Simon Rocker

No passport, please

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

Normally, as a security measure, the Israeli Embassy in London checks the passports of visitors.

So I wonder why at Tuesday's reception to celebrate the building's renovation, they asked guests only for driving licences.

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Tombstone Grand Prix

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

A minibus driver must have thought he was Jenson Button at Bushey Cemetery the other day.

Ferrying a group of pensioners to a stone-setting, he took a corner too fast, clipped a stone and left three graves rather worse off.

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Pesach mice

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

A pest controller, come to dispose of a colleague's mice, told her: "I do a lot of work in Stamford Hill but it's a bit of a problem. This time of year they insist the poison has to be kosher." And how do you make it kosher?
Just make sure it's wheat-free, she said.

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Fo enigma

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

I was intrigued to find in the index of the Foreign Office's annual human rights report a reference to the "Goldberg Commission".

Now I'd heard of the notorious Goldstone inquiry into events in Gaza last year, but Goldberg?

A proof-reader is currently under interrogation in a small, dark room in a foreign country…

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And then there were twelve

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

The new Supreme Court has got its full compliment of 12 justices with the appointment of Sir John Dyson (right). An Appeal Court judge since 2001, Lord Justice Dyson, 66, steps into the vacancy left when Lord Neuberger became Master of the Rolls.

Originally from Leeds, he is a former chairman of the British Friends of the Hebrew University's legal group.

Lord Justice Dyson is the fourth justice eligible to have got into JFS, following Lords Brown and Collins plus Lord Phillips (who is of Sephardi descent on his maternal grandparents' side).

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Ofcom rejects Channel 4 Israel lobby film criticism

By Simon Rocker, March 22, 2010

Ofcom, the broadcasting standards body, has rejected complaints of unfairness against an investigation into Britain’s “Israel lobby” broadcast by Channel 4 in November.

It said it had received 50 complaints about the Dispatches programme presented by journalist Peter Oborne.

Complainants had variously alleged that the programme “was biased against Israel and/or the Israeli government”; did not adequately explain the background to the Middle East situation; was antisemitic; and overly critical of certain lobby groups.

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Let them eat beans

By Simon Rocker, March 22, 2010

There is a growing lobby to rescind the ban on kitniot for Ashkenazim over Pesach - as this article which appeared in our Passover supplement explains:

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Council officer sacked for Nazi 'fetish'

By Simon Rocker, March 22, 2010

A senior council officer has been sacked for gross misconduct after his involvement in Nazi fetishism was exposed by a Sunday newspaper.

Photos appeared of Gareth Mead, who was in charge of social housing and homelessness for Hammersmith and Fulham Council in south London, posing in Nazi regalia in what was said to be a gay sex website

He also sent text messages to the site saying “turn on the furnaces for those Jewish boys” and “gas the wogs”, the Sunday Mirror revealed.

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Charity Commission backs JNF over will complaint

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

The Charity Commission has rejected a complaint against JNF UK for offering to help draw up wills for free, in return for a bequest to the charity.

It took the charity watchdog 17 months to issue its decision after the JC reported a complaint had been made about the KKL wills service, run by JNF.

The commission said: "The benefits to the charity outweigh any potential disadvantages," adding that they do not plan to take further action.

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Chief Rabbi: Book error could have meant resigning

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has acknowledged that he would have had to resign if he had not amended his award-winning book on interfaith tolerance, The Dignity of Difference.

He made the admission at an address at the Oxford Union last week when he was asked by a student why he had revised the book for its second edition.

Strictly Orthodox rabbis demanded the withdrawal of the book in 2002.

At the time, the London Beth Din issued a statement saying that "certain passages lend themselves to an interpretation that is inconsistent with basic Jewish beliefs".

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'Nazi fetish' housing chief is suspended

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

A senior council official has been suspended by London's Hammersmith and Fulham Council after newspaper allegations that he was involved in Nazi fetishism.

