Simon Rocker

How Isadore became trendy

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

Laura Ashley has a new designer tile out which goes by the name of "Isadore". Is this the start of some retro-Jewish name trend. John Galliano's Morrie range perhaps or Irving by Chanel.

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Mick and Ron still friends

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

Mick Davis and Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor remain on good terms, despite the contretemps over the UJIA chairman's outspoken remarks on Israel and the envoy's public rebuke of him. The pair were spotted out on a stroll the other day - in perfect amity, according to the reader who recognised them.

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Justice for twelth Lord

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

There has been much murmuring among legal folk about Sir John Dyson being the only Supreme Court judge not to be called Lord (or Lady): he was appointed after the court replaced the Law Lords. Now the Queen has intervened and Sir John will be known as Lord Dyson, after all.

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Mel Gibson's dodgy jibe

By Simon Rocker, December 22, 2010

Mel Gibson is never going to win that Anti-Defamation League man of the year award. The Australian actor notoriously ranted against Jews in a outburst after being arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in 2006.

Now actress Winona Ryder - who lost relatives in the Holocaust - has revealed an encounter she had with him at a Hollywood party some 15 years ago.

"Somehow, it came up that I was Jewish," she recalled in an interview with GQ magazine. "He said something about 'oven dodgers' but I didn't get it. I'd never heard that before."

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Davis row 'sideshow' says Sacks

By Simon Rocker, December 10, 2010

The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, has said that controversy over UJIA leader Mick Davis's criticisms of Israel is "the wrong debate" which distracts from the real issue.

Lord Sacks had previously made only a brief statement, saying there was "much to be gained" from honest debate over Israel as long as it came with unshakeable commitment.

But he has now changed tack in an essay on last week's Torah portion, published on the United Synagogue website.

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Board backs Netanyahu's condemnation of anti-Arab rentals

By Simon Rocker, December 9, 2010

The Board of Deputies has welcomed Israeli President Shimon Peres’s condemnation of rabbis who have told Jews they should not rent home to Arabs in Israel.

A number of prominent rabbis backed Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu’s declaration that it was forbidden to rent or sell land in Israel to non-Jews.

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Minyan men get a rabbi

By Simon Rocker, December 9, 2010

Borehamwood's new Sephardi minyan has taken an important step towards consolidation with the appointment of its first rabbi.

Rabbi Jeff Berger, who has been taking services from September - first once, then twice a month - will move with his family to Borehamwood from Maida Vale in January.

His new part-time post is being supported by the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation, looking to establish its first new community for some 40 years.

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JNF forced to make more staff redundant

By Simon Rocker, December 9, 2010

JNF UK expects to have to make further staff cuts as a result of the economic climate.

The charity, which recently closed a number of regional offices, said that further streamlining may lead to "a number of redundancies". The future of JNF's education department is under review. The charity's Edgware headquarters has been put up for sale, although a new location has yet to be found.

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Pius the Great

By Simon Rocker, December 6, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI’s recent interview with Peter Siewald generated a lot of media excitement, mainly over his remarks on condoms.
But worth noting are some of the other things he said. According to the Catholic magazine The Tablet, Benedict claimed that controversial wartime Pope Pius XII “save more Jews than anyone else” and was “one of the great righteous men”.
He also acknowledged that Bishop Richard Williamson, from the renegade ultra-conservative SSPX group, would not have been readmitted to the Church if the Vatican had known in advance of his Holocaust-denying views.

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Church rethink on Old Testament art

By Simon Rocker, December 2, 2010

The Church of England this week agreed to reconsider the future of a set of historic paintings linked to Jewish emancipation in the UK after concerted opposition to their sale.

The portraits of Jacob and his 12 sons by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran - now believed to be worth £15 million - have hung since 1756 in Auckland Castle in Bishop Auckland, the official residence of the Bishop of Durham.

But local campaigners have earned the pictures a partial reprieve after plans by the Church to put them up for auction came to light last month.

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Reform chief to leave for social action job

By Simon Rocker, December 2, 2010

The Reform movement’s leadership succession plans have been derailed by the decision of Rabbi Shoshaha Boyd Gelfand, the designated chief executive, to leave for a new job outside the organisation.

