Simon Rocker

Meet the media-savvy voice of Reform Judaism

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

The Reform movement has appointed its first full-time rabbinic spokesman to act as its voice on religious issues.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, 47, who has served with one of the biggest Reform communities, the North-Western Reform Synagogue (Alyth Gardens) in London for eight years, will move to the new role of movement rabbi in January.

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JNF has second thoughts

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

JNF UK has battened down the hatches after last week's news that the head of its lucrative legacy division, Harvey Bratt, is leaving for the rival UJIA.

This week whisper reached me that JNF's finance director David Lantry had handed in his resignation, too, but when I asked JNF if this was true, it only gave the stonewalling reply that it did not comment on "issues relating to members of staff

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Back on your bike, Boris

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

Mayor of London Boris Johnson was guest of honour at the opening of Jewish Care's Golders Green campus last week. Before leaving, he retrieved his bicycle helmet and rucksack from behind the front desk, waving cheerio and apparently all set to peddle back to City Hall.

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It's never too late to learn

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

All praise to John North, who was awarded his doctorate from Queen Mary, University of London on Tuesday – at the age of 93.

From a Jewish family in Bohemia, he arrived here as Jan Neuberg in 1938.

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Boating the billionaire way

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

Here's a thought if you're looking for a holiday: Roman Abramovich is offering his yacht Eclipse for hire. The size of a pocket battleship, it has two pools, a gym and a helipad. Just one catch: he reportedly wants to charge £175,000 a day for it.

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Why Iran is hacked off

By Simon Rocker, July 21, 2011

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency knows, of course, the real scandal behind phone hacking.

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The Next Chief

By Simon Rocker, July 15, 2011

A typically forthright contribution to the debate about the next Chief Rabbi from Rabbi Jeremy Rosen on his blog, who writes: "Not one Chief Rabbi since Hertz has stood up to the Beth Din. No new one will be any more likely to than his predecessors. The hounds of the religious right are already baying.

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JFS wins university challenge

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

JFS is one of the country's top comprehensives in getting children into the leading British universities, according to a new study.
Two-thirds of JFS students gain a place at the top 30 universities, making it the seventh best comprehensive in a list published by educational charity the Sutton Trust.

King David High School Liverpool came 12th in the list with 57 per cent and the King David Hig

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Porter dining out to back Tel Aviv studies

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

Dame Shirley Porter, a long-standing supporter of the Tel Aviv University Trust, was among the guests at a dinner at Middle Temple held in support of the university's Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism.

The centre's new head, Scott Ury, came from Israel along with its director Esther Webman, co-author of an award-winning book on Arab responses to the Ho

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Dollis Hill shul closure agreed

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

Dollis Hill United Synagogue is to close after its members agreed to call it a day. Its art deco synagogue was sold to Torah Temimah School in the 1990s but the congregation continued to hold services there.
However, with the remaining 130-odd members mostly over 70 and scattered far and wide Dollis Hill has been unable to muster a minyan for Shabbat morning in recent months.

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Songbook is music to the ears of Reform

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

The Reform movement has launched what is thought to be the first major new collection of synagogue music published in the UK for nearly a century.
Shirei Ha-t'fillah ("Songs of Prayer"), a compilation of sheet music and explanatory articles, was produced by Cantor Zoe Jacobs of Finchley Reform Synagogue and Rabbi Sybil Sheridan of Wimbledon Synagogue.

According to Cantor Jacobs, the last major

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Pack leader enjoys landslide win at US

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

The new United Synagogue president is Stephen Pack, who scored a landslide victory over outgoing US vice-president Peter Zinkin in Monday's poll.

Mr Pack, 61, is president of Hadley Wood, a satellite of Cockosters and North Southgate Synagogue. He attributed his 124-42 vote victory to his emphasis on making the US more attractive to younger people.

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Sacks: know thy enemy to put thy case

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has said that Israel's PR is missing its target and called for a new approach to putting its case to the world.

In a trenchant interview with Ha'aretz, he suggested creating a thinktank to deal with the problem, involving leading Israeli intellectuals such as Amos Oz and David Grossman.

"Hasbarah [information] as government officials and pro-Israel advocates understand

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Bratt jumps ship and leaves the JNF

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

JNF UK's most successful fundraiser has decided to quit the organisation after 15 years and instead work for the UJIA.

Harvey Bratt, 53, the head of JNF's legacy department, said that he was "looking for a new challenge at this stage in my career.

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Backlash as Israel gags boycotters

By SImon Rocker and Anshel Pfeffer, July 14, 2011

Israel provoked a storm of criticism across the Jewish world this week after passing a law which enables legal action to be taken against anyone calling for boycotts of the country, including settlements in the West Bank.

The measure instantly began to bite as Peace Now was sued in an Israeli court after it renewed its campaign to boycott settler-produced goods, in defiance of the new law.

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Should we have reserved House of Lords seats?

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

Reform of the House of Lords is back on the political agenda, and not before time.

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Next up for Penn and Teller

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

Young Daniel Kramer may not have fooled Penn and Teller last weekend but step forward the next Jewish contestant.

Nicholas Einhorn (above), a gold star member of the Inner Magic Circle, will be appearing on tomorrow's ITV prime time show when he will try to perform a trick that the maestro American magicians cannot figure out.

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What's on Sir Martin's mind

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

Sir Martin Gilbert, whose last book was about Jews in Arab lands, will be writing on a subject closer to home for his next.

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Goodbye, shul world

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

Much quoting from this week's Torah portion Pinchas at the United Synagogue elections on Monday. But a not so holy source inspired outgoing president Simon Hochhauser's valedictory words, "Thank You and Goodbye" - the News of the World's final front page headline.

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Return of Evelyn Rose

By Simon Rocker, July 14, 2011

That Evelyn Rose's Complete International Jewish Cookbook was out of print. Well, let the hallelujahs resound! The new edition is out. But why did they chose that white cover - you'll have to wear gloves to use it.

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