Simon Rocker

Farewell to Yiddish in London's East End

By Simon Rocker, June 30, 2011

A literary circle dedicated to the preservation of Yiddish for 75 years held its final meeting in the East End of London on Saturday afternoon.

Weekly attendance at the Friends of Yiddish, founded by British Jewry's best-known Yiddish poet, A N Stencl, had dwindled to just a handful, with age and the exodus of the Jewish population from what was once the epicentre of Yiddish London having taken

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The First Cut: kosher killing ban shocks Jews

By Simon Rocker, June 30, 2011

The Netherlands was accused this week of following Nazi precedent by voting to outlaw the kosher slaughter of animals in a move which has shocked Jewish communities across Europe.

By 116 votes to 30, the Dutch Parliament called for a ban on religious slaughter without pre-stunning - which effectively prohibits shechitah as well as the production of halal meat for some of Holland's Muslims.

D

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Top surgeon's royal ascent

By Simon Rocker, June 30, 2011

The Royal College of Surgeons has chosen what I believe is its first Jewish president.

Professor Norman Williams (right), the director of the Centre for Academy Surgery at Barts and the Royal London Hospital, who alluded to his Jewish origins in his acceptance speech, takes up the post on Thursday.

Originally from Leeds, he is a leader in the field of bowel disorders and author of a prize-wi

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Football-mad dad

By Simon Rocker, June 30, 2011

Historian Simon Sebag Montefiore spoke about his new book on Jerusalem at a British Council do in Israel this week, recalling his ancestor Sir Moses Montefiore's obsession with the city. Sir Moses had Jerusalem inscribed on his ring, his cutlery and even above his bed. UK ambassador Matthew Gould remarked that his own father had a similar obsession, but his inscription read Wembley.

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Lush not so fragrant

By Simon Rocker, June 30, 2011

Handmade cosmetics company Lush is about to open a store in Brent Cross, which may not be the best place for it to promote its latest ethical campaign - publicising the Freedom for Palestine single.

The song, produced by the OneWorld coalition of musicians, refers to a "crime against humanity", Gaza as a "prison camp" and the West Bank divided by an "apartheid wall".

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Rees-Mogg's Mideast mission

By Simon Rocker, June 30, 2011

In his forthcoming memoirs, former Times editor Lord Rees-Mogg reveals that he once brought a peace offer from Egyptian president Anwar Sadat to Israeli premier Golda Meir but she rejected the deal in 1971 - two years before the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War.

Her mistrust of the Egyptian leader was "her greatest mistake", Rees-Mogg reflected.

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Mosque gives dayan some opening lines

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

A leading United Synagogue rabbi was a guest speaker at the launch of an exhibition on Islam at London's flagship mosque.

Dayan Isaac Binstock, a member of the London Beth Din and senior rabbi of St John's Wood Synagogue, participated in last Thursday's opening of Exhibition Islam at the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, Regent's Park.

He sits on the Council of Imams and Rab

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Bayfield brought to book

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

Reform rabbis have honoured the movement's president Rabbi Tony Bayfield by producing a festschrift, a collection of essays, dedicated to him.

A Passion for Judaism, edited by Rabbi Jonathan Romain, contains contributions from 29 Reform rabbis, including Rabbi Bayfield's daughter, Rabbi Miriam Berger of Finchley Reform Synagogue.

Rabbi Bayfield, who retired as the professional head of the mo

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Reform readies chair in leadership reshuffle

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

The Reform movement has chosen a woman chair for the only the third time in its history.

Jenny Pizer, the current vice-chair, will take over from Stephen Moss at the end of the year.

Mrs Pizer holds the portfolios for Israel and for youth, students and young adults and was involved with the production of the new Reform siddur.

A direct marketing consultant, she is a former Maidenhead Syna

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Zinkin and Pack battling for US presidency

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

The two United Synagogue vice-presidents will go head to head in an election for the presidency of British Jewry's biggest religious organisation.

Peter Zinkin of Golders Green Synagogue and Stephen Pack of Cockfosters and North Southgate are battling to succeed Simon Hochhauser as president in the July 11 poll.

Whoever wins will be primarily responsible for the selection of the next Chief R

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Now you can be buried in the woods

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

The first Jewish woodland cemetery in the UK is set to open later this year, providing a greener resting place for environmentally conscious Jews.

The Jewish Joint Burial Society (JJBS), which serves 35 Reform, Liberal and Masorti congregations, has bought a field next to the existing Cheshunt cemetery in Hertfordshire to create the new facility.

JJBS chairman Mike Frankl said that members c

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Blair guru sues Mail

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

Cherie Blair's former lifestyle guru Carole Caplin is suing the Daily Mail over an article allegedly suggesting she might spill the beans on the Blair's marital secrets.

Her lawyer is David Price, who successfully defended Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein in England's longest slander trial.

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Fox snares a better press

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

Megan Fox was reportedly dropped from the Transformers film series after producer Steven Spielberg learned that she had described its director Michael Bay as wanting to be "like Hitler" on the film set.

But her media fortunes were back in credit later in the week with the news that she has landed a role in Sacha Baron Cohen's new film, which, as irony would have it, is called The Dictator.

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It's the talk of the cabbies

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

The historically large number of Jewish cabbies has left its mark on the trade lingo, as a new guide, London Taxi Driver Slang, demonstrates.

You can hail a droschky (cab) to take you to Goldberg's Green (Golders Green) or Volvo City (Stamford Hill), while you fret at the amount being run up on the zeiger, taximeter.

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Getting shirty for Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

Israeli art student Noam Edry has been so upset by the anti-Israel sentiment she faced on campus in London that she is using her degree show to make a stand on her country's behalf.

She has recruited volunteers to help with her performance of "Coffee Stand", where they will serve Israeli coffee and wear t-shirts she designed with the slogan "I come from the most hated place on Earth", which con

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Guardian travel tips

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

The Guardian, in a travel feature exhorting readers to capitalise on the Arab spring by visiting the Middle East, did manage to include Israel - giving it one paragraph out of three pages.

But do not jump to conclusions: that was the same amount of space also devoted to "Palestine".

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Interview: Benny Morris

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2011

Peace between Israelis and Palestinians has proved stubbornly elusive since the false dawn of the Oslo Accords of 1993. But there remains a broad consensus on what should be the basis of any deal - a two-state solution.

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Ministerial elections

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

Rabbi Baruch Davis of Chigwell Synagogue is the new chair of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, having defeated Wembley Synagogue's Rabbi Simon Harris in an election on Tuesday.

Rabbis David Lister and Nissan Wilson are the vice-chairmen.

Elsewhere, Rabbi Mark Goldsmith of North Western Reform Synagoue was voted in as head of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis.

Liberal Judaism's r

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Chief to host Reform leaders

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

The Chief Rabbi will be at a meeting of a group working to improve relations between Orthodox and non-Orthodox for the first time since its inception 12 years ago.

Later this month, Lord Sacks will host a meeting at his home of the community consultative committee, bringing together leaders of the United Synagogue, Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements.

The committee was set up to restore co

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£13k pay rise for top Liberal rabbis

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

Liberal leaders have approved new pay guidelines for rabbis which would see the salary for the highest-paid ministers rising above £75,000.

The lowest-paid rabbis would enjoy an increase to £34,181 from £31,072 two years ago, according to the guidelines, which are not binding on congregations.

Newly endorsed by the Liberal Judaism council, the updated 30-point salary scales will go out fo

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