Simon Rocker

Israel supporters tell Ayatalloh, Jews living in the Holy Land is will of Allah

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2016

A group of pro-Israel activists has written to the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatalloh Khamenei asking him to recognise that the Quran upholds the right of the Jewish people to the Holy Land.

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West End Great quits home after 'excessive' rise

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2016

The independent West End Great community is to leave Western Marble Arch Synagogue at the end of February after being asked to pay substantially more to remain.

West End Great has held services there for around 20 years after selling its own premises in Soho.

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Organisers confirm Limmud will return to hotel venue in 2016

By Simon Rocker, January 5, 2016

The organisers of this year’s Limmud conference have confirmed it will return to Birmingham after its new hotel venue proved a success last month.

The Hilton Metropole was the central location for the annual cross-communal education for the first time following many years previously at different universities.

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Next year in Birmingham

By Simon Rocker, December 31, 2015

An Israeli acquaintance, taking an early morning dip in the Hilton pool at Limmud, remarked that the water was so pleasantly warm that it was like swimming in chicken soup.

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From the other side of the mechitzah - one incredible journey

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2015

There is a lot of talk about “Jewish journeys” at Limmud. But few have travelled a path as difficult and poignant as Yiscah Smith, a spiritual teacher from Jerusalem who lectured on Chasidic thought at the conference.

Born Jeffrey Smith in America, and outwardly a man, for 50 years she wrestled with the inner turmoil of feeling more a woman.

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David Schwimmer to appear at Limmud next year

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2015

The American TV star David Schwimmer, best known for his role in the long-running sitcom Friends, is set to appear at a Limmud event next summer.

He is billed to be one of the speakers at Cambridge Limmud in June.

Julian Landy, who is co-chairing the one-day event with his wife Jo, explained that the actor’s appearance was the result of an outing the couple made earlier this year.

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Move from campus to hotel proves a success for Limmud

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2015

The Limmud conference swapped its usual campus venue for the more upmarket setting of a hotel — and attracted record crowds.

While some die-hard delegates said they missed the university feel, most of the 2,750 insisted they enjoyed the improved facilities and more comfortable rooms.

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Woman who is breaking the Orthodox mould

By Simon Rocker, December 29, 2015

The first Orthodox woman in North America to take the title “rabbi” has been appointed to a congregational post, she revealed in an interview at Limmud this week.

Rabbi Lila Kagedan received semichah (ordination) from the women’s seminary Yeshivat Maharat in New York in the summer.

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Fresh from California, a new kind of Judaism

By Simon Rocker, December 29, 2015

When Jonathan Sacks published his book The Dignity of Difference, little could he have imagined that it would help inspire a dynamic new community in California led by a female rabbi.

Rabbi Sharon Brous launched Ikar in California with just four other people in 2004. Now it has some 600 affiliated households and welcomed 2,000 people to services over the last High Holy Days.

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Life at Hotel Limmud

By Simon Rocker, December 29, 2015

By the end of the first day of Limmud, it felt like a simchah without a function. I’d run into a cousin, cousins of my wife and some old acquaintances I had not seen for 20 years or so.

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Feng shui your shul for a more spiritual service

By Simon Rocker, December 28, 2015

Rabbi Kaya Stern-Kaufman is not happy with the orderly rows of chairs facing her before her session starts.

Instead, she suggests her audience come up with a better arrangement.

“Tune into yourselves,” she counsels.

“You do know that we are in England,” one of the participants remarks. “We like to follow orders.”

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Experts divided over settlement building

By Simon Rocker, December 27, 2015

Israel should be building more settlements – just not in the Occupied Territories.

That was the view of Oxford University Israel studies academic Sara Hirschhorn who opened a panel debate before a large audience at the Limmud conference on Sunday on the pros and cons of settlement construction.

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Thousands flock to opening of Limmud

By Simon Rocker, December 27, 2015

The largest Limmud UK conference opened today with around 2,700 people expected over the course of the five-day event at its new venue in Birmingham.

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Get texting - Limmud style

By Simon Rocker, December 24, 2015

War and peace may shortly be starting on BBC but Limmud has got there first.

After all the recent debate over military intervention in Syria, there could hardly be more apposite theme for the chavruta - one to one - study programme at Limmud conference than that of war and peace.

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West london's absent friend

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

When Prince Charles visited West London Synagogue last week, he asked if the Chief Rabbi ever popped in. Tactful Rabbi Baroness Neuberger explained that the Chief Rabbi didn't come but "relationships were very cordial and we appreciated that".

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A rabbi well matched

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

Match of the Day presenter Jimmy Hill, who died at the weekend, was known as “the rabbi” because of his beard. But then, he almost certainly would have had a lot more Jewish men listening to him on a Saturday than the local man in the pulpit.

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Harry Hyams, a man of his time

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

The property developer, Harry Hyams, who has just died, was a private man who rarely ventured into the press. But, in 1996, he penned us a letter, "I was intrigued by the obituary of my former colleague Moss Spiro, in which I was referred to as the 'late Harry Hyams'," he wrote. "I find this 'grave' error particularly irksome as I have always prided myself on my punctuality."

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Harry’s the toast of Wales

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

As master of ceremonies at innumerable simchahs over the years, Harry Poloway has made sure the glasses were charged and the band was ready.

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Jacobson's santastic story

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

On Radio 4's A Point of View, Howard Jacobson recalled a primary school essay about Christmas. It meant, he said, "seeing my father dressed as Santa Claus, getting stuck coming down the chimney".

The teacher thought he'd made it up. "'Isn't your family, er…' she said. 'Yes,' I replied.

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Beth Din targets ‘abhorrent’ get refuser

By Simon Rocker, December 23, 2015

The London Beth Din has resorted for a second time in two months to naming and shaming a man accused of denying his wife a get.

Posters were sent earlier this month to a number of synagogues in Golders Green and Hendon, north-west London, denouncing the "abhorrent conduct" of Shmiel Kahan.

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