Simon Rocker

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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Analysis: The best-laid plans...

By Simon Rocker, July 25, 2008
The Jewish Community Centre for London is the first major Jewish project to be credit-crunched. Escalating building costs and the economic slide have been cited as the reasons for putting the ambitious building scheme on hold.

Andrew Franklin, the publisher who chairs the JCC board, said: "What is so extraordinary is the economy is deteriorating so fast in banking, property, finance, hedge funds - areas where many of the most generous of likely donors are involved."

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The council-house single mother of seven 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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Chief’s projects head is to lead volunteers

By Simon Rocker, July 25, 2008
Leonie Lewis, the Chief Rabbi's projects director, is leaving his office after a year-and-a-half to become the first chief executive of the Jewish Volunteering Network (JVN).

The former head of the United Synagogue's Community Development Group - who was number 69 in this year's JC Power 100 - will also be undertaking consultancy work for the US and the London School of Jewish Studies.

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Analysis: Central issues the report glosses over

By Simon Rocker, July 18, 2008

Running to more than 80 pages, The Future of Jewish Schools — the report of the Jewish Leadership Council commission — is perhaps more interesting for what it does not say.

If mainstream Jewish secondary schools in London are likely to face a struggle to fill their places within a few years, then one question is bound to be asked. Is there any point in opening the Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS), scheduled to take its first students in two years?

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Bloggers refuse to apologise over ‘evil Jew’ libel threat

By Simon Rocker, July 18, 2008

A popular political website is refusing to back down in the face of a threat of libel action from an Islamist activist who denies having referred to an “evil Jew”.

Harry’s Place, the left-of-centre blog, has engaged top lawyers Mishcon de Reya to defend it against a claim from Mohammed Sawalha, the president of the British Muslim Initiative.

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Shalom to a master of foreign reporting

By Simon Rocker, July 18, 2008

Eric Silver, the former Israel correspondent for the JC and The Guardian, died in Jerusalem on Tuesday night aged 73 after a short illness.

The Leeds-born journalist, whose last JC article appeared four weeks ago, worked for The Guardian for 27 years from 1964 and contributed to the JC from 1987. He also wrote for The Independent, Time and Indian and Canadian publications and was the author of a biography of Menachem Begin and a book on non-Jewish saviours of Jews during the Holocaust.

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US looking to the regions

By Simon Rocker, July 18, 2008

The United Synagogue has revealed that it is looking to recruit communities from outside London.

Its 62 congregations have until now been based in the capital and the Home Counties.

But in a statement this week, its president Simon Hochhauser said the US would extend a “warm invitation to other Orthodox communities in London and beyond”.

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Historian wins fight over plagiarism claim

By Simon Rocker, July 4, 2008

A leading Israeli art historian has forced two prestigious academic journals to withdraw claims that she plagiarised the work of a Palestinian artist after threatening to take action in the British courts.

Professor Gannit Ankori, the chair of the Hebrew University’s art-history department, reached a settlement with Art Journal, published by the American College Art Association (CAA).

Her lawyers also intervened over an article which appeared in The Art Book, published by the Oxford-based Blackwell Publishing.

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Balls pledges fresh look at school safety

By Simon Rocker, July 4, 2008

Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, has promised to revisit the question of how to help Jewish schools meet security costs amid frustration at the lack of tangible support.

Last autumn, the government announced that local councils would be allowed to help with capital expenditure on security, but some councils have said there is no money available.

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Help us to find peace, says Sacks

By Simon Rocker, July 4, 2008

Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks appealed in Trafalgar Square for Palestinians to live side by side in peace with Israel.

“Today, because of Israel, there is at least a chance of peace,” he said. “Yet every time Israel proposes peace, it is greeted with terror and suicide bombings, Katyushas and Kassams. Israel will continue to seek peace — we will continue to support it doing so. We pay tribute to the UK government for its support for Israel and for peace.

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Rabbi offers ‘second chance’ ceremonies

By Simon Rocker, July 4, 2008

A Liberal rabbi has sparked controversy within his own movement by suggesting that it should perform chupah ceremonies for couples who do not wish to get formally married for financial reasons.

Rabbi Ron Berry, of Bristol and West Progressive Congregation, writing in the last edition of Liberal Judaism Today, said he wanted to help Jewish couples who were “finding happiness in later life”.

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US head sets out three-year vision

By Simon Rocker, July 4, 2008

United Synagogue president Simon Hochhauser has laid out his plans for the next three years in advance of his formal re-election for a second term on Monday week.

In a manifesto published this week, Dr Hochhauser and his new team promise to consult congregations with a view to “increased autonomy and responsibility” in running their affairs. They want to dispense with the two-tier constituent and affiliated status of member synagogues.

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Parents ‘won’t pay’ to support Jewish studies

By Simon Rocker, June 27, 2008

Too many parents are refusing to contribute to the cost of their children’s religious education, say governors in some Jewish day schools.

Although state-aided Jewish schools are mainly government-funded, it is common for them to request around £1,000 per child from parents annually to cover Jewish studies and security.

But Lee Glassar, a governor at the Michael Sobell Sinai Primary School in Kenton, North-West London, said “a significant number” decline to pay.

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UCU stalls on boycott decision

By Simon Rocker, June 20, 2008

Leaders of Britain’s main lecturers’ union have been accused of failing to throw out a controversial policy denounced by critics as a backdoor move to boycott Israel.

At its annual conference last month, the University and College Union voted to ask academics to “consider the moral and political implications of educational links with Israeli institutions”.

But the UCU executive last Friday put off any decision to implement the resolution, instead referring it for further discussion by a sub-committee.

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Rabbi backs conversion sermon

By Simon Rocker, June 20, 2008

A United Synagogue rabbi has hit back after being sharply criticised by a colleague for his outspoken comments on Israel’s conversion crisis.

In a letter to the JC, Rabbi Naftali Brawer, joint vice-chairman of the US Rabbinical Council, responded to the claims of Hendon’s Rabbi Mordechai Ginsbury, the council’s immediate past chairman, that he has been “intemperate” and “unfair”.

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