Simon Rocker

Nigella's chicken soup date

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

Along with BBC culture king Alan Yentob, the joint guest of honour at the reopening of London's expanded Jewish Museum is to be Nigella Lawson.

But I doubt whether she will have had any role in setting up one of the exhibits, "chicken soup being prepared in an immigrant kitchen".

In her TV recipes, the Domestic Goddess displays a pronounced fondness for dishes that would have the steam coming out of Moses's ears.

Don't mention the k-word, anyone.

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School's out for BNP

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

The British National Party was all set to hail a victory it no doubt hoped presaged great things to come in the next election.

Its website had an item reporting a mock-election at top London school UCS, where the BNP contender came second.

It was all a joke, the school explained: the BNP candidate stood to satirise the party and its agenda - and attributed his good poll showing to the fact that he handed out biscuits.

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Entertaining Mr Biden

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

American Vice President Joe Biden was not best pleased that during his visit to Israel its Interior Ministry announced that 1600 new homes were to be built in east Jerusalem: he reportedly turned up 90 minutes late to dinner with Bibi Netanyahu.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai explained to Yediot Achronot: "I greatly regret that the Vice President took it personally. I want to emphasise that this is a technical matter. There was nothing deliberate against the Americans or against the Vice President here. I didn't know this was going to happen today."

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Another attack on converts

By Simon Rocker, March 8, 2010

As if there were not enough controversy over conversions already, here is yet another way to make converts feel like second-class citizens.

Ha’aretz reports on a Knesset bill being proposed by David Rotem, MK for the Yisrael Beteinu.

“The bill proposes that the Law of Return only be applicable to Jews or their offspring, and not to non-Jews who opted to convert - even if the conversion follows Orthodox procedure in line with state religious courts in Israel,” the newspaper says.

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The Choosing People

By Simon Rocker, March 5, 2010

“The traditional Jewish community, bounded by a combination of external hostility and limitations and internal comfort and familiarity, has had its walls battered, breached and broken, not so much by antisemitism but rather by the winds of sociological change. We are now free to come and go as we please.
“…In many respects, we are no longer a chosen people, compelled by God, or fate, or history to be part of the Jewish community, but rather a choosing people, deciding day-by-day, minute-by-minute whether or not we want our Jewishness to inform our lives.”

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Board to investigate Holocaust Claims Conference

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

A leading barrister has been asked by the Board of Deputies to investigate concerns about the Claims Conference, the New York-based body which distributes restitution funds to Holocaust survivors.

Jeffrey Gruder QC, a commercial litigation specialist and a former deputy for Radlett Synagogue, will advise the Board on whether there are any matters that need to be taken up with the Conference.

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Anger at National Front inclusion in government inquiry

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The Board of Deputies has protested over the participation of the National Front in a government inquiry into racism in schools.

In a letter to the inquiry head Maurice Smith, a former Chief Inspector of Schools, chief executive Jon Benjamin said it was "deeply concerned" to hear he had met representatives of the NF.

Mr Benjamin wrote: "We are at a loss to understand what you hoped to gain by dignifying the National Front with your time and your attention.

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United Synagogue affiliates elect chair

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The United Synagogue's affiliated congregations have elected their own chairman to fight their corner against attempts by the US to remove theirspecial status.

Reynold Rosenberg, chairman of Welwyn Garden City, one of 16 affiliated US synagogues, will spearhead efforts to resolve the dispute with US leaders.

Affiliated congregations have greater independence and pay less towards US central services than constituent shuls.

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Strong demand for Jewish Haringey primary

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Plans are under way to open a Jewish primary school in Haringey which could have the support of synagogue bodies across the board.

Its promoters believe that the responses to a survey of Jewish families in the catchment area indicate demand for a new one-form entry, state-aided primary.

"Haringey does not have any state-aided Jewish school," said joint project leader Peter Kessler. "What it does have is a large and growing number of Jewish families. It also has an under-supply of primary school places and that under-supply is forecast to get worse and worse in coming years.

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Demand for JCoSS 'exceeds expectations'

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

The new Jewish Community Secondary School (JCoSS) is on course for a full first-year intake when it opens in East Barnet in September after receiving well over two applications for every place.