The Sunday Mirror published photos of Gareth Mead posing in Nazi uniform and in front of swastikas on what was said to be a gay sex website.

According to the newspaper, he also sent text messages to fellow-users of the site which read "Turn on the furnaces for those Jewish boys and let them burn in hell" and "Gas the Wogs".

A council spokesman would say only: "Gareth Mead has been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing."

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Jewish funeral service prepared for atheists and suicides

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

A new funeral service published by the Reform Movement includes alternative material designed specifically for atheists.

As well as traditional prayers for a funeral or tombstone consecration, the book contains a large anthology of readings, with secular writers such as Saul Bellow, quoted alongside rabbis.

It also contains a prayer to be read at the burial of suicides, who are traditionally stigmatised in Jewish law.

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Shining example of a horse

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

Hurrah for Menorah the horse, which got this week's Cheltenham Festival off to a flying start with an unexpected victory in the opening race.

Much celebration at Mill Hill Synagogue where I am told many congregants took the advice of a seasoned punter to back the horse, which recorded a 12-1 win over odds-on favourite Dunguib on Tuesday.

Menorah's trainer Philip Hobbs did not know how the champion steed got his name although he knew it was something to do with a Jewish candlestick.

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A little boy remembered

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

The opening of London's renovated Jewish Museum on Wednesday coincided with a poignant anniversary: it would have been the 70th birthday of Barney Greenman, who was murdered in Auschwitz with his mother Esther.

Barney's father, Leon, survived to become one of Britain's best known speakers about the Holocaust, a tireless campaigner against racism for 60 years until his death two years ago aged 97.

Leon's experiences form the central part of the museum's Holocaust section, with Barney's shoes and the toy truck his father made for him among its most moving exhibits.

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BBC keeps it in the family

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

The BBC announced that the regular presenter of Radio Two's The Arts Show, Claudia Winkleman, will not be at the mike tonight.

Instead, a celebration of World Poetry Day and other features will be fronted by stand-in host, her mum Eve Pollard.

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Daft ideas from the US

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

The United Synagogue is close to reforming its by-laws, a byword for antiquated bureaucracy. But the revised version of the rules may be no better.

Outling the changes at a meeting this week, US vice-president Peter Zinkin presented on his powerpoint: "Daft 25 key issues."

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Oscar winner's JFS link

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

Jewish Oscar winners may have been thin on the ground this year but here's one at one remove.

Christoph Waltz, who won best supporting actor for Inglourious Basterds, Quentino Tarantino's film about a Nazi-killing hit squad, is not Jewish himself. But he was married to Muswell Hill Synagogue member Jacqui Waltz.

During the filming, Waltz - who played a Nazi officer - checked on Yiddish usage with his son, JFS-educated Leon, who is studying in yeshivah in Israel.

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United Synagogue: no progress on women leaders

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

United Synagogue leaders have admitted making no progress on a key part of their manifesto - allowing women to assume leadership roles in the country's biggest synagogue body.

Women cannot serve as any of the seven officers of the US. They can serve as shul vice-chairs, but not as chairmen.

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United Synagogue unveils practical learning scheme

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

The United Synagogue his unveiled a £200,000-a-year educational enterprise designed to encourage practical experience as well as study.

US Living and Learning will deliver programmes for all ages ranging from Israel trips for parents to training leaders of children's services in shuls.

Rabbi Andrew Shaw, executive directive of Tribe - the young people's division which will oversee education - said something had "gone wrong educationally many years ago.

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Sephardi leaders search for spiritual head

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

Sephardi leaders have started the search for a new spiritual head to succeed Rabbi Abraham Levy, who has led the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation for 30 years.

Gibraltar-born Rabbi Levy is 71 and has served the congregation for more than 50 years in total.

"I am very ready to retire and to help find a successor," he said. "We need to find someone we can train to succeed me. Our traditions and liturgy are unique in the world."

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