Simon Rocker

Howard Jacobson and Rabbi Blue win religious broadcasting prizes

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

Novelist Howard Jacobson scooped a top religious broadcasting award on Tuesday for his personal exploration of Genesis, shown on Channel 4 earlier this year.

The programme - the first in a seven-part series about the Bible - won the premier prize for TV in the Sandford St Martin Trust awards at Lambeth Palace in London.

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Muslim group objects to Zionism in schools

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

A Muslim campaign group has written to the new Education Secretary Michael Gove to object to state-aided Jewish schools promoting Zionism.

Mohammed Asif, the chief executive of Engage (not to be confused with the antisemitism monitoring group of the same name), said he was "more than a little surprised" to see Zionism included as part of the ethos of several Jewish schools.

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The Israeli who's taken Abraham to Oxford

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

Oxford may have lost to Cambridge in this year's boat race, but in one pursuit Oxford has pipped its old rival to the post. Oxford's first Professor of Abrahamic Studies has been teaching there almost a year, while Cambridge is still in the process of recruiting one.

The holder of Oxford's new chair is a Parisian-born Jewish Israeli with a special interest in early Christian mysticism. Guy Stroumsa had been Martin Buber Professor of Comparative Religion at the Jerusalem's Hebrew University until his arrival here last autumn.

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Parents support for Mill Hill Jewish school

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

More than 200 parents packed a meeting at Mill Hill Synagogue on Monday to support plans for new Jewish school in the area.

Planning group chair Adam Dawson outlined hopes of opening a new school with entry at nursery and reception in September 2011. "The case for a new Jewish primary school in Mill Hill can be proved beyond any doubt."

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A horse called Mezuzah

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

You may recall reading a few weeks ago of the exploits of Menorah the racehorse. Well, he is not alone in being Judaically named. There is another, called Mezuzah.

His most recent outing was at Sedgefield last week where he came eighth out of ten: as it was Shavuot, perhaps he should have been left in his paddock to graze on cheesecake.

Owner-trainer Jo Foster of Ilkley has yet to return my call so I can't explain how Mezuzah got his name.

But watch out too for Derby contender Brit Milah - a cut above the rest.

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Peter Crouch goes to Israel

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

England skipper Rio Ferdinand is known as a regular visitor to Israel but lanky Spurs striker Peter Crouch recently took a holiday there as well.

He popped into Mike's Place, the celebrated Tel Aviv bar beloved of expats, to watch the FA Cup final, telling fans that he hoped a visit to the Holy Land would bring England luck at the World Cup in South Africa next month.

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The saintly Mr Shapps

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

Is there something new Housing Minister Grant Shapps is not telling us?

Clearly the former BBYO leader enjoys the favour of Prime Minister David Cameron.

But judging from this picture in the Welwyn Hatfield Times, he is in someone's good books even higher up as well.

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Amber cooks for glory

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

I'm pleased to report that 11-year-old Amber, the Junior MasterChef contestant and maker of dream latkes, has made it to the final four. You can see if she gets crowned queen of the young cooks this afternoon at 4.35 on BBC1 or CBBC.

Among her semi-final tasks was preparing the favourite dessert of new Doctor Who Matt Smith: treacle sponge with custard.

Amber's cooking took off after she did a charity barbeque for Chai Cancer Care.

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The 'yid' t-shirt unriddled

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

Last week I showed a Portsmouth fan leaving Wembley after the FA Cup whose t-shirt bore the legend: We've got 99 problems but a yid ain't 1.

It was all perfectly innocent, a reader has written in: he must have had the t-shirt done for the semifinal against Tottenham, whose supporters of course are known as Yids: so all the slogan meant was "at least I'm not a Tottenham fan".

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Magnificent Hendon

By Simon Rocker, May 26, 2010

An obit of Lady J has just been posted on the Telegraph Online which concludes:

"The Hespedim (or eulogies) in her honour, following her death on May 7, were delivered before a crowd of 5,000 mourners on the streets of Hendon's magnificent Shirehall estate..."

Shirehall magnificent? Not an adjective I would think you could use for any part of Hendon.

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Amnesty steps up its campaign on Israel

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

Amnesty International's UK branch is continuing to highlight Israel's treatment of the Palestinians with an exhibition in London next month directed against its security barrier.

