Simon Rocker

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”.

More..

Sacks to address Anglican bishops

By Simon Rocker, June 20, 2008

The Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, is to address next month’s Lambeth Conference, the international convention of Anglican bishops convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury every 10 years.

“It is certain that this is the first time a Jewish leader has addressed a Lambeth gathering at the personal invitation of the archbishop,” said Canon James Rosenthal, spokesman for the Anglican Communion. 

More..

Only one in a hundred wants to be one of us

By Simon Rocker, June 20, 2008

Most people think that religions such as Judaism and Christianity will die out in Britain within a century, according to a new online poll.

And when asked which religion they would prefer to belong to, only one per cent of respondents chose Judaism.

The survey of religious attitudes was carried out among 2,000 adults this month by YouGov for Aish, the Orthodox outreach organisation.

More..

How far have women come?

By Simon Rocker, June 13, 2008
In 1994, a major review examined attitudes to women’s roles in the community. Its author says it is time for a new study

The head of a review into the role of women in the Jewish community is to take a fresh look at the subject to see what progress has been made — 14 years later.

Rosalind Preston, former vice-president of the Board of Deputies and ex-chairman of Nightingale, is putting together a team for a 2008 study.

More..

MP warns of Middle East ‘disaster’

By Simon Rocker, June 13, 2008

Mike Gapes MP, the chairman of the Commons’ foreign-affairs committee, this week said that he was “very pessimistic” about the prospect of a breakthrough towards an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement this year.

“There are two reasons for that,” he told a Jewish Labour Movement event in London on Sunday to celebrate Israel’s 60th anniversary.

More..

Charedim among poorest, yet have less social housing

By Simon Rocker, June 13, 2008

Strictly Orthodox Jews in Hackney, North-East London, are more likely to be receiving state benefits than the general population of the borough — but much less likely to be living in social housing.

According to a council study, 58.7 per cent of Charedi households received means-tested benefits compared with 38.6 per cent on average for Hackney as a whole.

But only 8.5 per cent of strictly Orthodox households lived in affordable social housing compared with 44.1 per cent for Hackney as a whole.

More..

Archbishop honoured at a JPR dinner

By Simon Rocker, June 13, 2008

One of the UK’s leading Christian personalities has been honoured by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research for his contribution to public life.

The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, received JPR’s Golden Jubilee award at a dinner in his honour at Glaziers Hall in London last Wednesday.

Speaking on the role of religion in politics, Dr Sentamu — famously without the dog-collar which he tore off in December and vowed not to put back until Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe left office — greeted his audience with “Shalom”.

More..

Hebrew U donors protest at charges

By Simon Rocker, June 6, 2008

Donors have voiced concern at a British Friends of the Hebrew University policy of deducting administration charges from endowment funds. The policy is the subject of complaints made by a former trustee and reported by the Jewish Chronicle.

One prospective contributor, Deborah Pulvernis, of London, wrote in a letter to the JC: “My late great-aunt, father, and cousin, left substantial restricted endowments to BFHU, who gave them assurances at the time that 100 per cent of their monies would go to the university with no running costs deducted.

More..

School recognises my plight — after 70 years

By Simon Rocker, June 6, 2008

Seventy years after being forced to sit at the back of her Austrian classroom, an 87-year-old woman has finally received an acknowledgement of her suffering from the school.

Katerina Fuchs of Hendon, North-West London, was 17 when the Germans marched into Austria in 1938, in what was known as the Anschluss, or annexation.

She and other Jewish pupils at the Radetskyschule in Vienna were separated from other students when the Nazis took over.

More..

London and New York: a tale of two marches

By Simon Rocker, June 6, 2008

As organisers of a pro-Israel street rally finalised plans for their event later this month, a similar march in New York last weekend set them an impressive target to beat — with a claimed 100,000 participants.

Even allowing for the difference in Jewish populations (London: estimated 250,000; New York: just under one million), New York City’s Salute to Israel Parade last Sunday dwarfs London’s ambitions.

More..

Charedi numbers ‘much higher than Board says’

By Simon Rocker, June 6, 2008

A new report has sparked fresh debate on the size of Britain’s rapidly growing strictly Orthodox population.

