Simon Rocker

Low blow at the high table

By Simon Rocker, July 15, 2010

University teacher Eve Garrard was taken aback when at an academic dinner she heard a fellow diner remark, "Bloody Jews!" Confronted, he tried to justify the comment, claiming Israel was "the same as the Nazis". But we want to know: who is the culprit?

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A kosher taste of paradise

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2010

It was a cruel blow to the sweet-toothed when Bounty bars were declared non-kosher some years ago. Well, happily, they are not only back on the approved list but they are now actually certified by the London Beth Din, according to the latest edition of the United Synagogue's Kosher Nosh Guide.

Manufacturers Mars did a deal last year with the Beth Dint to bring some of its best-known products formally under the kosher net. Now chocaholics can reap the dividends.

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Gaza protesters' sentences cut

By Simon Rocker, July 13, 2010

The Court of Appeal has reduced the prison sentences of a number of people who pleaded guilty to violent disorder in protests against Israel’s incursion into Gaza outside the Israeli embassy in London.

The judges cut the prison terms in some instances from two years to 18 months, and from 18 months to 10 in others: in one instance, they quashed a 12-month jail sentence and replaced it with a community order, citing an “inexcusable” delay in bringing the man to court.

Eight appeals for reduced sentences were accepted, two were dismissed.

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Jewish schools will be undersubscribed

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

Jewish education has undergone a dramatic shift in London, with a surplus rather than a shortage of places for Jewish pupils at secondary level this year.

Both Yavneh College in Hertfordshire and JFS in north London were still making offers for a handful of remaining places this month, whereas at the same time last year they remained oversubscribed and facing a large number of appeals from disappointed parents.

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Analysis: Christian group reveals total bias

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

The Methodist Church's report, "Justice for Palestine and Israel", was bound to raise strong Jewish reaction on any number of grounds.

It blames Israel almost wholly for the impasse in the Middle East peace process with only a glancing reference to Hamas and no mention of its pledge to destroy the state. It offers a history of the conflict derived from sources largely critical of Israel. It says that some Methodists even support a "total boycott" of Israel until "the occupation ends".

But just as troubling is its call to review the validity of Zionism.

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Church of England reviews stake in Israeli rail

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

The Church of England is reviewing its investment in a company building Jerusalem's light railway amid concern that the tramline "will help to cement Israel's hold on occupied east Jerusalem".

But the Church has stopped short of endorsing a campaign urged by Palestinian churches to boycott "everything produced" by Israel's West
Bank occupation.

The boycott call was made in a document known as 'Kairos Palestine', issued by Palestinian Christians last December. It denounces "Israeli occupation of Palestinian land" as "a sin against God and humanity".

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Hillel benefactor hailed for 50-year support

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

Supporters of Hillel turned out in force to mark the retirement of one of its best-known benefactors, Fred Worms, after 50 years' service to the student organisation and to B'nai B'rith.

At a supper - fittingly held at the London Jewish Student Centre, opened in 2008 - Lord Sacks praised "one of the outstanding characters of Anglo-Jewry".

The occasion marked the first visit back to London by Mr Worms, who turns 90 this year, and his wife Della since they made aliyah in 2009.

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Volunteering 'helps you live longer'

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

They say giving is better than receiving - and it may help you towards a longer life.

Professor Felicia Huppert, the founder of Cambridge University's Well-being Institute, told a London audience that volunteering can bring benefits.

Research showed that older couples who had received support were 20 per cent more likely to be alive five years later than couples who had received no support, once other factors had been taken into account. But couples who had given support were 30 per cent more likely to be alive.

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Ron: it was over the line

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

Frank Lampard's goal-that-never-was against Germany has been debated ad nauseam. But now the Chelsea and England playmaker is being used as a metaphor for the Middle East conflict.

Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor compared Lampard's disallowed effort to those people who fail to see that Israel's critics have "crossed the red line" in demonising the state. Perhaps we could do with goal-line technology in both cases.

