Simon Rocker

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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Yale hate study centre closure 'suspicious'

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

One of the world's leading universities has decided to shut down a specialist centre on antisemitism after just five years.

Yale University in Connecticut said its Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA) was being closed because it had failed to produce enough scholarship to "warrant its continuance".

But the decision to end what was billed as North America's first

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Sharia bill may pose a threat to Jewish courts

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

A new move to limit the powers of Islamic sharia courts in the UK has aroused concern over its possible impact on batei din.

A private member's bill introduced by crossbench peer Baroness Cox would make it a criminal offence for religious courts to exceed their legal authority.

According to Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, which supports the bill, it would have no adverse impact on

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I lost 14 stone: here are my trousers

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

A Jewish studies teacher who has shed nearly 14 stone in under two years has been named as one of Slimming World's slimmers of the year.

Michael Drucker of Edgware, who got a kosher bakery to introduce low calorie challah rolls, won the award in the consultant category – for those who run local Slimming World groups.

Once 28 stone with a 60-inch waist, Mr Drucker is close to reaching his h

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William Hague still vague on 'Palestine'

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

Britain is still holding fire over whether it would recognise a Palestinian declaration of independence at the United Nations in September.

Jewish leaders warned Foreign Secretary William Hague in a meeting on Wednesday that a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence would have a negative impact on peace prospects, making negotiations less likely.

The meeting, described as "warm a

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Algerian Liberal convert now faces deportation

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

An asylum-seeker from Algeria who converted to Judaism in the UK is facing deportation after being detained by immigration officials this week.

Jews from Birmingham and Leicester are concerned for Krim Aitziane, who was removed from the Midlands to a detention centre near Gatwick on Monday.

Mr Aitziane, thought to be 49, received a Liberal conversion in the UK, but dresses strictly Orthodox

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Keeping Winehouse company

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

There will be a little Yiddish-flavoured hors d'ouevre before Amy Winehouse takes the stage in Istanbul on Monday as part of her world tour.

Her support act will be Oi Va Voi, the London band that helped to make klezmer cool in the UK.

Oi Va Voi (above) enjoy a considerable European following - they are headlining at Hungary's equivalent of Glastonbury in the summer and have already played a

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Horse with kosher pedigree

By Simon Rocker, June 16, 2011

There are already race horses called Menorah and Mezuzah but here is another that happens to have a hoof in the Jewish stable - Frankel, who triumphed in the St James Palace Stakes at Ascot this week, remaining unbeaten.

The champion was named after a leading American trainer, Bobby Frankel, who died a couple of years ago and whose parents ran a kosher catering business.

Frankel's owner is

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