Simon Rocker

The MP who's a mensch

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2011

Conservative MP and chick-lit author Louise Bagshawe, who took the BBC to task over its sparse coverage of the Fogel family murders earlier this year, has officially become a Mensch.

She married Peter Mensch, manager of Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, in a private ceremony in Manhattan over the parliamentary recess.

Will we be seeing Mrs Mensch in shul on High Holy Days now?

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Stamping on the amps

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2011

Time for over-amplified bands who turn simchas into aural assault courses finally to face the music - from the Beth Din of London's Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.

The rabbis have issued a ruling repeating experts' warnings that loud music can damage your ears and telling party hosts to ask the band to keep the volume down to reasonable levesl - or else suffer a deduction in their fee.

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Stripped to his last assets

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2011

Disgraced financier Bernie Madoff's boxer shorts fetched $200 at an auction in Florida the other day to help raise compensation for his victims. That's what you might really call short-selling.

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Bagel fiend is unmasked

By Simon Rocker, June 2, 2011

A hooded graffiti artist with a bone to pick over non-authentic bagels has confused shoppers with mysterious "Reclaim the Bagel" graffiti. The "clean graffiti", created by cleaning a pattern into pavements in Golders Green, Edgware and Radlett promoted a campaign against inferior bagels in favour of the boiled variety.

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Division belle Luciana

By Simon Rocker, June 2, 2011

The craze sweeping the offices across the country this week is sexyMP.co.uk, where MP's are rated on what really counts, their sex appeal.

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Belieber in Yeshua

By Simon Rocker, June 2, 2011

Pintsized popstar Justin Bieber may have left Israel with more than some sand in his suitcase. The teenage singer, who delighted fans with a concert in Tel Aviv last month, was recently spotted sporting a new tattoo in Ivrit. The tattoo, on his left ribcage, is of the Hebrew word Yeshua, translated into English as Jesus.

Justin is a devout Christian, but his manager Scooter Braun is Jewish.

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Unlikely Freemason

By Simon Rocker, June 2, 2011

A Greek Orthodox Palestinian Arab freemason has been installed in Tel Aviv as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Israel.

According to the British magazine 'Freemasonry Today', Haifa-born Nadim Mansour will be in the position until 2013.

The Grand Lodge of Israel has about 1,299 freemason members in 56 lodges, working in 10 languages and has members of five different religions.

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Birbeck College Zionists

By Simon Rocker, June 2, 2011

Birkbeck College, University of London was one the key players in the NUS' new boycott of Israel, seems to have had a pleasing change of heart. One reader spotted posters for Arts Week with a picture of Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky emblazoned on the posters.

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Labour councillor defects to Tories

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

A Jewish councillor has quit Hackney's ruling Labour party and joined the previously all-Charedi Conservative opposition.

Linda Kelly, a former speaker of the north London council, was elected in 2002. She fell out with Labour after protesting at its planned budget cuts.

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Wolfson grant funding LSJS teacher training

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

The London School of Jewish Studies has received a £150,000 grant from the Charles Wolfson Trust to develop facilities for teacher training.

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Out to launch at UJIA educational conference

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

The launch of a major new publication was the highlight of the second UJIA conference on research in UK Jewish education.

UJIA research director Helena Miller is the senior editor of the International Handbook on Jewish Education, which spans more than 1,300 pages in two volumes.

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Winer comes back to promote tolerance

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

Rabbi Mark Winer returned to live in the United States last autumn after his retirement as West London Synagogue's senior minister.

But he has not left Britain behind, having just concluded a 10-day visit here on behalf of his new enterprise, Faith - the Foundation to Advance Interfaith Trust and Harmony.

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WZO chief makes case

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

A leading member of the World Zionist Organisation has been overseeing plans in the UK to promote aliyah and encourage Israelis to return.

Menachem Lebovic, deputy chair of Keren Kayemet Le'israel, said he hoped to "close the deal" shortly on opening an aliyah centre here.

Nearly 800 people make Aliyah from Britain annually. In 2005, the figure hit a low of under 350.

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Cameron leaves the JNF

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

JNF UK has declined to say why Prime Minister David Cameron's name has disappeared from its list of honorary patrons.

Twelve days ago the pro-Palestinian Stop the JNF campaign wrote to Mr Cameron, reiterating a previous request for him to withdraw as patron of the charity.

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Death of the Holocaust's quiet hero

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

The veteran Zionist, Arieh Handler, who died last week in Tel Aviv aged 95, was the last surviving witness of the declaration of the state of Israel.

For many years he was the embodiment of religious Zionism in the UK as the founder of the national branch of Bnei Akiva and as a leader of Mizrachi UK before he finally made aliyah at the age of 90.

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US settles beard case

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

The United Synagogue has reached a settlement with a kosher supervisor who sued it for allegedly objecting to the state of his beard.

Jonathan Abrahams, 58, a Lubavitch Chasid from Stamford Hill, North London, was made redundant by the US more than a year ago.

But after applying unsuccessfully for other jobs in the organisation, he filed claims of religious and age discrimination.

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Oxford names first Israel studies professor

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

Oxford University has appointed its first professor of Israel studies: Derek Penslar (right) professor of Jewish history at Toronto University.

The chair, only the second to be created in the subject in the UK, was made possible through a £3 million endowment from the Stanley and Zea Lewis Foundation.

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Calls for an elected chief rabbi

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

A prominent United Synagogue rabbi this week put his weight behind calls for publicly electing the next chief rabbi.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, of Mill Hill Synagogue, who chairs the US Rabbinical Council, challenged the prospect of Lord Sacks's successor in two years being chosen "by a small band of merry men sitting behind closed doors".

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A naughty neurotic success

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

For the past week, itunes' audiobook fiction chart for the UK has been headed by Sue Margolis and her raunchy comedy of north London Jewish life, Neurotica.

The tale of the extramarital adventures of a suburban wife exasperated at her hypochondriac husband, originally appeared in print 16 years ago: since the audiobook's release, Margolis said, "It's gone ballistic".

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Ed's dinner with chief

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2011

The Chief Rabbi - whose riposte to Richard Dawkins, The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning, is out next month - has been keeping up to speed with politics. His dinner guests this month included opposition leader Ed Miliband and founder of "Blue Labour" Lord Glasman.

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