logos in the UK under licence from the KKL, while KKL will refrain from operating its own branch here.

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Non-Orthodox launch new platform for unity

By Simon Rocker, September 12, 2008

A decade of frustration over lack of pluralism sparks call for action

 

Leaders of the UK's three non-Orthodox religious movements this week challenged the Chief Rabbi to recognise growing religious diversity, amid frustration over the failure of previous attempts at co-operation.

The Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements - which collectively represent around a third of Britain's synagogue members - are calling for a new model of religious leadership which is committed to pluralism.

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