Simon Rocker

Rabbis call for action on Congo

By Simon Rocker, April 23, 2010

More than 50 rabbis including Reform head Rabbi Tony Bayfield and Liberal chief executive Rabbi Danny Rich have called on political leaders to make it an “absolute priority” for the next parliament to act to save war-ravaged Congo.

In a letter published in today’s Guardian, they say that the loss of life had reached nearly five and half million people by 2007 – with 45,000 still dying every month.

“What these shocking figures cannot convey is the scale of ongoing rape, torture and humiliation,” they write.

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ASA urged to reverse ban on Western Wall adverts

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

The Israel Government Tourist Office (IGTO) is being urged to appeal against a ban on a holiday advert which described Judaism's holiest monument, the Western Wall, as part of Israel - after the Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complainant's claim that it was actually in the Occupied Territories.

The Board of Deputies said it was strongly pressing IGTO to contest last week's decision by the ASA.

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JC reporter picks up top journalism prize

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

The JC's Middle East correspondent, Anshel Pfeffer, has been awarded the prestigious B'nai B'rith award for journalism.

Mr Pfeffer, 36, has worked for the paper for three years. He reported from Mumbai in the aftermath of the terror attacks and covered Operation Cast Lead, the Jerusalem riots and the Israeli elections.

He also covered the Israeli angle on universal jurisdiction in the UK after a warrant was issued in London for the arrest of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

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Bagel eater beats volcano

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Let's toast Manchester businessman Martin Abramson who made it to Israel for Yom Ha'atzmaut, despite the flight embargo caused by the volcanic ash cloud.

While thousands of Israeli and other passengers were grounded, he took to the dusty skies in a tiny single-engined Piper Saratoga, which bore him from Pannshanger Airfield in Hertfordshire to Madrid in time to catch an El Al flight.

His pilot was former JNF chief executive Simon Winters who said: "I love flying and was pleased to be able to assist in a friend's hour of need."

It took them five hours to reach Madrid.

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Al Murray at the embassy

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Comedian Al Murray, best known as the Pub Landlord, is not the most obvious visitor to the Israeli Embassy. But he was due to visit its Kensington HQ yesterday at the invitation of Ambassador Ron Prosor.

Murray happens to be the great-great-great-grandson of the novelist William Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair, whose home the embassy once was.

Given the EU's stance on Israel, the Ambassador might well be tempted to borrow one of the Landlord's catchphrases, "Back off Brussels".

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The old ones are the best

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

It's good to know the Guardian zealously maintains its reputation for classic misprints. Here's the paper's correction last Friday to an item about the expected line-up at the Glastonbury rock festival this summer: "The group Frightened Rabbi should have been the Scottish band Frightened Rabbit." Bravo.

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Return of travel boss

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Welcome back Rafi Shalev as UK and Ireland director of the Israel Government Tourist Office. Rafi had to be airlifted to Israel last year after a nasty motorbike spill in the Lake District.

I trust we'll see no repeat of one of the office's more risque stunts; guests at a travel convention here last summer received a goodie bag containing condoms with the slogan, "Come to Israel and be satisfied".

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Some like it glatt

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Among creditors of administration-placed Portsmouth Football Club is an unexpected entry: Kings Kosher of Manchester.

How come the FA Cup finalists owe it £858.37? Perhaps manager Avraham Grant enjoys a kosher hot dog after his Thai massage.

But I gather that the recipient of the "finest glatt kosher" meat is the club's Israeli international defender, Tal Ben Haim.

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Do our schools make us better Jews?

By Simon Rocker, April 22, 2010

Whatever the pros and cons of school league tables, they have probably done wonders for Jewish day schools. The proven academic track record of Jewish schools year in, year out, must be one reason why parents have been turning to them in ever-increasing numbers to the point that six out of every 10 Jewish children in the UK currently attend one.

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Lib Dem Lords deputy leader causes Board walkout

By Simon Rocker, April 19, 2010

Lord Wallace, the Liberal Democrats’ deputy leader in the Lords, has defended Baroness Tonge’s “over-emotional approach” to Palestinian rights in a wide-ranging address to the Board of Deputies on Sunday.

He explained that she has not been expelled from the party because “we do sadly find the current Likud Party very intolerant of all criticism”.

His remarks prompted a number of Deputies to walk out in protest.

