Simon Rocker

Drop in couples signing pre-nups

By Simon Rocker, April 21, 2016

There has been a sharp drop in the number of marrying couples signing prenuptial agreements since their introduction by the Office of the Chief Rabbi 20 years ago to prevent the incidence of agunot, women trapped in a dead marriage.

Whereas 45 per cent of couples registering for marriage at the Chief Rabbi's Office signed agreements (PNAs) in 1996, that had declined to 40 per cent in 2010 and s

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Questions over future of JFS's leadership

By Simon Rocker, April 21, 2016

Parents of JFS pupils have inevitably been left guessing by this week's announcement of head teacher Jonathan Miller's leave of absence.

Governors have not revealed the reasons behind it nor given any hint of when or whether they expect him to return.

But the decision to use an outside consultant, Debby Lipkin, to help manage the school in the interim is unusual in one sense.

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The kidnapping that stunned Europe

By Simon Rocker, April 21, 2016

It was an incident which scandalised enlightened Europeans, helped weaken the power of the Pope and showed the benighted attitude of the Catholic Church towards Jews at the time.

In 1858 in Bologna, Italy, a six-year-old Jewish boy was taken from his parents' home by the police and brought to Rome on the grounds that he had been secretly baptised and was therefore a Christian.

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Female singing ban leads to legal action

By Simon Rocker, April 21, 2016

A long-running controversy over a ban on women singing at communal Jewish events in South Africa because of religious sensitivities has resulted in legal action.

Two orthodox Jews, along with the South African Centre for Religious Equality and Diversity (Sacred), have lodged a complaint of unfair discrimination against the South African Jewish Board of Deputies' Cape Council.

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Peer says she will listen to Board warning over Bill to control religious courts

By Simon Rocker, April 19, 2016

A campaigner for new laws to regulate religious courts says she is willing to take account of concerns about their impact on Batei Din.

Cross-bench peer Baroness Cox wants to force religious tribunals to comply with equality laws primarily in order to protect Muslim women from discrimination.

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Education watchdog criticises Orthodox school over 'very limited' teaching

By Simon Rocker, April 19, 2016

A Charedi boys' school has been criticised by government inspectors for refusing to teach about evolution or sex and relationships.

Ofsted said Getters Talmud Torah in Stamford Hill, north London, which has 241 pupils aged from three to 13, limited the teaching of secular subjects to between 45 minutes and an hour a day with “no provision for younger years”.

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Numbers up as Leeds free school defies the critics

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2016

When the Leeds Jewish Free School opened with just eight pupils three years ago, the sceptics were already writing it off.

Articles in the press questioned why the government had pumped £3 million into a school with so few students.

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Women get more lead roles at S&P

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2016

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Poll on Charedi move 'inaccurate'

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2016

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Why Israel should look east for a model of religious moderation

By Simon Rocker, April 14, 2016

When Eli Bareket was growing up in Israel, he reached the final of a pre-Pesach school quiz. One of the questions, about the Seder song Echad Mi Yadea, asked "who knows two"?

Two are the tablets which Moses brought down from Sinai, of course. But that was not what young Eli wrote. He put down "Moses and Aaron". "Wrong," said the teacher.

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Heathrow's no-fly zone for Cohanim

By Simon Rocker, April 14, 2016

Cohanim have been advised not to take El Al flights to Israel from Heathrow to avoid the risk of ritual contamination from bodies being transported for burial.

The Vaad Mishmeres Hakohanim, a group which protects the purity of Cohanim, has published advice on potentially problematic flights following queries from the public.

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David Miliband says fight against antisemitism must 'cross party loyalties'

By Simon Rocker, April 11, 2016

The former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in London tonight that outbreaks of modern antisemitism were "repulsive" and should not be ignored.

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Former Hasmonean pupil is director of British Mossack Fonseca offshoot

By Simon Rocker, April 11, 2016

The Panamanian law firm under international scrutiny for helping wealthy people avoid tax has a British offshoot with a former Hasmonean High School pupil as a director.

Emmanuel Cohen was revealed by the Times to be one of the directors of Mossack Fonseca & Co (UK) based in Hitchin, North Hertfordshire.

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Chasidic school takes on government

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2016

A Chasidic independent school has mounted a legal challenge against an order from the Department for Education restricting it from taking new pupils until standards improve.

Beis Aharon Trust, which runs a school for 347 boys aged from three to 13 in Stamford Hill, north London, is awaiting the outcome of an appeal to the Care Standards Tribunal.

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We're all going to Stamford Hill-on-Sea

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2016

Within a few months, Joel Friedman hopes to be an Essex man.

As Stamford Hill's Charedi population continues to rise and house prices soar beyond the reach of ordinary families, the young Orthodox father of six is looking to move to pastures new. He plans to be among the pioneers of a Charedi community about to be set up an hour or so further east - in Canvey Island.

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The wider implications of a Hasmonean move

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2016

We reported a few weeks ago that the governors of Hasmonean High School in London were considering resurrecting a 50-year plan to move its boys' division in Hendon alongside the girls in Mill Hill. That has now moved forward with an invitation to parents to view an exhibition this month showing what the proposed relocation would look like.

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Super-size us: Key Reform shuls are talking merger

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2016

The leadership of Hendon Reform Synagogue has recommended a merger with Edgware and District Reform Synagogue to form a super-sized congregation.

Although Hendon still serves around 700 families, it has an ageing profile and little more than 10 per cent of members live in the area.

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Planning victory for Federation on headstones

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2016

The Federation of Synagogues has won the right to erect upright headstones in its new Edgware cemetery despite council officers' objections that they would detract from the location's green belt character.

Overriding their officials' recommendations, Barnet Council's planning committee last week voted in favour of the synagogue body.

"We are delighed at the outcome," said Federation presiden

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Mersey congregation beats a path to the US

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2016

Another regional community is exploring the possibility of joining the United Synagogue.

Talks have been ongoing between Childwall Hebrew Congregation in Liverpool and US officials over the past few months.

Sheffield was the first northern congregation to become a member of the US two years ago and Nottingham has been toying with a similar move.

Childwall president Denis Salamon said the

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