Simon Rocker

The politician and the punk

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2011

Here's a gem for mishpachologists: housing minister Grant Shapps and Mick Jones, ex-guitarist of punk band The Clash, are cousins.

Jones was reportedly born to a Russian Jewish mother and lived for a time with her mother Stella in South London before joining the group, whose hits include London Calling and Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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Riddle of the Rosenbergs

By Simon Rocker, April 7, 2011

The programme of The Holy Rosenbergs, Ryan Craig's National Theatre play about an Edgware Jewish family, contains a four-page timeline of notable events in Jewish history.

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Leo Baeck picks its first woman head

By Simon Rocker, April 1, 2011

The Leo Baeck College in London, the leading European institution for training Progressive rabbis, has appointed the first woman principal in its 55-year history.

Rabbi Deborah Kahn-Harris, 42, will take over from Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein, who retires after five years at the helm in the autumn.

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Seder joy in Wimbledon

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

Wimbledon (Reform) Synagogue will for the first time have communal Seders on both nights of Pesach rather than just one.

Rabbi Sylvia Rothschild said: "We have a huge number of kids in the community. So second night Seder is going to be more geared to the family."

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Pesach aid rises as slump bites

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

The United Synagogue is sending out more Pesach food and voucher parcels than it budgeted for because of economic conditions.

David Kaplan, US community services director, said 570 parcels were being distributed compared to the 400 it had originally allowed for.

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Board leader backs BBC's reporting

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

Board of Deputies vice-president Jerry Lewis has defended the BBC over its reporting of the murder of the Fogel family in Itamar in the West Bank three weeks ago.

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Yavneh gets top marks from Ofsted

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

Yavneh College in Hertfordshire has a double accolade with an "outstanding" rating from Ofsted inspectors and an award recognising its provision for gifted pupils.

The modern Orthodox secondary, which opened in 2006, was also ranked outstanding for its Jewish education by inspectors from Pikuach.

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Holocaust Claims head meets British critics

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

The executive head of the leading Holocaust restitution organisation, the Claims Conference, defended its record when he faced some of its critics in London on Monday.

Greg Schneider, executive vice-president of the New York-based body, addressed an audience of 150, including many survivors, at the invitation of the Anglo-Jewish Association, one of four British groups on its board.

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Cuts leave Charedi children in poverty

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

The strictly Orthodox community is facing a rise in child poverty as a result of benefit cuts and lack of secular education for boys in its schools, according to a new report.

With the economic downturn and government spending cuts, it says: "The alarm bells should be ringing loudly".

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'Too unkempt': Shomer battles US beard police

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

The United Synagogue is being sued for religious discrimination by a former kosher supervisor who, apparently, is claiming there were objections to his beard.

Jonathan Abrahams, 58, who lives in Stamford Hill, north London, was made redundant as a full-time shomer with the organisation's kashrut division over a year ago.

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Rothschild help for Jacob and sons paintings

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

Paintings of Jacob and his Twelve Sons, linked to Jewish emancipation, are to remain in their historic home after a campaign to stop their sale.

The portraits by 17th century Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbaran were brought to Durham by the philosemitic Bishop Richard George in 1756. They have hung in Auckland Castle, the bishop's official residence, ever since.

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Jacobson on Corrie Street

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

You have probably heard enough about the absence of ethnic minority characters from ITV detective series Midsomer Murders.

But it prompted Howard Jacobson in his weekend Indie column to wonder why there are no Jewish folk on Coronation Street.

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Recognition for rugelach

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

There may have been no Jews in Coronation Street but the joys of Yiddish pastry have finally come to the attention of the custodians of the nation's linguistic heritage, the Oxford English Dictionary.

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A tale of two Tals

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

The Tal Ben Haim who scored the only goal in Israel's World Cup qualifier against Georgia on Tuesday was not the Premier League defender who is now languishing on the sidelines at Portsmouth because the club cannot afford his wages.

He was another Tal Ben Haim, striker for Maccabi Petah Tikva. We forgive the Guardian for muddling the two players up.

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Equal pray for women

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

The classical Greek comedy Lysistrata is about women starting a sex strike to stop their husbands going to war. But could the idea be taken up here? A participant at Sunday's Harrow Limmud, who complained of restricted opportunities for women in Orthodox synagogues, put forward the view that if men wanted women to share their beds, they ought to share the pulpit, too.

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High five for human rights

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

Last week we reported that four of the nine members of the new Commission on a Bill of Rights for Britain were Jewish.

Make that five. We mistakenly did not include the chairman of the panel, retired civil servant and Watford Synagogue member Sir Leigh Lewis.

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Review: I'm God, You're Not

By Simon Rocker, March 31, 2011

Lawrence Kushner
Jewish Lights, $21.99

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Are schools bad for shuls?

By Simon Rocker, March 29, 2011

The seemingly unstoppable rise in the number of Jewish schools is widely regarded as one of the most positive features of British Jewry.

But not everyone agrees. Here is a dissenting opinion from an unusual source – the United Synagogue.

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School for south London?

By Simon Rocker, March 24, 2011

Promoters of a plan to set up a Jewish primary in south London have been encouraged by the initial response to a survey to gauge demand.

Kingston Liberal Synagogue's Ben Baginsky, who is co-chairman of the school group, said that most of the 100 responses received to date were positive. But a bigger sample was needed to assess the viability of the idea.

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More places offered at London schools

By Simon Rocker, March 24, 2011

JFS and JCoSS have made fresh offers of places this week, bringing relief to at least 50 families waiting to get their children into a London Jewish secondary school.

Both schools were heavily oversubscribed when the initial offers were made earlier this month.

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