Simon Rocker

Survey: most parents accept non-Jewish pupils

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

The overwhelming majority in a survey of parents of Jewish pupils at Jewish schools say they would accept the admission of non-Jewish children.

Around half of the survey, conducted among parents of the three Jewish schools in Redbridge in Essex, would feel it acceptable for non-Jewish children to make up 10 per cent of the roll - while roughly a quarter of the parents would accept up to 25 per cent non-Jewish pupils.

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Meir Persoff: 'Time for an alternative to Chief Rabbi'

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

The Chief Rabbinate is a cause of division and Lord Sacks should be the last to hold the office, says a new book published next week.

Meir Persoff, the JC's former Judaism editor, in the first book-length study of the policies of Lord Sacks since he took office in 1991, argues that the role has become increasingly contentious in a religiously diverse Jewish community.

He writes in Another Way, Another Time: "The Chief Rabbinate has run its course and an alternative form of leadership is called for which recognises the plurality of the community."

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Masorti debates female rabbis

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

Masorti rabbis debated how far the movement should embrace egalitarianism at a study day attended by 250 people at the New North London Synagogue in Finchley.

The participants included 90 guests from Europe, Israel and the United States who had come to the UK for the second Masorti Europe conference.

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Sephardi beth Din ban female candidate

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

A woman has been told by the Sephardi Beth Din that Jewish law prevents her standing for election to the mahamad (executive) of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation later this month.

Doris Osen is "frustrated and furious" at being denied the chance to become the first woman to serve on the executive of Britain's oldest synagogue body.

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Mrs Grant strikes back

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

Aussies moaning Israel's alleged use of their passports in Dubai have been put in their place by Tzofit Grant, wife of soccer boss Avram. "It’s so sexy to be Mossad, isn’t it," she told the Daily Telegraph. "I’m so proud of them. I feel more safe now I know they can kill bad people. But why should the Australians criticise? They sit on a beach, taking drugs, living like hippies, doing nothing… they don’t have any problems, except for kangaroos."

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Golda Meir's deadly head

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

As we've reported, David Miliband is due to attend the reception to celebrate the renovation of the Israeli Embassy in Kensington.

But perhaps they should call in Llewellyn Lawrence Bowen first because one visitor shown round was distinctly underwhelmed by the décor.

The building was once William Thackeray's home and its prime feature is the music room with paintings of musical instruments on wood-panelled walls. But the new glass table and white chairs will have traditionalists wincing, believes our guide to good taste.

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Nigella's chicken soup date

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

Along with BBC culture king Alan Yentob, the joint guest of honour at the reopening of London's expanded Jewish Museum is to be Nigella Lawson.

But I doubt whether she will have had any role in setting up one of the exhibits, "chicken soup being prepared in an immigrant kitchen".

In her TV recipes, the Domestic Goddess displays a pronounced fondness for dishes that would have the steam coming out of Moses's ears.

Don't mention the k-word, anyone.

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School's out for BNP

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

The British National Party was all set to hail a victory it no doubt hoped presaged great things to come in the next election.

Its website had an item reporting a mock-election at top London school UCS, where the BNP contender came second.

It was all a joke, the school explained: the BNP candidate stood to satirise the party and its agenda - and attributed his good poll showing to the fact that he handed out biscuits.

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Entertaining Mr Biden

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

American Vice President Joe Biden was not best pleased that during his visit to Israel its Interior Ministry announced that 1600 new homes were to be built in east Jerusalem: he reportedly turned up 90 minutes late to dinner with Bibi Netanyahu.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai explained to Yediot Achronot: "I greatly regret that the Vice President took it personally. I want to emphasise that this is a technical matter. There was nothing deliberate against the Americans or against the Vice President here. I didn't know this was going to happen today."

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Another attack on converts

By Simon Rocker, March 8, 2010

As if there were not enough controversy over conversions already, here is yet another way to make converts feel like second-class citizens.

Ha’aretz reports on a Knesset bill being proposed by David Rotem, MK for the Yisrael Beteinu.

“The bill proposes that the Law of Return only be applicable to Jews or their offspring, and not to non-Jews who opted to convert - even if the conversion follows Orthodox procedure in line with state religious courts in Israel,” the newspaper says.

