Simon Rocker

Guardian travel tips

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

The Guardian, in a travel feature exhorting readers to capitalise on the Arab spring by visiting the Middle East, did manage to include Israel - giving it one paragraph out of three pages.

But do not jump to conclusions: that was the same amount of space also devoted to "Palestine".

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Interview: Benny Morris

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians has proved stubbornly elusive since the false dawn of the Oslo Accords of 1993. But there remains a broad consensus on what should be the basis of any deal - a two-state solution.

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Ministerial elections

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

Rabbi Baruch Davis of Chigwell Synagogue is the new chair of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, having defeated Wembley Synagogue's Rabbi Simon Harris in an election on Tuesday.

Rabbis David Lister and Nissan Wilson are the vice-chairmen.

Elsewhere, Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of North Western Reform Synagoue was voted in as head of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis.

Liberal Judaism's r

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Chief to host Reform leaders

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

The Chief Rabbi will be at a meeting of a group working to improve relations between Orthodox and non-Orthodox for the first time since its inception 12 years ago.

Later this month, Lord Sacks will host a meeting at his home of the community consultative committee, bringing together leaders of the United Synagogue, Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements.

The committee was set up to restore co

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£13k pay rise for top Liberal rabbis

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

Liberal leaders have approved new pay guidelines for rabbis which would see the salary for the highest-paid ministers rising above £75,000.

The lowest-paid rabbis would enjoy an increase to £34,181 from £31,072 two years ago, according to the guidelines, which are not binding on congregations.

Newly endorsed by the Liberal Judaism council, the updated 30-point salary scales will go out fo

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Yale hate study centre closure 'suspicious'

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

One of the world's leading universities has decided to shut down a specialist centre on antisemitism after just five years.

Yale University in Connecticut said its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) was being closed because it had failed to produce enough scholarship to "warrant its continuance".

But the decision to end what was billed as North America's first

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Sharia bill may pose a threat to Jewish courts

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

A new move to limit the powers of Islamic sharia courts in the UK has aroused concern over its possible impact on batei din.

A private member's bill introduced by crossbench peer Baroness Cox would make it a criminal offence for religious courts to exceed their legal authority.

According to Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, which supports the bill, it would have no adverse impact on

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I lost 14 stone: here are my trousers

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

A Jewish studies teacher who has shed nearly 14 stone in under two years has been named as one of Slimming World's slimmers of the year.

Michael Drucker of Edgware, who got a kosher bakery to introduce low calorie challah rolls, won the award in the consultant category – for those who run local Slimming World groups.

Once 28 stone with a 60-inch waist, Mr Drucker is close to reaching his h

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William Hague still vague on 'Palestine'

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

Britain is still holding fire over whether it would recognise a Palestinian declaration of independence at the United Nations in September.

Jewish leaders warned Foreign Secretary William Hague in a meeting on Wednesday that a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence would have a negative impact on peace prospects, making negotiations less likely.

The meeting, described as "warm a

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Algerian Liberal convert now faces deportation

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

An asylum-seeker from Algeria who converted to Judaism in the UK is facing deportation after being detained by immigration officials this week.

Jews from Birmingham and Leicester are concerned for Krim Aitziane, who was removed from the Midlands to a detention centre near Gatwick on Monday.

Mr Aitziane, thought to be 49, received a Liberal conversion in the UK, but dresses strictly Orthodox

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Keeping Winehouse company

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

There will be a little Yiddish-flavoured hors d'ouevre before Amy Winehouse takes the stage in Istanbul on Monday as part of her world tour.

Her support act will be Oi Va Voi, the London band that helped to make klezmer cool in the UK.

Oi Va Voi (above) enjoy a considerable European following - they are headlining at Hungary's equivalent of Glastonbury in the summer and have already played a

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Horse with kosher pedigree

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

There are already race horses called Menorah and Mezuzah but here is another that happens to have a hoof in the Jewish stable - Frankel, who triumphed in the St James Palace Stakes at Ascot this week, remaining unbeaten.

The champion was named after a leading American trainer, Bobby Frankel, who died a couple of years ago and whose parents ran a kosher catering business.

Frankel's owner is

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A Prince on the menu

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

The Board of Deputies rounds off its 250th anniversary celebrations next month with a dinner, graced by a royal guest.

The Board wants to keep his identity under wraps. But it's an open secret.

Here's a clue: he is heir to the throne, his wife is a duchess but they are not the couple who just got married.

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No freedom for Dylan

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

He is the world's best-known bard but Bob Dylan is not quite big enough for Haringey, the London borough where he bought a house.

The council has rejected a proposal to make him a freeman, saying the honour was reserved only for those who made outstanding contributions to local life.

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Meet the hands-on minister

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

You don't need to bring a rabbi to the classroom when you can keep children entertained with one of these religious leaders produced by educational aid suppliers TTS.

And there are probably one or two congregations thinking this might make a pleasant change in the pulpit, too.

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Baroness Deech: Universities should break with UCU

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2011

Universities should consider breaking off links with the union representing academics in the wake of its new policy on antisemitism, Baroness Deech told the House of Lords this week.

The peer, a former principal of St Anne's College, Oxford, launched a scathing attack on the University and College Union for rejecting a definition of antisemitism adopted by the European Union.

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Pig's head left at Scots doorway

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2011

Police have said that the leaving of a pig's head outside the home of a Jewish woman in Aberdeen is not a racial incident.

The head, reportedly with a knife stuck in it, was left on the doorstep of the woman on Friday evening the week before last.

But Grampian Police stated this week: "Following our initial inquiries we can confirm the incident is being treated as a breach of the peace and n

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Schochet quits RCUS

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2011

Mill Hill Synagogue's Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet is stepping down after a three-year stint as chairman of the United Synagogue's rabbinical council (RCUS), prompting a contested election to succeed him.

Rabbi Julian Shindler, executive director of RCUS, said that three rabbis had so far been nominated for the post ahead of next Tuesday's vote but he could not reveal their names until after nominat

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The chaplain's soccer past

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2011

At least one rabbi would have rejoiced at QPR's promotion to the Premier League: Rabbi Ariel Friedlander, who is set to become Liberal Judaism's first designated university chaplain. Because, before the rabbinate, she used to be one of the club's official photographers.

She started going to Loftus Road as a child to watch games with her father, the late Rabbi Albert Friedlander.

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Hague's date with deputies

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2011

Back from Benghazi, William Hague can now look forward to his long-awaited meeting next Thursday with a delegation from the Board of Deputies. Long-awaited by the Board, that is.

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