Simon Rocker

Sitting pretty with Rachel

By Simon Rocker, December 17, 2009

Want to sit on a celebrity cuddle couch? It could be yours for £300. Alex Bourne, actor and Maccabi league star striker, better known as the other half of singer Rachel Stevens, is offering the couple’s year-old purple sofa for sale on Facebook. And Alex is prepared to take a £1,700 loss on the £2,000 that he forked out a year ago.

More..

Charities miss out on cash

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Charities are missing out by not claiming extra tax relief through Gift Aid on cash donations, according to the Charity Commission.

It says that each £10 could attract an extra £2.50 through Gift Aid — with an additional 30p that can be reclaimed from the Inland Revenue until April 2011.

More..

Matt Lucas and Ron Prosor make 2010 Who's Who

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor and comedian Matt Lucas are among the new Jewish entrants to the bible of British achievement, the 2010 edition of Who’s Who.

No hobbies are ascribed to the ambassador, but for the 35-year-old co-star of Little Britain, eating crisps and crumpets and watching football are listed among his recreations.

Channel Five controller Richard Woolfe, the chairman of London Fashion Week Harold Tillman, and paragliding theatre director Mark Rubinstein also make their debut this time.

More..

Err, thanks. Fascist pub lunch raises money for hospital

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Supporters of an extreme right-wing Hungarian party allied to the BNP have formed a group to promote its views in Britain.

Around 50 people came to a north London pub on Sunday for a meeting of the Jobbik Friends of Hungary UK, set up by Hungarian expats, according to the Jobbik party’s English website.

But describing the move as an “unwelcome development”, a Community Security Trust spokesman said: “We have more than enough of our own right-wing extremists, and do not need to import any more.”

More..

Rabbi's lavish embassy welcome signals new dawn in Polish ties

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

The Polish Embassy held a kosher reception on Tuesday to welcome the first rabbi born in Poland to serve in the country for 40 years.

Remarkably, Rabbi Maciej Pawlak did not even find out he was Jewish until he was 15.

Now, aged 32, he is the living embodiment of the revival of Jewish life in Poland as principal of the Lauder-Morasha Jewish day school with 200 children in Warsaw.

Hosted by the embassy, his visit to the UK was due to include an address at yesterday’s annual Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies conference at the embassy.

More..

The Board grows fangs at long last

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Scrolling through the archive of press releases from the Board would leave you with the impression that its main activity in recent years has been paying courtesy calls on embassies around London.

But something appears to have changed in the past few weeks.

A series of statements on assorted issues suggests that British Jewry’s main representative body wants to be seen as more assertive and vocal. An organisation for which “concern” appeared to be the strongest word in its vocabulary, has now turned into “Angry, of Bloomsbury Square”.

More..

First talks for JLC and the Board

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

The executives of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council held a joint meeting on Monday for the first time since the JLC’s formation six years ago.

A Board spokesman said: “I am sure this will be the first of many more. We work together on a day-to-day basis, so this is a natural progression of events.”

The meeting was planned six months ago after the election of Vivian Wineman as president of the Board and head of the council.

More..

Board of Deputies row over radio comments

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

The Board of Deputies has issued a statement to make clear that comments on radio by its treasurer supporting a settlement freeze in East Jerusalem were made in a personal capacity.

Laurence Brass told BBC Radio Manchester’s Jewish programme last week that while he welcomed Israel’s 10-month freeze on building in settlements, he would have liked it to have been extended to East Jerusalem.

More..

Tylney Hall

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Henry James observed that few things in life can be more agreeable “than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea”. Not everyone adheres to the ritual in the way James had in mind. But the novelist could rest content knowing that at Tylney Hall in Hampshire, tea is taken seriously, with white cloths and china cups, served in a stately lounge with a view of a croquet lawn.

In fact, from the imposing red-brick façade with its fountains, to the wood-panelled luxury within, and the gardens and grounds, Tylney gets the country house thing right.

More..

Rod's love train derailed

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

You would think there would have been nothing in Rod Stewart’s ITV show last Saturday night to affront specifically Jewish ears. But an alert watcher from Edgware has found cause for complaint. Mr Stewart’s repertoire included Love Train, sung by the O’Jays in the 1970s.

According to the original lyrics, among those invited on board said train are“folks in Russia and China” and “folks in Egypt and Israel”, too.

More..

The slow boat to Haifa

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

As world leaders in Copenhagen try to thrash out an agreement to combat climate change, it is good to know that Anglo-Jewish organisations are planning to do their bit. In order to cut carbon emissions, the UJIA is considering sending gap-year students to Israel by boat rather than plane.

