Simon Rocker

Why put the patriarchs before the matriarchs?

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

In Jew Vs Jew, his book on religious divisions in American Jewry, Samuel Freedman recalled an incident that happened one Shabbat morning at a trendy egalitarian minyan in California in the late 80s. Men and women enjoyed an equal role while using a traditional liturgy.

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The Great Shul-School Test

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

If Jewish schools are doing their job, then one visible effect should be increasing synagogue attendance over Yomtov.
More and more parents are opting to send their children to Jewish schools: and since they are spared the dilemma of whether to send them school on festivals, shul is the obvious place to for them to go.
But is that actually happening in practice? I'd be interested to know.

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Rosh Pinah under fire over admissions

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

Barnet Council has received complaints over admissions to the nursery of Rosh Pinah School in Edgware for September.

The JC has been unable to confirm the reasons for the objections although one local parent claimed that the two-form entry school had failed to abide by its admissions rules. Governors' chair Barbara Hotz was unavailable for comment despite repeated requests.

A council spokesman said: "We have received a few complaints from parents applying for places at Rosh Pinah Nursery School. We are working closely with the school to support them with their admission arrangements."

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Women to get vote in Federation elections

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

After more than a century, women in the Federation of Synagogues are set to get the vote in synagogue elections.

Leaders of the Orthodox organisation, founded in 1887, are planning to change its constitution to enable the move later this year.

It was over 30 years ago when the Federation's then rabbinic leader, Dayan Michael Fisher, reaffirmed the bar on women's participation in elections. But now the head of the Federation Beth Din, Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein, has given his approval for change.

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Zionist Congress swings to the left

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

At least one "election" turned left this week: Britain's delegation to the Zionist Congress in Jerusalem.

After horse-trading which almost puts Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in the shade, the majority of Britain's delegation will come from the religious and political left.

The Zionist Supreme Court has issued a ruling on the UK's 19 delegates following appeals from the Progressive religious Zionist movement, Pro-Zion, and the Jewish Labour Movement.

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Andrew Feldman is Conservatives' secret weapon

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

A key player in David Cameron's rise to power is his Oxford University contemporary, now co-chairman of the Conservative Party, Andrew Feldman.

He helped to run the campaign that propelled Mr Cameron to the Tory leadership four and half years ago, rejuvenating a party demoralised after three electoral defeats at the hands of Tony Blair.

First deputy treasurer, then chief executive since 2008, the 44-year-old businessman is, according to one party insider, "smart", "loyal to his friends" and "wedded to Dave".

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Amber masters the latkes

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

Who says that humble Jewish food cannot rise to culinary heights?

Eleven-year-old Amber triumphed this week in her heat of BBC children's channel CBBC's Junior MasterChef by offering "traditional Jewish latkes", as she explained them.

Co-judge, actress Nadia Sawalha, cooed over the "gorgeous crunchy potatoes", which were dished up with flat Greek meatballs and inspired by Amber's great-grandfather who used to make them.

Amber (the BBC is withholding surnames) was one of 31 nine to 12-year-olds chosen for the series out of more than 2,000 applicants.

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Mr None gets the habit

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

And now we have a government, we can return to the more pressing issue of whether Mr None of the Above, who contested the Chingford and Woodford Green seat in Essex in the election, will revert to his former name of Adam Osen.

"It's a bit too soon to make decisions," he confided this week. But encouraged by his 202 votes as an independent, he said his "tentative game plan" was to resume in local politics after restoring his finances. "I haven't earned anything for five months. I want to build a thriving business to support any political ambitions."

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Votes abroad

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

The Jewish community has lost one of its best parliamentary friends, Andrew Dismore, who failed to hold his Hendon seat in north-west London by just 106 votes.

But could he have squeaked home if he had gone to knock on doors in Israel?

World Zionist Organisation activist Martin Stern, who commutes between London and Jerusalem, offered to fly him there to canvas expat Brits entitled to vote in the general election.

But the Labour MP said he did not have time for a foreign foray close to the election.

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Isle of Man's lucky captive

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

An Unusual exhibition is running on the Isle of Man, featuring the art of refugees from Nazi Germany who were interned by the British there during the Second World War. Just one of the 36 exhibitors is alive today, Ernst Eisenmayer, who will turn 90 in September.

Interned when he was 19, he left for Italy in 1975, but an account of his experiences was read at the opening of the exhibition, which marks the 70th anniversary of the internment camps.