Rabbi Boyd Gelfand, the current executive director, was due to take over the professional reins of the organisation from Rabbi Tony Bayfield, who retires as head of movement at the end of the year.

But she has instead chosen to become the new director of JHub, the centre for Jewish social action enterprise and innovation.

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Archbishop tackles Big Society at shul

By Simon Rocker, December 2, 2010

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams proved a top draw when delivering his first address at a synagogue since taking office.

Hampstead Synagogue's hall was packed to hear the Archbishop deliver the annual Sir Isaiah Berlin lecture, inaugurated in memory of the Oxford philosopher who died in 1997.

Guests at the lecture - "Faith and Enlightment; Friend or Foe?" - included former Conservative leader Michael Howard, who asked Dr Williams for his view of the Tories' Big Society idea.

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The Jews of San Nicandro

By Simon Rocker, December 2, 2010

John A Davis
Yale University Press, £20

I was talking recently to Professor Tudor Parfitt of London School’s Oriental and African Studies when he he mentioned a story which I had never heard before: about a band of Catholic villagers from San Nicandro in a remote region of south east Italy who took up Judaism in the 1930s and eventually settled in Israel. By chance, just a couple of days later, a new book on the subject appeared at the office.

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Why Bibi was in the soup

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2010

Tony Blair revealed one reason why he admires Israel at the Board of Deputies dinner on Tuesday. Shortly after becoming Prime Minister, he was dining with Israeli Premier Binyamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

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A peaceful piece of fashion

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2010

After the Cohen coat a few months ago, here comes the Shalom top.

According to designers Matches Fashion: "Our team give each piece girls' names each season and this piece was named Shalom."

And before you rush to point out that Shalom is usually a boy's name, there's a model called Shalom Harlow.

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Mazeltov, your maj

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2010

When Board of Deputies leaders popped in to see the Queen at Windsor Castle leader, they asked chief exec Jon Benjamin to get a large card in Hebrew to wish her mazeltov on grandson William's engagement.

But the card he bought was in Yiddish rather than Hebrew and so thought unsuitable to present. Perhaps they should have sent it to her machetunim, the Middletons.

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Maureen sees green

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2010

The big names turned up for Mitzvah Day's main event at a Nature Reserve in King's Cross including Lord Sacks, Rabbi Tony Bayfield and Sir Trevor Chinn all wearing matching Mitzvah Day bright green t-shirts. A flustered Maureen Lipman arrived late as the rain started. Lord Sacks greeted her with: "Ah Maureen, you look rather fetching."

"Fetching?" she replied in shock. "Don't you mean kvetching?"

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Theatrical family troubles

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2010

For the first time since Mike Leigh's 2005 play Two Thousand Years, the National Theatre is putting a Jewish family centre stage.

Ryan Craig's new play The Holy Rosenbergs, which opens next March, is set in Edgware and will star Henry Goodman as the patriarch of a Jewish family who attempts to save both his ailing catering business and his cherished standing in the Jewish community. As his eldest son fights for Israel in Gaza, his daughter investigates war crimes in the conflict, while his youngest son goes off the rails and refuses to join David's business.

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School texts say 'God curses Jews'

By Simon Rocker, November 26, 2010

Education Secretary Michael Gove is exploring how to regulate weekend religious schools as evidence emerged this week that antisemitic material is being taught in Saudi-linked classes in the UK.

Children are being asked to list the "reprehensible qualities" of Jews in a network of more than 40 supplementary schools, according to an edition of BBC1's Panorama broadcast on Monday.

They learn that Jews are "cursed by God" and look like "monkeys and pigs" from textbooks published by Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Education.

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Leaders trade blows over Mick Davis Israel criticism

By Simon Rocker, November 25, 2010

A group of prominent British Jews rallied behind UJIA chairman Mick Davis as arguments over his outspoken criticism of Israel reverberated across the community this week.

An open letter signed by 22 men and women, including nine current or past members of the Jewish Leadership Council, backed "public and honest discussion" over Israel and voiced support for Mr Davis for encouraging debate.

The signatories included former UJIA leaders Sir Trevor Chinn and David Cohen, donor Sir Harry Solomon, Bicom chairman Poju Zabludowicz and new peer, JLC vice-president Stanley Fink.

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