Simon Rocker

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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Race-hate comments ‘normalised by web’

By Simon Rocker, August 28, 2008

The Community Security Trust has for the first time produced a report into antisemitic rhetoric in political speech, public discussion and the media in the UK.

Although explicit antisemitism "is extremely rare" and "taboo" in public life, the report says that extremists are expressing antisemitic themes through "a demonising language that depicts Zionism as a great hidden conspiracy, centred in Israel and the USA against the rest of the humanity".

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Orthodox paying students to learn

By Simon Rocker, August 28, 2008

Orthodox outreach organisations in the UK are offering financial incentives to attract students.

The Jewish Learning Exchange has plans to expand a leadership-training programme for students which has previously offered £300 for attendance.

Another educational organisation, Seed, is running courses for parents of Jewish day-school pupils with apparent offers to pay £250 towards the cost of their children's Jewish studies.

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Orthodox cemetery bans Reform rabbis

By Simon Rocker, August 22, 2008

Glasgow's Orthodox-run burial society has ended a long-standing arrangement which permitted local Reform rabbis to conduct funerals at its cemetery for members of their synagogue.

Barry Cooper, chair of the Hebrew Burial Society, remained tight-lipped over the reason for the change of
policy.

He would say only: "We are an Orthodox burial society which is bound by the halachic regulations as relating to all aspects of Jewish burial and Jewish services.

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British split over push for greater democracy at Claims Conference

By Simon Rocker, August 22, 2008

British representatives to the Claims Conference, the international Holocaust restitution body, are split over whether it should introduce greater democracy.

Paul Edlin, a vice-president of the Board of Deputies and one of its two delegates on the conference board, is among those pressing for change at the New York-based organisation, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars annually to Holocaust survivors.

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Ofsted critical of Charedi teachers’ secular lessons

By Simon Rocker, August 22, 2008

More than a third of the strictly Orthodox independent schools which have been inspected this year have been criticised for the quality of their secular education.

In five out of 14 independent Charedi schools so far examined in 2008, Ofsted inspectors have said the secular curriculum lacks breadth or is inadequate.

Although independent schools - unlike state schools - do not have to teach the national curriculum, a change in the law five years ago has brought them under closer government scrutiny.

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Orthodox community steps up its anti-drugs campaign

By Simon Rocker, August 15, 2008

A strictly Orthodox charity is planning to step up its campaign over the next few weeks to educate its constituency about the risk of drugs.

Talking Matters, a Stamford Hill-based welfare agency specialising in mental-health issues, last autumn published a ground-breaking 128-page guide in Yiddish, Hebrew and English on understanding addictions, ranging from gambling, sugar and "shopaholism" to alcohol and drugs.

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United Synagogue removes gag on relatives speaking at funerals

By Simon Rocker, August 15, 2008

The United Synagogue has relaxed one of its most controversial rules that restricted the delivery of funeral eulogies to rabbis or ministers.

A letter has gone out to rabbis from the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogues recommending that lay people should be allowed to give a hesped (eulogy) on certain occasions at the discretion of the local rabbi.

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Ehud Olmert: An ambitious career that collapsed in scandal

By Simon Rocker, August 1, 2008

Dogged by allegations of corruption, Ehud Olmert will bring his undistinguished premiership to an end after less than two-and-a-half years in office.

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Sacks tells Lambeth bishops that all society needs religion

By Simon Rocker, August 1, 2008

Jews and Christians have done more than any religions to "mend their relationship", Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks said in the first address by a rabbi to the Anglican Lambeth Conference in its 140-year history.

Speaking in Canterbury on Monday to around 650 bishops from across the globe, the Chief Rabbi recalled the progress made towards reconciliation.

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Refugee’s 13-year fight opens floodgates for Kinder claims

By Simon Rocker, August 1, 2008

Dozens of former refugees from Nazi Germany are set to receive improved compensation after a 13-year campaign by a London man.

Hermann Hirschberger, 82, was one of the 10,000 children sent to Britain by their parents on the Kindertransport shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

This week his tenacity paid off when Britain said it would remove a legal obstacle which, until now, has prevented many of his fellow-Kinder from getting the full German payments.

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Woman divorced against her will

By Simon Rocker, July 25, 2008

Rabbis issue ‘get’ at husband’s request


A London woman this week expressed shock at the prospect of being divorced by a rabbinical court against her will — in part because she allegedly wore clothes it deemed “provocative”.

Karin Gabay, a single mother of seven living in a council house, said she was “devastated” and “completely shocked” by the Sephardi Bet Din decision. She has been in dispute with her former husband over maintenance payments. 

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JCC abandons plans for its new building

By Simon Rocker, July 25, 2008

Plans for the first American-style Jewish community centre in the heart of London have been shelved, a decision blamed by its backers on the worsening economic climate.

The board of the Jewish Community Centre for London (JCC) has announced it is putting on hold a scheme to develop an 80,000-square-foot former car showroom in Finchley Road, Swiss Cottage, bought just over a year-and-a-half ago.

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Duffield’s plan hits a red light

By Simon Rocker, July 25, 2008

After a long day's work, a smart City lawyer takes a short journey by Tube. She has time for a quick swim, and hurries down a kosher salad, before catching a class on kabbalistic meditation or a new stand-up act from America.

Or imagine the mother who drops her toddler into the nursery, goes upstairs to enjoy a mother-and-baby yoga session with her youngest, and then shares a coffee with some friends.

Welcome to the Jewish Community Centre, the all-purpose social and recreational complex that has long been a feature in cities from Dallas to Sao Paolo.

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