Simon Rocker

Vanessa’s shrinking feeling

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 2010

Vanessa Feltz hopes finally to have beaten those unwanted pounds. The radio hostess revealed this week that, after various failed diets, she has already shed 16lb from more than 16 stone, thanks to her new gastric band. The device that she believes can convert her into a “model of abstinence” was fitted by a Dr Focquet of Zottegem in Belgium.

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Niche service

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 2010

When my colleague Nick Herman asked Amazon to deliver an order to the JC, the online company gave him the following tracking number: YID54857.

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Government rebuffs Islamic group

By Simon Rocker, June 29, 2010

The Department of Education has rejected objections from an Islamic campaign group to the teaching of Zionism in state-aided Jewish schools.

Ghulam Abbas, of the department’s community cohesion unit, replied to the group, Engage: “We have no evidence to suggest the schools you highlight in your letter are teaching inappropriately or indoctrinating pupils.”

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David Cameron's Bubbemeises

By Simon Rocker, June 25, 2010

There's a special family connection between the Prime Minister and bubbemeises - old wives' tales.

David Cameron's 16th-century Jewish ancestor Elijah Levita was the author of the Bovo Bukh, a Yiddish version of the romances that were popular in Europe at the time. Bovo refers to the knightly hero of the story, the good Sir Bevis.

The Bovo Bukh later became known as the Bove-Mayse, the Tale of Sir Bevis - and hence bubbemeise (which is thus not derived, as often believed, from bubba).

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Religious code for doctors

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

Doctors should be sensitive to the religious needs of terminally ill patients and their families, according to new guidelines issued by the General Medical Council, the regulatory body for the medical profession.

The guidelines, which take effect on Thursday, say patients may want to discuss what happens to their body after death, in accordance with their beliefs and values. "You must treat the patient's body with dignity and respect," they state. "You should make sure, wherever possible, that the body is handled in line with their personal religious or other beliefs."

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Court stops solicitor publishing report on BBC Middle East bias

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

Steven Sugar, the London solicitor battling to force the BBC to release a report into its Middle East coverage, says his latest legal defeat does not spell the end of his campaign.

On Wednesday, the Appeal Court rejected his latest call for the 2004 Balen Report to be made available.

Mr Sugar, who first applied to the Information Commissioner early in 2005 and has since fought several court actions, described the decision as "very disappointing. It's a very unbalanced judgment".

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Parent disputes Moriah admissions policy

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

A family has complained that their son has been denied a place at the Moriah Jewish Day School nursery in Pinner, Harrow in September because the school miscalculated the distance from their home.

The boy's father, who did not wish to be named, said that other children who lived further away from the school had been placed higher than their son in the queue for 26 places.

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Stacey, the embassy pin-up

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

Stacey Solomon has a fan at the Israeli Embassy: press attache Amir Ofek has been sporting photos of the Dagenham diva as a screensaver on his computer.

The X Factor finalist is due to sing at the Zionist Federation's late Israel Independence Day concert in London on Sunday - delayed because the volcanic ash crowd prevented the travel of Israeli guests in April, notably headline act Achinoam Nini, aka Noa.

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Keegan and the evil eye

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

Was TV soccer pundit skipper Kevin Keegan wearing a chamsa(a hand-shaped amulet to foil the evil eye) during the England v Algeria game? Our resident charm squad is pursuing inquiries with a so far coy ITV.

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Play it again, Shlomo

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

South Hampstead’s African-born Rabbi Shlomo Levin apparently offered to blow a vuvuzela for a shofar at Rosh Hashanah if South Africa or England won the World Cup. What greater motivation could England want?

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And yes, pigs will fry...

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

Irayne Paikin certainly knows how to make a sausage sizzle but I'm afraid I can't recommend you her prize-winning bangers.

Not only do they fail to carry the imprimatur of the London Beth Din - but some are made from pork.

Although Irene, 44, grew up in a kosher household in north London, she fled the city with her husband to Todenham Manor Farm in the Cotswolds, where they rear cattle and pigs and run a butchery.

Being Jewish remains "a real part of my identity", she says. "Every Friday night we have Shabbat on the farm, and we get fresh challah delivered."

