Simon Rocker

Give terminally-ill right to die, says rabbi

By Simon Rocker, January 27, 2011

People with terminal illnesses should be helped to die if they do not want to go on living, according to the chief executive of Liberal Judaism.

Rabbi Danny Rich made the case when he gave evidence last week to the independent Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by the former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer.

More..

Missing Michael Winner

By Simon Rocker, January 27, 2011

A sell-out crowd of 200 waited for the speaker at the London Jewish Cultural Centre on Tuesday. And waited. And waited.

But instead of a good night's raconteuring from Michael Winner about his life in "movies and other places", the audience had to settle for a refund. Because he failed to show.

Such a thing has not happened at the LJCC since the Archbishop of Canterbury got the wrong North End Road and turned up in Earls Court rather than Golders Green - although he made it, an hour late, eventually.

More..

This cartoonist's no joke

By Simon Rocker, January 27, 2011

A caricature of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dressed as a Jewish settler appeared on the Guardian's "Palestine Papers" blog this week.

It was drawn by the Brazilian Carlos Latoff who, the Just Journalism website recalled, won second prize in the International Holocaust Cartoon Competition in 2006 - a cynical stunt staged by an Iranian newspaper and condemned by the United States as an attempt to "denigrate the horror that was the Holocaust".

More..

Review: Great Reform Lives

By Simon Rocker, January 27, 2011

Edited Jonathan Romain
The Movement for Reform Judaism, £9.99

This short collection of pen portraits of leading Reform figures was produced to mark the bicentenary of the first Progressive service in 1810. Sketched by various members of the British Reform rabbinate, they have been edited by Jonathan Romain, who gives a typically concise and lucid introduction to the principles of Reform.

More..



More on organ donations

By Simon Rocker, January 25, 2011

Controversy continues over the new guidelines on organ donation issued by the Chief Rabbi and the London Beth Din.
See, for example, this fresh attack on his policy from Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Moshe Tendler.

More..



What's the point of Hebrew

By Simon Rocker, January 24, 2011

Overheard from a luckless Ivrit teacher at a Jewish secondary school.

"What's the point of learning Hebrew, miss?" she was asked by one of her reluctant pupils. "All the Israelis can speak Engish anyway."

More..

Rocking rabbi's record deal

By Simon Rocker, January 21, 2011

Put your hands together for Rabbi Danny Bergson of Glasgow's Newton Mearns Hebrew Congregation, member of a multi-faith singing group which has just been signed up by a record label.

The group, All Faiths, has been assembled by songwriter and promoter Jeff Chegwin and Nick Patrick, who has produced records for Katherine Jenkins and Russell Watson.

Other members include the chaplain for Derby County FC, a Buddhist nun and The Times religious correspondent Ruth Geldhill.

More..

Jobs go as JNF cuts on education spending

By Simon Rocker, January 20, 2011

JNF UK has closed its education department and made nine staff redundant in further cost-cutting measures.
But the charity promised to strengthen its national presence with the opening of a new northern regional office in "the coming weeks".

JNF has shut offices in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and Leeds as part of its streamlining.

More..

West London voting on Baroness Neuberger

By Simon Rocker, January 20, 2011

Members of the Reform movement's flagship community, the West London Synagogue, were this week casting their votes on whether to accept Baroness Neuberger as their new senior rabbi.

The 60-year-old peer, who is president of Liberal Judaism, was unanimously recommended by the West London board to succeed Rabbi Mark Winer, who left in October. But her appointment is subject to a postal ballot of members, which closes next Friday.

More..

Lithuania to look at its wartime record

By Simon Rocker, January 20, 2011

The Lithuanian Embassy in London is jointly sponsoring a conference next month which will address "sensitive" questions about the country's wartime record.

Daiva Parulskiene, the embassy's cultural attaché, said it was the first time it had been involved with such an event, to be held at University College London on February 6-7.

Ms Parulskiene said: "Its main purpose is to gather academicians and specialists to try to understand the reason behind extreme violence on the part of Lithuanians in 1941 and who was involved in pogroms.

More..

JLC trip: hackles rose

By Simon Rocker, January 20, 2011

Ironically, the Board of Deputies leaders had never intended its position on Israel to become a matter of controversy. They had agreed Sunday's debate largely in response to deputies champing at the bit to express their opinion of the outspoken criticisms of Israeli policy made by UJIA chairman, and JLC executive committee chairman, Mick Davis two months ago.

