Simon Rocker

Board rejects Sikh attempt to list Jews and Sikhs as ethnicity

By Simon Rocker, April 1, 2010

The Board of Deputies has distanced itself from threatened legal action by a Sikh group to have both communities included as ethnic groups on the next census.

Both Jews and Sikhs are recognised for the voluntary religious question, which was introduced at the last census in 2001.

But whereas both are legally classified as ethnic groups - unlike Hindus or Muslims, recognised only as religious communities - they are not listed in the ethnic category on the census.

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Rabbi: We're in denial about cocaine

By Simon Rocker, April 1, 2010

The Jewish community, says one drug addiction expert, is in denial about the rising use of drugs - particularly cocaine.

David Smallwood is head of the addiction treatment programme at the Priory in Southgate, which is in an area with a large Jewish population.

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A biblical tip for healthy Pesach eating

By Simon Rocker, April 1, 2010

As it says in the Book of Joshua, the Israelites celebrated Pesach not only with matzot but parched ie barbecued corn.

A lot healthier than the over-sugared diet in which many of us indulge nowadays.

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The Yiddle in the middle

By Simon Rocker, April 1, 2010

As the cricket season approaches, it is time to tell of a little-known episode of Ashes history - the encounter between the demon bowler and the Jewish knight.

In 1932, England went out to Australia and regained the Ashes with a thumping 4-1 win against a team that included the incomparable Sir Donald Bradman. The English triumph resulted partly from a new tactic, short fast-pitched bowling aimed at the batsman's body - hence the name, the Bodyline Series, by which it became known.

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First woman chief executive for Reform Jews

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

The Movement for Reform Judaism will become the first British synagogue body to be professionally led by a female rabbi after Rabbi Tony Bayfield announced plans to retire as head in 15 months.

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd-Gelfand, 42, who joined as executive director in 2007, will move to the post of chief executive in June 2011, according to proposals presented to the Reform Council on Sunday.

Rabbi Bayfield, who retires a month before his 65th birthday after 37 years' service to the movement, will become Reform's honorary president.

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Reform rabbi: Jews should think of Palestine during Seder

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

The head of BBC's religion and ethics asked whether Jews think of Palestinian suffering at Pesach during a demonstration Seder last week.

Aaqil Ahmed was among a select group of journalists who attended the event organised by the Reform movement.

According to The Tablet, the Catholic magazine, guests were discussing "plagues of the modern world" when Mr Ahmed asked: "Not speaking personally, but journalistically, I would ask, do people remember the plight of those people today who suffer oppression at the hands of the Israelis?"

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Miliband: War crimes law failure is Tories' fault

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, has blamed the Conservatives for preventing an early change in the law in order to make it more difficult to arrest visiting Israelis.

Although the government published its proposal to amend the law last week, there is no prospect of it being passed before the next election.

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Liberal Judaism's new haggadah

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

Liberal Judaism has published a new haggadah, its first revision for nearly 30 years.

Co-edited by Rabbi Pete Tobias of the Liberal Synagogue Elstree and Rabbi Aaron Goldstein of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue, it continues the trend towards greater traditionalism with more biblical and rabbinic material than its 1981 predecessor.

Among innovative features are references to contemporary forms of slavery such as children's sweatshops and the trafficking of women for the sex trade.

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Reform rabbis enter £100k salary bracket

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

The top recommended salary for Reform rabbis has risen above £100,000 a year for the first time.

Guidelines published by the Reform movement this week propose an increase to £100,548 from £96,960 in 2008. A pay freeze was recommended last year because of the economic climate.

Full-time rabbis on the lowest point of the scale should see a rise from £36,023 to £37,356.

The movement divides rabbis into six groups depending on factors such as size of congregation and uses a 51-point scale system taking into account responsibilities and length of service.

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Vanishing rabbis

By Simon Rocker, March 25, 2010

As we report in our Community section in this week's issue, another United Synagogue pulpit is about to become vacant.

Belmont's Rabbi Daniel Roselaar is leaving his full-time post for a part-time role at the United's new Alei Tzion community in Hendon.

Belmont now joins Shenley, Hampstead Garden Suburb and Radlett in the search for a new rabbi.

I can't remember such a cluster of vacancies occurring that have not been caused by retirement.

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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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