There are educational advantages too, believes UJIA chief executive Douglas Krikler. Apart from visiting Jewish communities en route, retracing the journey of early immigrants who reached Haifa by boat could be “particularly poignant”, he says.

More..

Chelsea's mishpachah

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Let's hope Chelsea Clinton’s future uncle-in-law does not get access to mum Hillary. Her fiance Marc is a nephew of anti-Zionist Prof Norton Mezvinsky.

Chelsea, incidentally, won’t be the first of presidential stock to enter a Jewish family. Claudia Taylor Brod, grandchild of Lyndon Johnson, converted to Judaism and lives in Miami. And Franklin Roosevelt’s great-grandson, Joshua Boettiger, is a rabbi.

More..

Mr Brown's maccabees

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Who will light the candles at Downing Street’s Chanucah do next Wednesday (at No 10 rather than the Foreign Office). I hear it may be the five Council of Christian and Jews’ presidents: Lord Sacks, Rabbis Abraham Levy, Tony Bayfield and Danny Rich along with a Masorti stand-in for Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. Leaving one more kindler. Could David Miliband don his kippah to spread light in dark places?

More..

Who let Stacey in to sing?

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2009

Many of you will have watched our video of Stacey Solomon’s triumphant return to her alma mater, King Solomon High School in Essex. How the pupils hollered when the X-Factor finalist treated them to a mini-concert.

But what was the Dagenham diva doing singing at a United Synagogue school at all? What about kol ishah, the rabbinical ban on lads hearing a woman’s voice? I didn’t see the boys’ ears covered to protect them from the sweet siren’s song.

More..

Meet the comic chef making a meal out of being an Israeli

By Simon Rocker, December 9, 2009

The first episode of a comedy series about an ex-Israeli army cook who comes to make it in London is due to launch online today.

But before the eponymous Pini can fulfil his dream of becoming a famous chef like Gordon Ramsay, he has to negotiate the vagaries of English language and culture.

“It’s about an Israeli who speaks English but thinks in Hebrew,” says his Israeli creator Tomer Barzide, 26, who came to

London a year ago to complete his film studies.

“He acts as if everyone is his friend and understands him — and that creates the awkward situations.”

More..



Kill the blasphemers - a Chanucah song

By Simon Rocker, December 8, 2009

Maor Tzur is a seemingly jolly tune that we’ll all be belting out on Friday. But the words are not quite so jolly, even in the most familiar first verse.
In a dvar Torah at the weekend, David Jacobs, director of synagogue partnerships at the Movement for Reform Judaism, drew attention to the Hebrew l’et tachin matbe’ach, mitzar hamnabe’ach, which the 1925 edition of the Singer’s Prayer Book translated as “when thou shalt have prepared a slaughter of the blaspheming foe”.

More..



The benefits of global warming

By Simon Rocker, December 7, 2009

Whatever the world's leaders decide at the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen, here's one positive spin-off from the attempt to save the planet: it has brought together British rabbis from different denomations to formulate a Jewish response. A paper on the eco-challenge has apparently jointly been drawn up by Rabbi Natan Levy, head of the (Orthodox) London School of Jewish Studies' social responsibility unit, Rabbi Shoshana Boyd-Gelfand, executive director of the Movement for Reform Judaism and Rabbi Jeremy Gordon of the New London (Masorti) Synagogue.

More..

Liberal Judaism backs campaign against sexual discrimination

By Simon Rocker, December 3, 2009

Liberal Judaism is backing a campaign to restrict the exemptions sought by some religious groups from anti-discrimination laws.

It is giving support to the Cutting Edge Consortium, a coalition of gay rights and progressive organisations, lobbying over the Equalities Bill currently before Parliament.

The bill is meant to consolidate existing laws against discrimination on grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age and disability.

More..

Turkish and Israeli envoys rebuild ties

By Simon Rocker, December 3, 2009

Israel and Turkey’s ambassadors to the UK put aside the friction between their two countries over the past year by sharing a joint platform in London on Monday.

Israeli envoy Ron Prosor gave his Turkish counterpart Yigit Alpogan a friendly pat on the back after a well-attended meeting in Westminster jointly hosted by the Conservative Friends of Israel and Conservative Friends of Turkey.

Mr Prosor said the event was “testimony to the significance of the relationship between Israel and Turkey and the magnitude of the shared interests and values we hold together”.

More..

Chabad to clear debt 'by early next year'

By Simon Rocker, December 3, 2009

The Lubavitch Foundation hopes by early next year to have finally cleared the debts which have led auditors to query the viability of the organisation.

In the last available accounts, for the year ending December 2007 — which were filed only this summer — auditors wrote of “material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the charity’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

The organisation still owed the Inland Revenue more than £462,000, according to the papers, and is believed still to be in negotiations with the tax authorities.

More..