Simon Rocker

Interview: Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2014

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has given his whole-hearted backing for Shabbat prayer groups for Orthodox women - once regarded as so controversial that his predecessor Lord Sacks barred them from synagogues for many years.

In his first interview since taking office a year ago, the chief rabbi said that women's prayer groups were "an excellent facility for us to have in our communities".

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Bake-off launch for Shabbat UK

By Simon Rocker, September 18, 2014

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said he has been "swept away" by community reaction to his Shabbat UK initiative, set to take place next month.

More than 100 synagogues, schools and other groups are planning events to enhance celebration and observance of the day of rest on October 24 and 25.

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Open Orthodox rabbi to address UK conference

By Simon Rocker, September 17, 2014

One of the United States’s leading American modern Orthodox rabbis is coming to the UK for a two-day conference organised by a young religious activist.

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Ofsted swoops on more Jewish schools

By Simon Rocker, September 16, 2014

Following last week’s shock inspection report, downgrading JFS from an outstanding school to one requiring improvement, two more state-aided Jewish schools have been the subject of unannounced visits from Ofsted.

Inspectors swooped today on Beis Yaakov, a strictly Orthodox girls high school in Salford.

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Interview: Joseph Dweck

By Simon Rocker, September 12, 2014

The St John's Wood home occupied by Britain's previous three chief rabbis has been vacant for nearly a year, with Chief Rabbi Mirvis having opted for Hendon instead.

But the impressive period residence has recently acquired a new tenant - Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, who will be installed into office on Sunday week.

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Challenge to school’s entry rules

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

Representatives of King David High School, Manchester, are to meet officials from the watchdog that oversees schools admissions next week after a challenge to its entry rules.

The Orthodox school is one of around 50 schools from different faiths whose rules have been questioned by the Fair Admissions Campaign.

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US says Board seen to 'lack leadership'

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman was under fresh pressure this week after the United Synagogue issued a letter commenting on the Board's "perceived lack of effective leadership".

But US president Stephen Pack made clear on Wednesday that it did not support moves to oust him from office.

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Board chief: MCB link was an act of 'leadership'

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

The new chief executive of the Board of Deputies, Gillian Merron, has stood by the Board's controversial joint statement with the Muslim Council of Britain in her first interview since taking office.

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The rabbi behind the American Jacobs affair

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

The New London Synagogue, founded by Rabbi Louis Jacobs after his exile from the United Synagogue, has been celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

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Scrum down for Shabbat UK

By Simon Rocker, September 11, 2014

The countdown has begun for Chief Rabbi Mirvis's Shabbat UK, just six weeks away.

More than a hundred shuls, schools and groups have signed up to special events to promote Shabbat observance and celebration.

Already scheduled is a mass challah bake beforehand in which thousands are expected to take part.

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Copied copper scroll is one to treasure

By Simon Rocker, September 5, 2014

A couple who have made high-quality facsimiles of illustrated medieval manuscipts and even of the Dead Sea Scrolls have embarked on their most difficult challenge yet - to make a replica of the mysterious Copper Scroll.

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Taking liberties with Torah stories

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

The rabbis of old made daring leaps of the imagination when commenting on the stories of the Torah, creating what we call midrash.

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Few gripes with Gyllenhaal

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

Here's a surprise statistic: BBC2's eight-week drama on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, The Honourable Woman, which ended last month, provoked just two complaints. Given the heat usually generated by anything about the Middle East on TV and its coincidence with the Israel-Hamas war, that is an extraordinarily low grumble rate.

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WJR joins with Islamic Relief in Iraq vigil

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

The Reform movement's Senior Rabbi, Laura Janner-Klausner, has spoken at a multi-faith vigil jointly organised by a Muslim charity accused by Israel of links with Hamas.

Islamic Relief Worldwide co-sponsored Wednesday's event on behalf of Iraq's endangered minorities with World Jewish Relief and Christian Aid.

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Masorti gets the taste for growth

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

Masorti Judaism is looking to spread its wings with initiatives planned in a number of new locations.

Its chief executive Matt Plen reported that there had been two activities in Muswell Hill, "we're doing an initial activity in Mill Hill and we're also looking at launching a study group in south Manchester".

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He's now heading the Fed

By Simon Rocker, September 4, 2014

London Rabbi Avi Lazarus started work this week as the Federation of Synagogues' new chief executive.

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Islamic charity launches probe over Hamas funding claims

By Simon Rocker, September 2, 2014

A leading Muslim charity in the UK is carrying out an internal investigation into its aid to Palestinians following Israeli claims of links to Hamas.

Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon banned Birmingham-based Islamic Relief Worldwide from operating in the West Bank in June, accusing it of funnelling money to Hamas-controlled organisations.

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Why Baruch Spinoza is still excommunicated

By Simon Rocker, August 28, 2014

The year 1656 is usually remembered as the date of the readmission of Jews to England. But something else happened then, regarded by some as an infamous act that remains a lingering stain on European Jewry.

Amsterdam's Sephardi authorities pronounced a cherem, a ban of excommunication, on the rationalist philosopher Baruch Spinoza.

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'As gunmen came in, we hid in the cellar'

By Simon Rocker, August 22, 2014

Decimated by the Nazis and repressed under Stalin, Jews in Ukraine have been rebuilding their communal life over the past two decades since the collapse of Communism.

But now many face an uncertain future as fighting continues in the east of the country between government forces and pro-Russia separatists.

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Stamford Hill school scores well with Ofsted inspectors

By Simon Rocker, August 21, 2014

A Chasidic girls' primary school in Stamford Hill has impressed Ofsted inspectors.

Bnos Zion of Bobov, an independent school for 158 girls aged from three to 12 serving the Bobov Chasidic community, was rated good after a visit from Ofsted, with the behaviour and care of pupils found to be outstanding.

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