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Martin Amis's blond moment

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

One of the week's highlights was Martin Amis's talk at London's Wiener Library about his Shoah novel, Time's Arrow. Amis, arguing that the Nazi genocide defied explanation, said he was re-reading Sir Martin Gilbert's history of the Holocaust with the same incredulity as when he had first read it 20 years before.

He asked his first questions about the Nazis when seven years old. "Don't worry," his mother had told him. "You are blond, with blue eyes. Hitler would have loved you."

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Reform passes soccer test

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2010

The Reform Movement faced a serious test of values.

Its scheduled annual meeting is due to take place on Sunday afternoon.

But thanks to the USA's late World Cup goal, England will now be playing their last 16 match at 3pm that day.

Would they put patriotism above constitutional procedure and postpone the meeting? Or take an extended TV break to watch the game?

It was a tough call for Reform chiefs, especially the movement's soccer-phile head Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield.

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Chief Rabbi slams Methodist report

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2010

The Chief Rabbi and other Jewish presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) have expressed their concern about a report on Israel prepared by the Methodist Church.

The document, which is to be debated at the church's national conference later this month, calls for a boycott of goods from "illegal" West Bank settlements, and political lobbying to end Israel's occupation and the "siege of Gaza".

The Methodist Church has already faced criticism for demonising Israel from Jewish organisations in London and Manchester.

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Why Shul is like a Gym

By Simon Rocker, June 21, 2010

The other day I went to a meeting about alternative and itinerant minyans that been springing up here over the last few years.
Their hallmark is DIY enthusiasm and volunteerism.
In contrast, established synagogues maintain a professional infrastructure, financed by congregational dues.
As Rabbi Jeremy Gordon of the New London Synagogue observed, shuls are rather like a gym: 100 per cent of the members pay for them, maybe 20 per cent use it monthly and five per cent on a weekly basis…
But is that shul model going to be sustainable over the future?

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Uproar over Methodist Israel report

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Jewish leaders have condemned a "skewed" report on Israel prepared by the Methodist Church, warning it could set back interfaith relations for years.

The report, which is to be debated at the church's national conference later this month, calls for a boycott of goods from "illegal" West Bank settlements, and political lobbying to end Israel's occupation and the "siege of Gaza".

Over the past few days, Jewish organisations in London and Manchester have protested about its contents in meetings with Methodist representatives.

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Analysis: We must pay attention to UJIA concerns

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Mick Davis heads British Jewry's biggest charitable investor in Israel, which spends more than £15 million a year on projects in the country, Zionist youth groups and other Israel-related educational programmes.

His intervention into the often stormy relationship between the diaspora and Israel comes amid increasing signs of unease over Israeli policies, most visibly expressed in the recent J-Call and For the Sake of Zion petitions in Europe and the United States that urged a settlement freeze.

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NIF boss sees 'progressive surge' in Jews around world

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

There is a "progressive awakening" among diaspora Jews in their attitude towards Israel, according to one of its best-known left-wing activists.

Professor Naomi Chazan sees evidence of a growing trend in the formation of the doveish lobby group, J Street, in the USA and the recent J Call petition in Europe, which urged a settlement freeze.

The former Knesset member for the socialist Meretz party, now president of the New Israel Fund, was in London this week on behalf of the NIF. She also had a meeting at the Board of Deputies.

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UJIA chief: More collaboration between Jews and Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

One of Israel's leading supporters has demanded a greater "collaboration" between Israel and diaspora Jews.

Writing in today's JC, Mick Davis, chairman of both the UJIA and the executive committee of the Jewish Leadership Council, says that "whereas an Israeli can at least influence events through the ballot box, we are a simple recipient of their impact".

He asserts that "we have a legitimate role as a partner with Israel in developing" its long term strategy.

Israel, he writes, is a "cornerstone" of the identity of most Jews in the diaspora and central to their future.

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It's kosher whisky galore

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Forget President Obama's huffing and puffing over the BP oil spill, here is a more grievous threat to peaceful transatlantic relations.

One of Scotland's finest malts, Glenmorangie, has agreed to accept kosher supervision - under America's OU label.

Surely this great British brand ought to be sporting the certification of a home-grown rabbinic authority.

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