Simon Rocker

Keegan and the evil eye

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

Was TV soccer pundit skipper Kevin Keegan wearing a chamsa(a hand-shaped amulet to foil the evil eye) during the England v Algeria game? Our resident charm squad is pursuing inquiries with a so far coy ITV.

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Play it again, Shlomo

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

South Hampstead’s African-born Rabbi Shlomo Levin apparently offered to blow a vuvuzela for a shofar at Rosh Hashanah if South Africa or England won the World Cup. What greater motivation could England want?

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And yes, pigs will fry...

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

Irayne Paikin certainly knows how to make a sausage sizzle but I'm afraid I can't recommend you her prize-winning bangers.

Not only do they fail to carry the imprimatur of the London Beth Din - but some are made from pork.

Although Irene, 44, grew up in a kosher household in north London, she fled the city with her husband to Todenham Manor Farm in the Cotswolds, where they rear cattle and pigs and run a butchery.

Being Jewish remains "a real part of my identity", she says. "Every Friday night we have Shabbat on the farm, and we get fresh challah delivered."

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Martin Amis's blond moment

By Simon Rocker, June 24, 2010

One of the week's highlights was Martin Amis's talk at London's Wiener Library about his Shoah novel, Time's Arrow. Amis, arguing that the Nazi genocide defied explanation, said he was re-reading Sir Martin Gilbert's history of the Holocaust with the same incredulity as when he had first read it 20 years before.

He asked his first questions about the Nazis when seven years old. "Don't worry," his mother had told him. "You are blond, with blue eyes. Hitler would have loved you."

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Reform passes soccer test

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2010

The Reform Movement faced a serious test of values.

Its scheduled annual meeting is due to take place on Sunday afternoon.

But thanks to the USA's late World Cup goal, England will now be playing their last 16 match at 3pm that day.

Would they put patriotism above constitutional procedure and postpone the meeting? Or take an extended TV break to watch the game?

It was a tough call for Reform chiefs, especially the movement's soccer-phile head Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield.

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Chief Rabbi slams Methodist report

By Simon Rocker, June 23, 2010

The Chief Rabbi and other Jewish presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) have expressed their concern about a report on Israel prepared by the Methodist Church.

The document, which is to be debated at the church's national conference later this month, calls for a boycott of goods from "illegal" West Bank settlements, and political lobbying to end Israel's occupation and the "siege of Gaza".

The Methodist Church has already faced criticism for demonising Israel from Jewish organisations in London and Manchester.

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Why Shul is like a Gym

By Simon Rocker, June 21, 2010

The other day I went to a meeting about alternative and itinerant minyans that been springing up here over the last few years.
Their hallmark is DIY enthusiasm and volunteerism.
In contrast, established synagogues maintain a professional infrastructure, financed by congregational dues.
As Rabbi Jeremy Gordon of the New London Synagogue observed, shuls are rather like a gym: 100 per cent of the members pay for them, maybe 20 per cent use it monthly and five per cent on a weekly basis…
But is that shul model going to be sustainable over the future?

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Uproar over Methodist Israel report

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Jewish leaders have condemned a "skewed" report on Israel prepared by the Methodist Church, warning it could set back interfaith relations for years.

The report, which is to be debated at the church's national conference later this month, calls for a boycott of goods from "illegal" West Bank settlements, and political lobbying to end Israel's occupation and the "siege of Gaza".

Over the past few days, Jewish organisations in London and Manchester have protested about its contents in meetings with Methodist representatives.

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Analysis: We must pay attention to UJIA concerns

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Mick Davis heads British Jewry's biggest charitable investor in Israel, which spends more than £15 million a year on projects in the country, Zionist youth groups and other Israel-related educational programmes.

His intervention into the often stormy relationship between the diaspora and Israel comes amid increasing signs of unease over Israeli policies, most visibly expressed in the recent J-Call and For the Sake of Zion petitions in Europe and the United States that urged a settlement freeze.

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NIF boss sees 'progressive surge' in Jews around world

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

There is a "progressive awakening" among diaspora Jews in their attitude towards Israel, according to one of its best-known left-wing activists.

Professor Naomi Chazan sees evidence of a growing trend in the formation of the doveish lobby group, J Street, in the USA and the recent J Call petition in Europe, which urged a settlement freeze.

