Simon Rocker

Offensive billboards removed

By Simon Rocker, January 15, 2009

Billboards advertising a nasal spray to help with impotence which were removed from Edgware after protests that they were offensive are being taken down in the rest of the country.

Orthodox Jewish councillor Brian Gordon was among objectors to the posters headlined “Want Longer Lasting Sex?”

The Advertising Standards Authority is considering more than a hundred complaints about the adverts.

But the Australia-based Advanced Medical Institute said it had ordered billboards for its product to be taken down before the ASA decision.

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UK aid floods in for troops

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2009

Around 3,000 parcels containing thermal wear and chocolate have so far been delivered to Israeli soldiers serving in Gaza in a campaign launched by the Zionist Federation and backed by the JC.

The ZF raised £45,000 in a week to buy the goods which were delivered with messages of solidarity via volunteers in Israel.

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It’s hard to be a Jew, especially in a recession

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

The harsh winds of recession have started to make an impact on the Jewish community. Donors have cut back pledges, synagogue bodies are laying off staff and one institution has already gone to the wall. MST College, in North-West London, which specialised in teacher training for strictly Orthodox schools, closed at the end of last month.

MST may not be the only casualty. Despite the falling Jewish population, the number of Jewish charities has been increasing at more than five per cent annually in the UK in recent years.

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Why Limmud is now the festival of festivals

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

At the closing gala of the recent Limmud conference in Coventry, the historian Deborah Lipstadt recalled an earlier conversation with some young people who were struggling to think of any contemporary Jewish heroes. But instead of suggesting a few examples herself, she did something else. She asked members of the audience to stand if they had been part of the Limmud organising team; next she asked anyone who had presented one of the 900-plus conference sessions; and so on, through to visitors from abroad; or anyone who had supported a Limmud event .

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Prosor urges UK Jews to speak out

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

The Israeli ambassador, Ron Prosor, has urged British Jews to speak out for Israel in the media.

Addressing a large audience on the penultimate day of the Limmud
education conference in Warwick University, he said: “It is important for you to stand up, especially today, when the state of Israel is unified on this issue of Gaza and make your opinion known — to the broadsheets, to television, to radio.”

Britain was an international media centre, he observed, and the public in West European countries were generally less sympathetic to Israel than their governments.

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Revelations, crossovers… and dance

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

It is 1.15am and a dozen students are sitting in an upstairs bar at Warwick University. The chill weather had frosted the cars outside hours before.

But rather than bottles of Bud or vodka and cranberries, they are armed with a sheet of passages from Maimonides, about to begin the latest of late-night sessions at Limmud’s annual winter conference.

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Honour for hero who saved 52,000

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

A Suffolk boarding school held a special service on Tuesday to commemorate an outstanding former pupil who saved the lives of nearly 52,000 Jews during the Second World War.

Prince Constantin Karadja of Romania, who attended Framlingham College from 1906-1908, was a consul-general for his country in Berlin in the early years of the war and an official in the Romanian Foreign Ministry from 1941-44.

Despite opposition from within his own government, he issued papers to protect Jews of Romanian nationality abroad who would have otherwise fallen into the hands of the Nazis.

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Youth call to be given seat on JLC

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

The leader of one of the largest Zionist youth movements is calling for a youth representative to be given a seat at the Jewish Leadership Council.

Jack Prevezer, 22, mazkir of the Federation of Zionist Youth, made the call during a recent panel discussion by youth leaders at the Limmud conference.

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Charity settles its trustee dispute

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

The British Friends of the Hebrew University has reached an agreement with a former trustee who protested over the deduction of management charges from donor funds.

Geoffrey Simmonds argued that it had been unreasonable for the charity to take money from bequests to use for administration costs if the donor had been unaware of it at the time.

But this month he and BFHU chairman Brent Isaacs announced that they had resolved the dispute.

“It avoids legal action and the Charity Commission,” Mr Simmonds said. “It’s the right result.”

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Lib Dems split over conflict

By Simon Rocker, January 8, 2009

The Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel are trying to broker a meeting between the Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor and the party’s leader, Nick Clegg, who has been outspoken in his criticism of Israel’s actions in Gaza.

In an article in Wednesday’s Guardian, Mr Clegg called on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to condemn Israeli tactics and suspend arm sales and demanded that the European Union suspend a proposed new trade agreement with Israel.