The event follows a meeting last week hosted by Amnesty International UK entitled "Capital Murder: Inside the Israeli authorities' regime of discrimination and control in Occupied East Jerusalem".

Journalist Ben White, author of Israeli Apartheid: A Beginners Guide, described what was happening as "a microcosm of Israeli apartheid".

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Orthodox synagogue membership stable

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

The decline in synagogue membership in the UK has slowed down significantly over the past five years, according to a new survey.

The number of Jewish households which belong to a synagogue fell by just 0.3 per cent since 2005 - compared to an overall drop of 16.8 per cent over the two decades from 1990 to 2010.

But the slowdown is mainly due to the growth of the strictly Orthodox communities, say the authors of the report, jointly published by the Board of Deputies and the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR).

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Diaspora critics rallying to challenge Israel

By Simon Rocker, Nathan Guttman and Marcus Dysch, May 21, 2010

Signs of growing diaspora discontent with Israeli policy have emerged with the launch of a petition by American Jewish figures calling for a settlement freeze and a compromise over Jerusalem's sovereignty.

For the Sake of Zion was inspired by a European initiative, JCall, headed by French Peace Now earlier this month.

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Wembley's soccer shocker

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

Football's authorities may have tried to kick racism out of the sport but this t-shirt slipped through the Wembley turnstiles at the FA Cup final at the weekend.

Jewish Chelsea supporter Michael Coplans spotted it as spectators left the stadium after the game.

Taking its wearer to be a fan of opposing club Portsmouth, he said; "I can only think the 99 is a reference to their financial problems and the Yid is a reference to [Israeli manager] Avram Grant.

"I was flabbergasted. I sent the picture to a couple of Jewish friends and they were appalled by it, too."

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Greybeard's revenge

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

The Board of Deputies struck a blow for senior citizenry on Sunday when it removed the age limit on the presidency and officer posts.

Lest it ever be thought a gerontocracy, some years ago it imposed a bar on anyone standing for leadership roles after the age of 72.

Support for keeping the limit came from High Court judge Sir Michael Burton, who pointed out that judges retire at 70.

But by a single vote, deputies backed the motion to lift the cap from the ZF's Jonathan Hoffman, a spring chicken in his 50s.

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The BBC goes to shul

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

The BBC has found an unusual way to mark the 200th anniversary of the world's first Reform service this summer.

It is staging a live broadcast of BBC Radio 4's popular Any Questions? from Wimbledon and the District Reform Synagogue on Friday evening July 16.

Shabbat does not come in until after the broadcast, which will be followed by a commemorative service.

According to the BBC, it is the first time the show has been hosted by a synagogue since it began in 1948.

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Fuming father of the bride

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

I am not surprised that well-to-do American businessman Richard Gabrielson was angry about his son-in-law.

He reportedly had no idea he had one until he read online that his lovely daughter Alex had met 30-year-old Surrey divorcee Nick Bond in a Las Vegas bar and married him a few hours later.

She is a Catholic and her father apparently wanted a grand church wedding. Nick is Jewish and when asked by the Daily Mail whether his wife knew, he responded that he wasn’t practising.
But didn’t his wife notice he was circumcised, mused the newspaper. “It didn’t come up,” he said.

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Winner's daveners

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

Veteran foodster Michael Winner revealed a new euphemism in his Sunday Times column: "Saturday boys". A "marvellous" phrase that he'd recently heard to describe Jewish men. "Because they go (in theory) to synagogue on Saturday," he explained.

See you in shul, Michael.

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Why put the patriarchs before the matriarchs?

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

In Jew Vs Jew, his book on religious divisions in American Jewry, Samuel Freedman recalled an incident that happened one Shabbat morning at a trendy egalitarian minyan in California in the late 80s. Men and women enjoyed an equal role while using a traditional liturgy.

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The Great Shul-School Test

By Simon Rocker, May 21, 2010

If Jewish schools are doing their job, then one visible effect should be increasing synagogue attendance over Yomtov.
More and more parents are opting to send their children to Jewish schools: and since they are spared the dilemma of whether to send them school on festivals, shul is the obvious place to for them to go.
But is that actually happening in practice? I'd be interested to know.

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