Simon Rocker

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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Give our rabbis more authority

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2008

The flip-flopping over who can eulogise at funerals is part of a power struggle within the United Synagogue.

 

Goldberg the gangster has breathed his last and is about to be laid to rest. The local rabbi has gone out of town, his children are estranged, so at the funeral, the sexton asks: "Since it is the custom to say a few words in memory of the deceased, would anyone like to give the eulogy?"

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Ofcom rejects Hizb ut-Tahrir’s complaint against Panorama

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2008

Ofcom, the broadcasting watchdog, has rejected a complaint of unfairness made by the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain against the BBC.

Hizb ut-Tahrir lodged a protest against a Panorama programme in October last year presented by a former member, Shiraz Maher.

One of its complaints concerned a claim that Omar Sharif, the would-be British suicide bomber who was involved in a fatal attack on a Tel Aviv bar, had been influenced by the group.

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US reinstates eulogy ban

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2008

The United Synagogue has put on hold plans by its rabbis to allow relatives to give eulogies at funerals.
Only last month the head of the organisation's Rabbinical Council (RCUS) wrote to colleagues to say that they could relax the previous practice, objected to by many congregants, which permitted only members of the clergy to speak at the cemetery.

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Accord: we want to broaden education

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2008

Rabbi Jonathan Romain was this week at pains to point out that the new Accord campaign, which he chairs, is not against the existence of faith schools.
Its aim was to bring religious schools under greater state control, he explained at the new group's London launch on Monday.

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Reform blasts own rabbi on faith schools

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2008

The chairman of Britain's Reform movement has distanced it from the involvement of the head of its rabbinic assembly, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, in a new campaign to curb faith schools.

The Chief Rabbi, meanwhile, offered the JC a comment article extolling the "essential" role of Jewish faith schools.

Last week, the JC reported that Rabbi Romain, the Reform rabbi of Maidenhead synagogue, was among religious leaders planning to lobby the government to prevent state-funded faith schools using a child's or parent's religion in determining admission.

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Anti-Zionist lecturer posts KKK link

By Simon Rocker, August 28, 2008

The popular political blog Harry's Place was removed from the internet this week after a controversy involving an anti-Zionist lecturer.

Jenna Delich, a business-studies tutor at The Sheffield College, was this week suspended by the University and College Union from participating in an email forum for union members after posting a link to an anti-Israel article on the website of David Duke, the American white supremacist.

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