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Achtung, Irving's on tour

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

Life as a jobbing Holocaust denier can be tough in a recession. So "historian" David Irving has come up with a cunning plan. How about guided tours of Hitler's Secret Headquarters?

Irving is proposing you join him this September for, "a week-long guided tour of Hitler's secret headquarters and other historic sites".

Participants will get the chance to gain a real insight into one of the world's most reviled and ridiculed extremists. Oh, and there will be plenty of stuff about Hitler too.

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Rabbi v Home Secretary

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

There was high excitement at the JC newsdesk this week when details of a court hearing was emailed to us. But the case of Rabbi v Secretary of State For the Home Department turned out to concern an application made by one Abdi Sharif Rabbi.

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Bieber's Korea move

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

Teenage pop sensation Justin Bieber has been calling on fans to vote for the country they would most like him to visit on his upcoming My World tour. After the votes were counted, the country in second place was Israel with 624,803 votes, beaten narrowly by… North Korea.

Hmm, either the
Democratic People's Republic is unexpect-edly full of Bieber fans, or voters were not treating the poll with the gravity it deserved.

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BB's Ben on his bum

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

The last ever Big Brother boasts the last ever Jewish contestant.

Thirty-year-old Ben Duncan is a journalist obsessed with the Middle East who yearns to be an Arab. Asked by a housemate what the word tuches meant, he replied, "it's Latin for bum".

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Why parents are on the warpath

By Simon Rocker, July 8, 2010

Getting your child into the right school can be a fraught business. Over the past few weeks, the JC has received a string of complaints from parents whose children have been denied a place at their local Jewish school.

Passions are running so high that one family whose child got into a school told me that the members of another family whose child was unsuccessful were not speaking to them.

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Lubavitch wins America's top rabbi slot

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 2010

The head of the Lubavitch movement Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky has been named America's most influential rabbi in Newsweek's top 50 list this year.
Despite having no Rebbe now for the better part of two decades, the movement has continued to flourished and its impact on Jewish life remains as strong as ever.

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Jewish schools can teach Zionism, says government

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 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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Top dayan answers conversion questions

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 2010

The London Beth Din's most senior judge has openly addressed one of the most sensitive areas of its work - conversion - in a public lecture.

Dayan Menachem Gelley spoke for nearly two hours, answering questions for half the time, as the concluding speaker in a series on conversion at the London School of Jewish Studies.

Explaining the Beth Din's policy, he said that every convert had to mirror the Israelites' original acceptance of the 613 commandments at the giving of the Torah at Sinai.

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Preview of Polish Jewish museum

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 2010

Warsaw's Museum of Polish Jewish history is not due to open until 2012, but a London audience enjoyed a sneak preview.

Kathy Jones of museum designers Event Communications led a virtual tour, using artist's images of the building, which is now under construction.

Her presentation formed part of an international conference on Jewish links with Warsaw at the Institute of Jewish Studies, attached to University College London's department of Hebrew and Jewish studies.

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Reform launches review of its Israel policy

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 2010

The Reform movement has set up a working party to review its policy on Israel.

It would help give a "distinctive voice" on Israel in "challenging, difficult and possibly epoch-making times," movement head Rabbi Tony Bayfield told its annual meeting at the Sternberg Centre in London on Sunday.

The working party will be chaired by Reform vice-chair Jenny Pizer, who said Reform engagement with Israel was "greater than ever".

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Interview: Michael Meacher

By Simon Rocker, July 1, 2010

While some of his fellow MPs were busy racking up expenses, Michael Meacher was preoccupied with astronomical figures of a different kind, such as the rate of expansion of the universe, or its temperature moments after the Big Bang.

The veteran left-winger, who entered the Commons 40 years ago last month, has written a book, whose title, boldly alluding to Darwin, proclaims its intellectual ambition. The product of 15 years' work on and off, it asks the question: is there a purpose to the universe or are we all here by chance?

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