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Lubavitch aids stranded air passengers

By Simon Rocker, April 16, 2010

Hendon’s Chabad House is expecting more than 100 guests at tonight’s Shabbat meal - most of them passengers grounded because of the volcanic dust cloud preventing flights taking off from London.

“We’ve had a lot of people calling up wanting a place to eat, a place to sleep,” said Chabad’s Rabbi Dovid Katz. “We have a massive pot of chicken soup ready.”

Having recently run a Seder for 300 people, mostly Israelis, in Golders Green, Rabbi Katz said: “It makes me feel like Pesach is happening again!”

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Cameron leaves out Israel

By Simon Rocker, April 16, 2010

The Movement for the Reform Judaism has invited the leaders of the three main parties to state their case on the movement's website.

First off is David Cameron and, interestingly, he makes no mention of Israel.

Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg's messages will appear over the next few days.

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ASA responds to protests over Western Wall ad ban

By Simon Rocker, April 16, 2010

The Advertising Standards Authority has responded to protests over its decision to ban an advertisement from the Israel Government Tourist Office in the UK which showed a picture of the Western Wall.

It posted a message on its web site to say that it had received “lots of feedback” to uphold an objection to the ad from a single anonymous complainant.

“We do appreciate that some people strongly disagree with our decision,” the ASA said.

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Orthodox delight as sex education plan binned

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2010

A strictly Orthodox schools spokesman has welcomed the shelving of new proposals on sex education.

The government was forced to drop them because there was insufficient time to get the measures through Parliament before the general election.

Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag, convener of the National Association of Orthodox Schools, said: "I'm delighted they have been thrown out. It would have been impossible for strictly Orthodox schools to have complied with them. It was a collision course and it would not have been responsible to go down such a route."

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Amnesty slammed for Israel 'apartheid' event

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2010

Amnesty International has defended its decision to hold a meeting on Israel's policy in east Jerusalem under the title of "Capital Murder", featuring the author of a book on Israeli "apartheid".

Journalist Ben White, who published Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner's Guide, last year, is due to speak alongside an East Jerusalem activist at the headquarters of the organisation's UK's branch in London next month.

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Mohel training body may close due to lack of cash

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2010

The organisation responsible for regulating Orthodox circumcision in the UK is facing closure because of lack of funds.

Representatives of the Initiation Society, which was founded in 1745, have been called to a meeting in London on Sunday to discuss its plight.

Dr Lionel Kopelowitz, who represents the United Synagogue on the society's general committee, said that one of the options would be to wind it up. "All I can say that it is essential to retain the society as there must be a body in the community to train mohelim and regulate their practice," he said.

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Ad watchdog bars Western Wall photo

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2010

Britain's advertising watchdog has provoked a furious reaction after ruling that Israel cannot use a photograph of Judaism's holiest shrine, the Western Wall, in a travel advert.

The Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint against a press ad produced by the Israel Government Tourist Office because it suggested that the Wall, the only relic of the Second Temple, was part of Israel.

Rabbi Barry Marcus, who holds the Israel portfolio in the Chief Rabbi's cabinet, denounced the decision as "ludicrous, shocking and offensive".

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Interfaith cricket scheme praised in Leeds

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2010

An interfaith cricket scheme launched by Leeds Jewish Representative Council has been showcased nationally as a model of bridge-building between communities.

It is the recipient of a £12,000 "Faith in Action" grant from the government-sponsored Community Development Foundation. The Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester has received a similar sum for a variety of interfaith ventures.

The Leeds scheme is one of 19 featured in Faith Matters, a new booklet from the CDF highlighting local success stories.

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Enter Lenny da Finchley

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2010

Forget the Da Vinci Code. The Last Supper, the famous painting at the heart of Dan Brown's mystery bestseller, has an even greater secret to disclose: its creator, Leonardo Da Vinci, would have been able to make up a minyan.

That's at least according to a new booklet, Leonardo Da Vinci's Musical Gifts and Jewish Connections, by Italian musicologist Giovanni Maria Pala and his wife Loredana Mazzarella.

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Who knows tree?

By Simon Rocker, April 15, 2010

Inspired by David Baddiel's faith-change film The Infidel, Muslim journalist Sarfraz Mansour wrote engagingly in The Guardian of a month spent mixing in the Jewish community.

After a Purim knees-up at Rabbi Schochet's and a kosher cook-in with Denise Phillips, his adventures among the chosen ended at a JCC-sponsored "alternative Cedar".

Oh, those treacherous spell-checkers!

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