Mike Grabiner, chairman of the cross-communal school, said the number "exceeded all our expectations" and showed "a very significant demand… which can only grow as we establish ourselves".

JCoSS had 453 applicants for 180 places but like other Jewish schools, it will have to wait many weeks before knowing how many pupils are likely to start in autumn.

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Carry on purim

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Perhaps they should start rating Purimspiels like films for child suitability.

Here's a snatch from the festivities at the New North London Synagogue. "A consignment of Viagra was stolen from downturn Purim. Police are looking for three hard-ended criminals."

Which prompted my 11-year-old to ask: "Daddy, why that's funny?"

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Spare the chicken soup

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Among Jewish Book Week highlights was a session on meatlessness between vegetarian authors Jonathan Safran Foer and Etgar Keret.

But while Safran Foer's two young sons are following daddy's diet, Keret junior remains to be convinced, according to Hephzibah Anderson.

"When asked by his four-year-old why he doesn't eat schnitzels," she blogged. "Etgar explained that he thought about the animal being killed and lost his appetite. 'I think the same thought,' his carnivorous son grinned, 'But with me it has the opposite effect.'

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Good habits start young

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Who said young people no longer read newspapers? Pay heed, all you parents, to Emanuel Joseph Latchman, aged one and a half of Golders Green - son of Hannah and Birkbeck College Master, Professor David Latchman - engrossed in his weekly JC.

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A phoney story

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

To those who rushed out to install the new Mitzvah App on your iPhone, after our story last week, an almost sincere apology: Sunday was Purim and the story an invention.

This did not stop the Guardian from ringing up first thing Friday to find out more.

But absolutely true is that you can get a Megillah App, complete with range of noises for the mention of Haman.

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MPs cut kosher expenses

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

Congratulations to the All-Party Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism which has got the House of Commons to change its rules to make kosher catering cheaper there. Groups booking functions incur a room charge unless they have a minimum number of guests.
Previously those ordering kosher meals did not count towards the minimum, but now they will.

Charities will be thus spared needless room hire charges, says committee chairman John Mann. Order him a tray of mini latkes and crispy duck pancakes, someone.

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The Chasidic blogger who doesn't believe in God

By Simon Rocker, March 4, 2010

He looks just a regular Chasid among the strictly Orthodox legions of north London's Stamford Hill: his kippah is black velvet, he wears peyot and he is the product of Yiddish-speaking school and yeshivah.

But Pen Tivokeish - to give him his pen-name - harbours a secret. He is part of a religious underworld, the author of a blog where he records his true feelings as a Charedi man who does not believe in God.

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Sex, faith and Mr Balls

By Simon Rocker, February 26, 2010

Schools Secretary Ed Balls may have come under fire this week for making too many concessions to faith schools over sex education.

But the reality is, it doesn't seem all that clear precisely how the national guidelines will play out in the classroom.

While religious schools will not be able to opt out of requirements to teach "sex and relationships education", they will be able to present it according to their own religious values. However, Mr Balls stressed, they will not be able to teach their views of their own faith alone.

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JNF sues board member for £700k costs

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

JNF UK could be heading for a new High Court case later this year after suing a former board member for nearly £700,000.

The charity claims that Maurice Sherling (known as Charlie), owes the money to cover the JNF's legal fees in its past dispute with its Israeli associate Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL).

Mr Sherling, managing director of Sherling Steel, Ireland's largest independently owned steel supplier, paid £579,095 towards JNF's legal costs in the UK and Israel, according to papers filed by his lawyers in the High Court.

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Human rights group takes UK to court over Israel sanctions

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

A Palestinian human rights group is making a fresh attempt through the courts to force the British government to adopt sanctions against Israel.

The West Bank-based Al Haq wants a ruling that Britain is in breach of its human rights obligations by failing to take action.

The group, represented by the Birmingham-based Public Interest Lawyers, lost an application for a judicial review to hear its case in the High Court last year.

But an appeal, which will be contested by the Foreign Office, was due to begin in the Court of Appeal yesterday.

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Faith schools must teach sex and contraception

By Simon Rocker, February 25, 2010

State-aided religious schools will have to teach about contraception and ceremonies for gay couples in future, according to new rules being introduced by the government.

Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, stressed that faith schools would not be able to opt out of new requirements for sex education, due to come into force next year.

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