The former Knesset member for the socialist Meretz party, now president of the New Israel Fund, was in London this week on behalf of the NIF. She also had a meeting at the Board of Deputies.

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UJIA chief: More collaboration between Jews and Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

One of Israel's leading supporters has demanded a greater "collaboration" between Israel and diaspora Jews.

Writing in today's JC, Mick Davis, chairman of both the UJIA and the executive committee of the Jewish Leadership Council, says that "whereas an Israeli can at least influence events through the ballot box, we are a simple recipient of their impact".

He asserts that "we have a legitimate role as a partner with Israel in developing" its long term strategy.

Israel, he writes, is a "cornerstone" of the identity of most Jews in the diaspora and central to their future.

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It's kosher whisky galore

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Forget President Obama's huffing and puffing over the BP oil spill, here is a more grievous threat to peaceful transatlantic relations.

One of Scotland's finest malts, Glenmorangie, has agreed to accept kosher supervision - under America's OU label.

Surely this great British brand ought to be sporting the certification of a home-grown rabbinic authority.

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Nick Hewer goes to Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Happily returned from his first visit to Israel is Nick Hewer of BBC Apprentice fame. "It was wonderful," he said. "I spent a lot of time in Jerusalem and I found the whole thing fascinating."

He visited earlier this month to attend the wedding of Nick Bildner to Natasha Orson. Her twin Anna Orson also got married in Israel a few days later to Adam Abrams.

But I doubt whether the pink shirt Lord Sugar's right-hand man wore for the occasion will be allowed many appearances in the boardroom.

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Middle Eastern whispers

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

The New Statesman reported that Tim Franks, the BBC's outgoing Middle East - and Jewish- correspondent, had revealed on radio that he was leaving because of rumours that he had got the job through Israeli lobbying.

Actually, all Franks did was to recall a remark at the news of his appointment (in 2007) by a non-Jewish family friend who had told a relative of his that it had come about because of pressure put on the BBC's director-general by the previous Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. He certainly didn't cite that as a reason for going.

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Mr Burt's reading list

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

At a Foreign Office lunch for Jewish and Israeli journalists, the newly appointed minister for the Middle East, Alistair Burt, asked them which books he ought to read before visiting the region. He had put the same question to Arab journalists the week before.

If you have your own recommendations for the minister's reading list, send them in and I'll try to pass them on.

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The 'Israeli' ambassador

By Simon Rocker, June 17, 2010

Has Matthew Gould, Britain's new Jewish ambassador to Israel, gone native before he even gets there?

Speaking at Borehamwood Synagogue, the personable envoy was asked how he felt in a previous diplomatic posting in Pakistan. "Well," he said, "I didn't walk round announcing that I am Israeli."

Much audience chuckling before he corrected himself.

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Palestinian leader says Quran acknowledges Jewish links with Israel

By Simon Rocker, June 11, 2010

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas told American Jewish leaders in Washington that the Quran recognises Jewish ties to the land of Israel, according to The Forward.
When questioned about his comments by Al-Jazeera, he replied: “Jews are there, and when you read the Holy Koran you have it there. That’s what I said.”
For background: see my JC piece last year

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Pitfalls and perversity the heirs to JFS ruling

By Simon Rocker, June 11, 2010

The Liverpool case is the first to bear out what was feared might happen after last year's JFS court case: that a Jewish child eligible to get into a Jewish school under the old admission rules would end up being denied a place under the new system.

Previously, many schools would have accepted you simply if your mother was Jewish. But a year ago the Court of Appeal - in a decision upheld by the Supreme Court -ruled that the policy fell foul of the Race Relations Act.

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Academic 'will sue the UCU'

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

A senior Jewish academic has said he will sue the University and College Union if it boycotts a West Bank college where he is a guest professor.

Professor Geoffrey Alderman, of the University of Buckingham, said he had consulted lawyers over the UCU's vote last month to investigate a possible boycott of Ariel College.

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JNF faces charity challenge

By Simon Rocker, June 10, 2010

The JNF came under renewed attack this week from anti-Zionists calling for the removal of its charitable status.

Veteran activist Uri Davis - author of Israel: An Apartheid State - addressed a "Stop the JNF" meeting organised by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (Ijan) at London's School of Oriental and African Studies on Tuesday.

Michael Kalmanovitz, an Ijan UK co-ordinator, said the event was "part of a campaign to expose the role of JNF and to protest at its fundraising activities".

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