Mr Davis's intervention served only to increase suspicions among some deputies that the JLC was pursuing an independent foreign policy which undercut the role of the Board.

More..

Deputies two-state solution Middle East row

By Simon Rocker, January 20, 2011

Board of Deputies leaders were left trying to salvage its Israel policy this week after members threw out a resolution that declared support for a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Despite the convincing rejection of the motion, Board president Vivian Wineman insisted that most deputies still remained in favour of the concept of a two-state peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

More..

Deputies' bloody Sunday?

By Simon Rocker, January 17, 2011

It is two months since UJIA chairman Mick Davis took the community by surprise with the vehemence of his critique of the Israeli government. He said that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lacked the courage to advance the peace process, described some Knesset bills as offensive and warned that Israel faced becoming an apartheid state if there were no two-state solution.

More..

Baroness Neuberger set for West London

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2011

As predicted by the JC two weeks ago, the Lib Dem peeress Baroness Neuberger is set to be the new senior rabbi of the Reform movement’s flagship congregation, the West London Synagogue.

Rabbi Neuberger, 60, who is currently the president of Liberal Judaism, has been unanimously been recommended to succeed Rabbi Mark Winer by West London’s council.

But her appointment must still be confirmed by a ballot of synagogue members.

If she takes the post, it will be her first full-time pulpit since she served as rabbi of South London Liberal Synagogue from 1977 to 1989.

More..

Chief asks for organ card shift

By Simon Rocker, January 14, 2011

A leading American rabbi has accused the London Beth Din of "sentencing people to death" for saying that organ donor cards are unacceptable for Jews to carry in their current form.

Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a medical ethics professor at New York's Yeshiva University, criticised long-awaited new guidelines on organ donation issued by the Beth Din and Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.

But some senior Orthodox doctors in the UK welcomed the statement from Lord Sacks and his dayanim as a move to encourage more Jews to become organ donors.

More..

Sad farewell to Limmud singer Debbie Friedman

By Simon Rocker, January 13, 2011

Tributes have been paid to Debbie Friedman, the influential American Jewish songwriter who died suddenly on Sunday.

Aged 59, she had been admitted to hospital in California just a few days after returning from her last appearances at the Limmud conference in Coventry.

Her melodies, setting traditional Jewish liturgy to folk tunes, left their mark on synagogue music, particulary among Progressive communities, in the course of a career covering 35 years and more than 20 albums.

More..

Book Week attacked for 'anti-Israel' event

By Simon Rocker, January 13, 2011

Jewish Book Week has defended a session in its forthcoming programme featuring a panel of two journalists known for their bitter denunciations of Israel, and which is jointly promoted by a journal accused of "unremitting hostility" to Israel.

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy will discuss his book, The Punishment of Gaza, with Independent journalist Johann Hari in an event billed as in association with the London Review of Books.

The session, due to take place in London on March 6, has been sharply criticised.

More..

The shabbat book snatcher

By Simon Rocker, January 13, 2011

A couple of men went to an Orthodox synagogue in London for a friend's son's barmitzvah. They both brought some reading matter for any longueurs during the service.

After one of them was called up to the Torah, he returned to his seat to find his book missing. The other guest's book also went awol, too.

When their friend later discussed the vanished volumes with a synagogue officer, he was told that books disapproved of were liable to removal.

One of the books was written by Martin Buber, the other by the Chief Rabbi.

More..

Your bet for Chief Rabbi?

By Simon Rocker, January 13, 2011

Bookies have begun taking bets on the successor to Lord Sacks as Chief Rabbi.

According to Paddy Power, Rabbi Harvey Belovski, the Oxford and Gateshead-educated spiritual leader of Golders Green United Synagogue is 6/4 favourite.

He is followed by Rabbi Shaul Robinson (ex-Barnet now at New York's Lincoln Square Synagogue) at 13/8, and Rabbis Naftali Brawer (Borehamwood and Elstree United) and Yitzchak Shochet (Mill Hill United) at 5/1.

But you can always take a punt on Lord Sugar 250/1 or Vanessa Feltz, David Miliband and Sacha Baron Cohen (below), each of whom 500/1.

More..

Beeb's man in Jerusalem

By Simon Rocker, January 13, 2011

It's taken him six months to get there. But finally the BBC's new man in Jerusalem, Kevin Connolly, arrived this week from Washington to take up the position left vacant by Tim Franks. We wanted to know if he looked forward to swapping hot dogs for falafel in his first Middle East posting but after six months' requests for an interview, he is still proving coy.

More..