Simon Rocker

United Synagogue unveils practical learning scheme

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

The United Synagogue his unveiled a £200,000-a-year educational enterprise designed to encourage practical experience as well as study.

US Living and Learning will deliver programmes for all ages ranging from Israel trips for parents to training leaders of children's services in shuls.

Rabbi Andrew Shaw, executive directive of Tribe - the young people's division which will oversee education - said something had "gone wrong educationally many years ago.

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Sephardi leaders search for spiritual head

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

Sephardi leaders have started the search for a new spiritual head to succeed Rabbi Abraham Levy, who has led the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation for 30 years.

Gibraltar-born Rabbi Levy is 71 and has served the congregation for more than 50 years in total.

"I am very ready to retire and to help find a successor," he said. "We need to find someone we can train to succeed me. Our traditions and liturgy are unique in the world."

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The Bread of Affliction

By Simon Rocker, March 18, 2010

And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord....

They must have been doing their Pesach shopping.

"The bills are quite steep this year," Rabbi Julian Schindler, of the Chief Rabbi's marriage authorisation office, told the United Synagogue council this week. Having just been to the shops, he now understood the meaning of Ha Lachma Anya, the Bread of Afflication....

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happy birthday

By Simon Rocker, March 17, 2010

Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, who is regarded the world's foremost strictly Orthodox leader, is celebrating his 100th birthday in Israel.
A hundertundzwantzig!

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Survey: most parents accept non-Jewish pupils

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

The overwhelming majority in a survey of parents of Jewish pupils at Jewish schools say they would accept the admission of non-Jewish children.

Around half of the survey, conducted among parents of the three Jewish schools in Redbridge in Essex, would feel it acceptable for non-Jewish children to make up 10 per cent of the roll - while roughly a quarter of the parents would accept up to 25 per cent non-Jewish pupils.

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Meir Persoff: 'Time for an alternative to Chief Rabbi'

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

The Chief Rabbinate is a cause of division and Lord Sacks should be the last to hold the office, says a new book published next week.

Meir Persoff, the JC's former Judaism editor, in the first book-length study of the policies of Lord Sacks since he took office in 1991, argues that the role has become increasingly contentious in a religiously diverse Jewish community.

He writes in Another Way, Another Time: "The Chief Rabbinate has run its course and an alternative form of leadership is called for which recognises the plurality of the community."

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Masorti debates female rabbis

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

Masorti rabbis debated how far the movement should embrace egalitarianism at a study day attended by 250 people at the New North London Synagogue in Finchley.

The participants included 90 guests from Europe, Israel and the United States who had come to the UK for the second Masorti Europe conference.

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Sephardi beth Din ban female candidate

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

A woman has been told by the Sephardi Beth Din that Jewish law prevents her standing for election to the mahamad (executive) of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation later this month.

Doris Osen is "frustrated and furious" at being denied the chance to become the first woman to serve on the executive of Britain's oldest synagogue body.

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Mrs Grant strikes back

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

Aussies moaning Israel's alleged use of their passports in Dubai have been put in their place by Tzofit Grant, wife of soccer boss Avram. "It’s so sexy to be Mossad, isn’t it," she told the Daily Telegraph. "I’m so proud of them. I feel more safe now I know they can kill bad people. But why should the Australians criticise? They sit on a beach, taking drugs, living like hippies, doing nothing… they don’t have any problems, except for kangaroos."

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Golda Meir's deadly head

By Simon Rocker, March 11, 2010

As we've reported, David Miliband is due to attend the reception to celebrate the renovation of the Israeli Embassy in Kensington.

But perhaps they should call in Llewellyn Lawrence Bowen first because one visitor shown round was distinctly underwhelmed by the décor.

The building was once William Thackeray's home and its prime feature is the music room with paintings of musical instruments on wood-panelled walls. But the new glass table and white chairs will have traditionalists wincing, believes our guide to good taste.

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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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