Simon Rocker

Sick notes about Amy

By Simon Rocker, August 4, 2011

You may wonder what kind of addled brain could link Amy Winehouse's death and Israel but let me take you to the Irish4Palestine blog which found "quite a lot in common" between "the evil rogue state" and the singer, except that "she has a great voice and didn't kill people constantly".

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Fisk sued by Saudi prince

By Simon Rocker, August 4, 2011

Humble pie at the High Court this week for the Independent's Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk, who was sued by the Interior Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud.

In an article in April, Fisk accused him of having ordered police to open fire on unarmed Shia demonstrators in March, referring to documentary evidence it had in its possession.

But the paper accepted

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Travel to Africa, at a snip

By Simon Rocker, August 4, 2011

I notice that there is a new airline, Air Mohéli International, which operates from the Comoros, the small African country off Madagascar. Bet it's great for cut-price deals.

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The Sacks Chumash

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

The Chief Rabbi’s eagerly-awaited new Rosh Hashanah machzor should be reaching the shops within a week or two.

It is published by Koren, who have already produced a version of his (green) Singer’s siddur for the international market.

It should be followed by a new Yom Kippur machzor next year and the complete festival set by the time he leaves office in 2013.

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Board dismayed by EBacc exclusion of religious studies

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

The Board of Deputies is disappointed at the government's decision not to include religious studies as part of English Baccalaureate, or EBacc, its new performance measure for schools.

To qualify, pupils must gain GCSEs in five specified subjects - maths, English, science, geography or history and a foreign language.

The Board had joined religious and education organisations in lobbying for

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Rich talk for Israel critics

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

Rabbi Danny Rich, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism, has defended his participation in an event predominantly featuring speakers from organisations highly critical of Israel.

He will be keynote speaker at a seminar next month on "Israel/ Palestine", organised in west London by a Liberal-affiliated synagogue, Beit Klal Yisrael (BKY).

Speakers include Diana Neslen of Jews for Justice for

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Which country has 10 Jewish study centres? (And it's not obvious)

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

A delegation of professors from a leading foreign university flew to London last Friday to honour a British supporter of their country's burgeoning programme of Jewish studies.

Philanthropist Naim Dangoor, who is 97, was made a consultant professor of China's Nanjing University in an award ceremony held in his Kensington apartment.

"We are very proud that you are now one of us," Nanjing vice

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Gap year applicants almost halved in 2011

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

The number of British participants on gap year schemes in Israel has dramatically dived as 18-year-olds try to beat the rise in university tuition fees.

According to the UJIA, just 57 people have signed up to go out to Israel on gap programmes this autumn, compared with 162 last year.

The number going to yeshivah or seminary in Israel also looks set to drop, currently standing at an estimate

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BBC Today programme complaint upheld

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

The BBC Trust has upheld a complaint of inaccuracy against Radio 4's Today programme over Israeli settlements.

On the programme of September 27 last year, presenter John Humphrys stated: "At midnight last night, the moratorium on Israelis building new settlements in the West Bank came to an end.

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A chasidic country retreat?

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

The signpost indicated an intriguing discovery deep in rural Kent: "Little Satmar Holiday Park".

Could the superfrum Chasidic sect have set up a caravan camp between Folkestone and Dover without anyone knowing?

Of course, it was too good to be true.

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Test debut for Lords Rabbi

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

David Goldberg, the emeritus rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, achieved what must be a unique rabbinic accolade - being interviewed as the lunchtime guest on BBC Radio's Test Match Special on the last day of the England v India Test.

The Liberals' flagship synagogue happens to lie opposite Lords cricket ground and visiting tourist teams have often parked their coaches in the forecourt.

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Hard news for Hari

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

The writing seems on the wall for Johann Hari, the Israel-bashing Independent columnist, who has been accused of making up quotes and taking others from his interviewees' writings and passing them off as quotes made to him.

This week the Telegraph reported that he is to be stripped of his prestigious 2008 Orwell Prize, although the announcement is to be delayed pending an Indy inquiry into the

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Wide of the tattoo mark

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

Our nonsense detector began vibrating wildly when the Daily Mirror reported that Amy Winehouse could not have an Orthodox funeral unless her tattoos were removed.

Simply not true, says United Synagoue burial head Melvyn Hartog. "Halachically, you are not supposed to have tattoos," he explains. "But you also must be buried whole. Having a tattoo doesn't affect you having a Jewish burial at all.

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Laura Janner-Klausner: Why I'm not the Reform rival to the Chief Rabbi

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

Diehard atheists may bristle at the mention of it, but Radio 4's Thought for Day remains a hallowed institution, a prized pulpit for religious broadcasting. There are currently three rabbis on its roster: that doyen of rabbinical broadcasters Lionel Blue, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks and the newest recruit, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.

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Review: In the Narrow Places

By Simon Rocker, July 28, 2011

Erica Brown
Maggid/OU, distributed by Kuperard, £15.99

We are now in the middle of the Three Weeks, the period from the fast of the 17th of Tammuz, when the Romans breached the walls of Jerusalem, to Tishah b'Av, commemorating the destruction of the two Temples (which begins on Monday week).

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New Israel Fund increases income

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

The British branch of the New Israel Fund enjoyed a record fundraising year in 2010, despite an international campaign by some right-wing Zionists to discredit the organisation.

NIF UK increased its income to £1.4 million from £1.2 million the previous year.

UK chairman Nicholas Saphir said: "Last year was a significant year for NIF given the attacks on civil society and the continuing att

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Claims Conference turns down Deputies

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

The Claims Conference, the international body which distributes compensation to Nazi victims, has rejected a request from the Board of Deputies to reopen claims for former Jewish properties in East Germany.

The conference, which uses assets from previously unclaimed properties to fund welfare programmes for Holocaust survivors, closed its compensation scheme for heirs in March 2004.

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Sinai asked to take non-Jewish pupil

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

Concern is growing that there may now be too many Jewish primary school places in London, leading schools to take non-Jewish pupils in future.

Britain's largest Jewish primary school, Sinai in Kenton, which is usually oversubscribed, has been asked by its local authority to take one non-Jewish child in autumn - although it is not known if the child will accept the place.

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Man who revived European Jewry

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

Tributes have flowed in for one of British Jewry's best-known Orthodox activists, Aba Dunner, executive director of the Conference of European Rabbis, who died on Sunday aged 73.

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Yachad launches campaign

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

One of Israel's leading literary figures and a former army head of intelligence have backed a new campaign to rally Anglo-Jewish support behind a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The new advocacy group Yachad is asking members to sign an open letter, urging Israel to heed "calls to return to the negotiating table," which it intends to present to new Israel ambassador Danie

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