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Amnesty steps up action against Israel

By Simon Rocker, May 13, 2010

Amnesty International’s UK branch is continuing to highlight Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with an exhibition planned in London for next month directed against its security barrier.

“Against the Wall” features art and graffiti on the wall in the West Bank “which cuts through Palestinian communities with devastating effect”, according to the publicity.

The event follows a meeting last night on Israeli policy in East Jerusalem entitled “Capital Murder: Inside the Israeli authorities’ regime of discrimination and control in Occupied East Jerusalem”.

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Lady Jakobovits has died

By Simon Rocker, May 7, 2010

Lady Jakobovits, 81, the widow of the former Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits, died in hospital on Friday.

Her family had earlier asked people to recite prayers on her behalf as she lay in intensive care in the Royal Free Hospital in North West London. An estimated 2800 mourners gathered outside her home in Hendon on Sunday afternoon to pay their respects as the cortege set off for Jerusalem, where she was due to be buried on Monday.
The family will be sitting shiva until Friday at 51 Shirehall Park NW4, from 9am until evening services at 9.30 pm.

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"Someone is going to get killed"

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

A disturbing portrait of religious intolerance in Israel from the blog of Rabbi Natan Slifkin, the famous "Zoo Rabbi":

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School may get 40% non-Jewish entry

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

King Solomon High School in Essex is facing an increase in non-Jewish students this autumn in line with the predicted impact of more Jewish school places available elsewhere.

As many as 40 per cent of first year entrants to the state-aided comprehensive could be non-Jewish, according to rumours circulating at a Jewish education conference last week.

Spencer Lewis, King Solomon's head teacher, declined to release figures this week, but suggested that the composition of the intake would be exceptional this year.

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Chief Rabbi backs a reversal of JFS ruling

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

The Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, will back a unilateral move by Orthodox groups to reverse the JFS court ruling if it proves impossible to achieve broader communal agreement.

However, his office stressed in a statement that he still believed the Board of Deputies to be the "most appropriate body" to pursue a change in the law.

Jewish schools were forced to introduce new entry rules last year after the Supreme Court upheld an Appeal Court decision that schools could no longer choose pupils on the basis of whether their mother - or father - was Jewish.

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Analysis: A Call from the other side of the Street

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

The launch of J Call, bolstered by the support of the charismatic Bernard Henri Levy, will increase speculation about the prospects for a similar organisation here.

Rumours have been circulating for months of moves to set up a British equivalent to J Street, the alternative Israel lobby that changed the political landscape of American Jewry two years ago.

There was a swell of interest in the appearance of Daniel Levy, from
J Street's advisory council, at last year's Limmud conference, where he spoke on "pro-Israel advocacy in the era of urgent de-occupation".

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UJIA hosts conference on education

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

UJIA's first conference on research in Jewish education proved so popular that organisers had to find an alternative venue.

"I thought it would be a small seminar for 20 people," said UJIA research and evaluation director Helena Miller. "In the end, we had 100." The event was due to be held at UJIA's Kentish Town headquarters but had to be moved to Avenue House in East Finchley.

Believed to be the first conference devoted to the subject in the community, it drew educators from secular to strictly Orthodox.

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Tikkun Obama

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

Once tikkun olam was an obscure mystical idea known only to Kabbalists, now it's the official culture of American Jewry.

In a White House proclamation announcing Jewish Heritage Month this month, Barack Obama saluted Jewish Americans who "today… carry on their culture's tradition of tikkun olam - 'to repair the world' - through good deeds and service". 

He signed it "in the year" 2010 rather than the usual formula, "in the year of our Lord".

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Miliband's maidel

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

If Gordon Brown were to stand down, leaving the leadership door open for David Miliband, then there could only be one candidate to head his publicity campaign.

It has to be our own Bryony Gordon, who in a recent column confessed her smittenness with the smooth-talking Foreign Secretary, calling him her "political porn star".

I have it on good word that both Mr Miliband's wife and sister-in-law loved the column and want more of the same.

Go for it, gal.

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Take a bow, Binnie the boxer

By Simon Rocker, May 6, 2010

Not so long ago, I heard of a female Jewish academic in the UK who practised an unusual sport, boxing, of which, sadly, she was too shy to speak in public.

But no such inhibitions from New York psychotherapist Binnie Klein, who not only took to the ring in her mid-fifties but has also written a book about it, Blows to the Head: How Boxing Changed My Mind.

According to her publicist, the experience yielded insights into her Jewish roots that would not have come "if she hadn't been drawn toward a pair of boxing gloves during a physical therapy session".

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