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It’s OK to use BC and AD

By Simon Rocker, January 6, 2009

 From early days we are taught at cheder to use BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) for dates in preference to BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, In the Year of Our Lord). The terms CE/BCE were actually introduced by Protestant Bible scholars who considered them more neutral.

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Limmud: ex-defence chief assesses Gaza

By Simon Rocker, December 31, 2008

The idea that armies should use proportionate force was dismissed by a former director of military intelligence for the Israel Defence Forces at a special session on Gaza at the Limmud conference.

General Yaacov Amidror said: “The advantage Israel has, is only because it can react disproportionately.”

From a military perspective, he added: “The only way to deal with such a situation is to react without taking into consideration proportionality… otherwise you will lose before you begin.”

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Top speakers’ pullout fails to dent Limmud

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2008

The crisis in Gaza forced the withdrawal of Mark Regev, international media adviser to the Prime Minister of Israel, from the Limmud winter conference which opened at Warwick University near Coventry on Sunday.

Along with Mr Regev, Kadima MK Menachem Ben-Sasson also pulled out at the last minute because of the latest events at home.

Elliott Goldstein, chair of Limmud, said: “Obviously, we are sorry they can’t join us. But we still have nearly 100 presenters at the conference from Israel speaking on a huge range of topics, including the unfolding situation.”

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Bereaved families urge peace at conference

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2008

A group of Israelis and Palestinians brought their joint call for peace to the Limmud conference.

Ayelet and Zvika Shahak’s daughter Bat-Chen was killed on her 15th birthday on Purim by a suicide bomber in Tel Aviv in 1994.

Ali Abu Awwad (also pictured above) and his brother, Khaled, from Beit Ommer in the West Bank, lost their other brother, Yousef, who was shot in the head by an Israeli soldier after an argument broke out at a checkpoint four years ago, leaving two young children.

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Orthodox college goes bust

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2008

The country’s only training college for teachers wanting to work at strictly Orthodox day schools has been forced to close.

Donors were not able to secure enough funds to maintain MST College, which opened in Hendon, North London in 1979.

Michael Cohen, its principal, said: “We got no government or local authority funding. We survived with an income from our students which was about a third of the costs, while the rest came from supporters.

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Leo Baeck to auction signed Chagall books

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2008

London’s Leo Baeck College is to sell a collection of 49 books signed and illustrated by Marc Chagall.

The collection, believed to be worth more than £250,000, was donated to the college 15 years ago by Alfred and Irmgard Neuman, who were neighbours of the artist in St Paul de Vence, South of France. They were impressed by its role at the time as the only Progressive rabbinic seminary in Europe.

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US attends first liaison meeting

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2008

The United Synagogue has for the first time sent a rabbinic representative to the liaison body set up to reduce tensions between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox.

Rabbi Michael Harris, joint vice- chairman of the US Rabbinical Council, attended last Thursday’s meeting at US head office of the community consultative committee, established under the 1998 Stanmore Accords.

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Sweet finish to Montefiore tribute

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2008

A bygone treat — a lemon tart baked according to the recipe of Judith, Lady Montefiore — was served to 120 people at Lauderdale Road Synagogue, Maida Vale, including the Israeli Ambassador, the Chief Rabbi and the Earl of Balfour.

The historic dessert rounded off a dinner to celebrate two of British Jewry’s greatest supporters of Israel — Lady Montefiore’s husband, Sir Moses, the Victorian philanthropist, and Dr Moses Gaster, who led the Sephardic community as Haham from 1887 to 1918.

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Eastenders and that wedding; the unanswered question

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2008

I am not an Eastenders’ regular but couldn’t help watching last Thursday’s Jewish wedding. Femme fatale Janine Butcher has returned, after an interlude, to the series, reinvented as Judith Bernstein, to marry an elderly Jewish widower (for his money, her family suspects).

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Stirring recognition

By Simon Rocker, December 11, 2008

An unusual presentation was made to Pro-Zion, the Progressive Zionist movement, in recognition of its work — a mounted soup ladle.

The utensil had been used in soup kitchens supported by the Israel Religious Action Centre. During a UK visit, IRAC executive director Anat Hoffman presented the ladle to Charlie Gluckman, co-chair of Pro Zion, which has raised money for the centre.

“I promised to raise a further $10,000 for the project,” Mr Gluckman said. “I couldn’t say no.”

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