Simon Rocker

Hunt is on for new leaders as JFS head quits

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2016

The resignation of Jonathan Miller as headteacher of JFS, the country's largest Jewish school, has ended weeks of uncertainty after his unexplained absence since the start of term.

Mr Miller, who has led the London secondary school since 2008, wanted to "explore other professional opportunities", parents were told this week in a letter from the chairman of governors Steven Woolf.

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Pressure was on after critical Ofsted report

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2016

The Ofsted squad which turned up at the JFS campus in Kenton, north-west London one morning in July 2014 took the school by surprise. Ranked as an outstanding school and enjoying an excellent academic reputation, JFS had not expected to be the subject of an unannounced inspection.

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The pros and cons of opening a new London Jewish high school

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2016

What is the case for a new Jewish secondary school in north-west London?

Latest predictions suggest that in six years there will be around 135 more children from Jewish primary schools in London applying to Jewish secondaries than there are now. Almost enough to fill the 150 places a year which would be available at a new high school.

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Lesson about Palestinians should not be 'taboo'

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2016

Talking about the Palestinians to pupils at Jewish schools "cannot be taboo", according to a specialist on teaching children about Israel.

Dr Sivan Zakai, of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, has found that young Jewish schoolchildren in the city are unaware of the Palestinians, instead believing Israel to be in conflict with some "unclear other team".

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Holiday ruling gives teachers a headache

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2016

Headteachers have been left in a vacuum after a legal ruling which has given parents more freedom to take their children on holiday during term.

The High Court last week supported a father who had refused to pay a £120 fine for removing his daughter from school for a trip abroad.

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School admissions points system set for review

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2016

The points system which is used for entry to many Jewish schools is to be reviewed.

The Chief Rabbi has set up an investigation to look at the requirements for a "Certificate of Religious Practice" and question whether the present criteria are correct.

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Rethink on academies may prove a blessing in disguise

By Simon Rocker, May 19, 2016

The twists and turns of education policy can be hard to follow. While there may seem to be no specific Jewish interest in the government's climbdown over academies, it could have a hidden benefit.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, although still wanting state schools to switch from local authority control to academy status, has dropped the demand for "blanket conversion".

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Ofsted head's concern over children 'hidden away' in unregistered schools

By Simon Rocker, May 16, 2016

The head of Ofsted Sir Michael Wilshaw said that he was “extremely concerned” at the number of unregistered schools after more than 100 have so far been identified by inspectors.

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Was the Chief Rabbi right on Zionism?

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2016

The Chief Rabbi made his strongest public statement since coming into office two and a half years ago when he intervened in the Labour antisemitism controversy, warning that the party had a “severe problem”.

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Property firm blocked from developing listed synagogue

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2016

A judge has blocked plans to develop the synagogoue of the defunct Blackpool United Hebrew Congregation because it would affect the character of the Grade II-listed building.

Thompson Property Investments had applied to build flats at the back of the 100-year-old building, which was deconsecrated in 2012 and sold.

The plan had originally been rejected by the council after objections from His

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Merger vote is postponed

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2016

Hendon Reform Synagogue has postponed a vote on a merger with Edgware and District Reform Synagogue.

The shul's council had recommended union with the larger congregation as a "wonderful prospect" for the community, established in 1949.

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Federation growing in the north

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2016

The Federation of Synagogues has continued its expansion from London into Manchester with the addition of its second northern community.

It has taken on Kehillas Kol Yaakov in Prestwich, a congregation of more than 60 members founded two years ago by young professionals who had moved to the area.

The Federation has bought land to build a synagogue and a planning application will be submitted

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The modern Orthodox rabbi who keeps the fire of Aish burning

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2016

Rabbi Daniel Rowe, the new executive director of the Orthodox outreach organisation Aish UK, is widely regarded as one of the smartest young British rabbis around.

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Charedi fury over education ruling

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2016

Britain's Charedi schools are on a collision course with education authorities over a requirement to teach about same-sex relationships and other faiths.

At a special meeting at the end of last week, the rabbinical leadership of the London-based Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations made clear that no compromise was possible on religious principle.

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Charedim find site for their Canvey heim

By Simon Rocker, May 12, 2016

Contracts are understood to have been exchanged for a building intended to serve as the hub of a planned new Charedi community in Canvey Island in Essex.

Several families from Stamford Hill in north London are thought to have bought houses in the town on the Thames Estuary although none have yet moved in.

The site of the former Castle View School which has been vacant for four years is in th

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Review: The Honey and the Sting

By Simon Rocker, May 5, 2016

Walter Rothschild
JVAB, £34

When the Reform Beth Din published a guide for prospective converts, Jewish By Choice, in 1994, its author, Rabbi Dr Walter Rothschild, believed it filled a gap as there was "almost nothing available that wasn't either American or Orthodox".

But times have moved on and Rabbi Rothschild, who moved from Leeds to Berlin in 1998, felt a more up-to-date

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Parents call for changes in school entry lottery

By Simon Rocker, May 5, 2016

The selection process of Jewish secondary schools has been called into question by parents of children still without a place.

Spencer Jacobs, whose 10-year-old daughter Sophia has been on the waiting list of four Jewish schools in north-west London for two months, said that "there should be a change in the system".

The Finchley Reform Synagogue member believes that the admissions rules of Je

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JFS consultant headteacher addresses parents' concerns

By Simon Rocker, May 4, 2016

The consultant headteacher drafted in to help manage JFS has written to ease parental concerns over the unexplained absence of head teacher Jonathan Miller.

Debby Lipkin assured parents at the start of the new term today of the “profound and personal commitment” to the school of its current leadership team.

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Chasidic school loses appeal against ban on new pupils

By Simon Rocker, May 3, 2016

A Chasidic boys’ school in north London which has covered up images of women in short sleeves and refuses to teach about same-sex relationships has lost an appeal against an order not to admit new pupils until it makes changes.

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