The UK Charedi population numbers between 22,800 and 36,400 and has been growing at a rate of four per cent annually since the early 1990s, according to a study published this week by the Board of Deputies’ community policy research group.

But Charedi sources maintain that even the higher figure is an underestimate and that the total is above 40,000.

More..

UK rabbi uses sermon to attack convert annulments as ‘insane’

By Simon Rocker, May 30, 2008

A leading United Synagogue rabbi has hit out at the recent decision of a rabbinical court in Israel calling for the annulment of thousands of conversions carried out in the country.

Rabbi Naftali Brawer condemned the verdict of the Supreme Rabbinical Court of Jerusalem as symptomatic of an “insane and oppressive interpretation” of Jewish law.

More..

Ex-trustee turns on Friends of Hebrew U

By Simon Rocker, May 30, 2008

A disaffected former trustee of the British Friends of the Hebrew University is calling for the Charity Commission to investigate its handling of millions of pounds worth of donor funds.

Geoffrey Simmonds, who resigned three years ago amid disagreements over the way the Friends was run, claims that the charity has been deducting money for management costs which should be going directly to the Jerusalem-based university.

More..

The rabbi giving shiurim through his laptop

By Simon Rocker, May 30, 2008

New technology is giving shuls creative ways to reach out

Wednesday night, and a group of nine people is debating the finer points of a Jewish text with their rabbi. It is the kind of scene you would expect to find in any synagogue during the week. But these members of London’s North-Western Reform Synagogue are not in shul. They are all at home, wearing headsets and linked to each other by computer.

More..

Union gets legal threat over boycott

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2008

The University and College Union has been warned of legal repercussions if it passes a motion calling on members to review links with Israel at its congress in Manchester next week.

Lawyers advising the Stop the Boycott Campaign say that the resolution — backed by the union’s own executive — is tantamount to support for boycott action already deemed unlawful.

But Sally Hunt, the union’s general secretary, denied that there was any call for a boycott.

More..

Lawyers help student avoid Shabbat exams

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2008

A student has been allowed to take one of his final exam papers a day early to avoid sitting it on Shabbat, after lawyers intervened with his university.

Hertfordshire University had initially refused Joel Raivid, 21, a BSc psychology student from Edgware, Middlesex, permission to sit the exam on the Friday before its scheduled Saturday slot.

He was told he would have to wait until several weeks later and take it in the re-sit period in late June or early July.

More..

Ofcom rejects anti-Zionist's TV complaint

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2008

Ofcom, the media regulator, has rejected a complaint of unfair treatment against Channel Four by Tony Greenstein, the veteran anti-Zionist campaigner.

Mr Greenstein appeared in a programme made by Richard Littlejohn, the Daily Mail columnist, about rising antisemitism in the UK which was shown last July.

He complained that viewers might have gained the impression that he agreed with the idea that antisemitism was on the increase.

More..

Holocaust denier in web attack

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2008

An international Iranian English-language television station has published an online article casting doubt on the existence of the Nazi gas chambers by a recently exposed Holocaust denier.

Last month, University College London withdrew the honorary research fellowship of Nicholas Kollerstrom after his Holocaust views came to light.

But this week Press TV, a Tehran-based news network, gave space for the lecturer, a specialist in astronomy, to promote his ideas.

More..

How mysticism took us nearer to heaven

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2008

Professor Rachel Elior, an authority on mysticism, talks of angelic chariots and hidden spheres

Today’s festival of Lag ba’Omer has a special place in the heart of mystics. It is the day when the second-century sage Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is said to have begun illuminating the secrets of the Zohar, the “bible” of Kabbalah, and the day considered the anniversary of his death. Tens of thousands will have marked the occasion by flocking to his tomb in Meron, Northern Israel.

More..

Rabbi Gordon evokes the spirit of Louis Jacobs at his induction

By Simon Rocker, May 23, 2008

Rabbi Jeremy Gordon was on Sunday inducted as the spiritual leader of the New London Synagogue, the St John’s Wood congregation founded by the late Rabbi Louis Jacobs.

Newly installed Westminster Lord Mayor Louise Hyams was among the guests celebrating the arrival of Rabbi Gordon, who grew up in the community and had previously led St Albans Masorti Synagogue.

More..