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The Choosing People

By Simon Rocker, March 5, 2010

“The traditional Jewish community, bounded by a combination of external hostility and limitations and internal comfort and familiarity, has had its walls battered, breached and broken, not so much by antisemitism but rather by the winds of sociological change. We are now free to come and go as we please.
“…In many respects, we are no longer a chosen people, compelled by God, or fate, or history to be part of the Jewish community, but rather a choosing people, deciding day-by-day, minute-by-minute whether or not we want our Jewishness to inform our lives.”

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Board to investigate Holocaust Claims Conference

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

A leading barrister has been asked by the Board of Deputies to investigate concerns about the Claims Conference, the New York-based body which distributes restitution funds to Holocaust survivors.

Jeffrey Gruder QC, a commercial litigation specialist and a former deputy for Radlett Synagogue, will advise the Board on whether there are any matters that need to be taken up with the Conference.

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Anger at National Front inclusion in government inquiry

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The Board of Deputies has protested over the participation of the National Front in a government inquiry into racism in schools.

In a letter to the inquiry head Maurice Smith, a former Chief Inspector of Schools, chief executive Jon Benjamin said it was "deeply concerned" to hear he had met representatives of the NF.

Mr Benjamin wrote: "We are at a loss to understand what you hoped to gain by dignifying the National Front with your time and your attention.

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United Synagogue affiliates elect chair

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The United Synagogue's affiliated congregations have elected their own chairman to fight their corner against attempts by the US to remove theirspecial status.

Reynold Rosenberg, chairman of Welwyn Garden City, one of 16 affiliated US synagogues, will spearhead efforts to resolve the dispute with US leaders.

Affiliated congregations have greater independence and pay less towards US central services than constituent shuls.

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Strong demand for Jewish Haringey primary

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Plans are under way to open a Jewish primary school in Haringey which could have the support of synagogue bodies across the board.

Its promoters believe that the responses to a survey of Jewish families in the catchment area indicate demand for a new one-form entry, state-aided primary.

"Haringey does not have any state-aided Jewish school," said joint project leader Peter Kessler. "What it does have is a large and growing number of Jewish families. It also has an under-supply of primary school places and that under-supply is forecast to get worse and worse in coming years.

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Demand for JCoSS 'exceeds expectations'

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The new Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) is on course for a full first-year intake when it opens in East Barnet in September after receiving well over two applications for every place.

Mike Grabiner, chairman of the cross-communal school, said the number "exceeded all our expectations" and showed "a very significant demand… which can only grow as we establish ourselves".

JCoSS had 453 applicants for 180 places but like other Jewish schools, it will have to wait many weeks before knowing how many pupils are likely to start in autumn.

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Carry on purim

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Perhaps they should start rating Purimspiels like films for child suitability.

Here's a snatch from the festivities at the New North London Synagogue. "A consignment of Viagra was stolen from downturn Purim. Police are looking for three hard-ended criminals."

Which prompted my 11-year-old to ask: "Daddy, why that's funny?"

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Spare the chicken soup

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Among Jewish Book Week highlights was a session on meatlessness between vegetarian authors Jonathan Safran Foer and Etgar Keret.

But while Safran Foer's two young sons are following daddy's diet, Keret junior remains to be convinced, according to Hephzibah Anderson.

"When asked by his four-year-old why he doesn't eat schnitzels," she blogged. "Etgar explained that he thought about the animal being killed and lost his appetite. 'I think the same thought,' his carnivorous son grinned, 'But with me it has the opposite effect.'

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Good habits start young

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Who said young people no longer read newspapers? Pay heed, all you parents, to Emanuel Joseph Latchman, aged one and a half of Golders Green - son of Hannah and Birkbeck College Master, Professor David Latchman - engrossed in his weekly JC.

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A phoney story

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

To those who rushed out to install the new Mitzvah App on your iPhone, after our story last week, an almost sincere apology: Sunday was Purim and the story an invention.

This did not stop the Guardian from ringing up first thing Friday to find out more.

But absolutely true is that you can get a Megillah App, complete with range of noises for the mention of Haman.

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