Simon Rocker

Progressives up battle against JFS law reversal

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

Non-Orthodox leaders this week upped the pressure on the Board of Deputies to justify a campaign to reverse last year's Supreme Court ruling on JFS.

In a joint statement reacting sharply to recent comments by Board president Vivian Wineman, the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements warned it was "premature" to talk of legal change.

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Split over salmon

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

An argument has been going on among strictly Orthodox rabbis over the past few months about whether wild salmon is unkosher because of a tiny worm that dwells in the fish. I won’t belabour you with the details but one of the most prominent pro-banners happens to be named Rabbi Moshe Karp.

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ebay's star-crossed user

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

You have to marvel at our readers' capacity to take offence.

Online auctioneers eBay use a multi-coloured star system to show people how many other customers think they are good to do business with. The colour of the star shows the level of positive feedback.

But one user was not so chuffed to receive her first star. "I am absolutely disgusted that you refer to it as 'giving me a yellow star'," she complained to the company - as someone "who lost many family members in the Holocaust".

So why not, she suggested, use "gold star" instead?

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Caffeine shutdown

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

It must have been tough for those who turned up for the Zionist Federation's show of solidarity outside the Israeli Embassy in London on Wednesday.

The local Starbucks had been closed in case of trouble because of the anti-Israel protests. How did they manage without their coffee?

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The non-kosher cow

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

A colleague was amused to see that bang opposite the north London headquarters of the United Synagogue and Chief Rabbi is a restaurant called the Golden Calf.

Perhaps the Beth Din ought to consider giving it a kashrut licence and renaming it the Red Heifer.

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Mind your protocols

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

A whiff of antisemitism? "The Israelis are extremely clever and cunning," a woman in the audience at Tuesday's lecture on Gaza at the LSE told her neighbour. "They have wormed their way into every nation and no one has the courage to go for them."

I wish I'd brought an aerosol.

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Unlucky timing

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

You can’t accuse Israel’s Ministry of Tourism of not trying. A full page ad promoting the country as “the ideal year-round destination” appeared in unfamiliar terrain, The Guardian’s Weekend magazine. Just a shame about the timing — a couple of days before the PR disaster on the high seas.

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The Gospels' Veiled Agenda – Revolution, Priesthood and the Holy Grail

By Simon Rocker, June 3, 2010

Harry Freedman
O Books, £11.99

At the Limmud conference a couple of years ago, one of the bestselling books was an introduction to the New Testament written by a rabbi. It indicated the growing trend of Jewish curiosity about the origins of Christianity, whose sacred texts would once have simply been shunned as antisemitic heresy.

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Schools ready for academy revolution

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

Some of the top Jewish schools will be among the first in the country able to take advantage of the government's flagship programme of educational reform.

New Education Secretary Michael Gove wrote to all schools on Wednesday to invite them to opt out of local authority control and enjoy greater independence by accepting academy status. But schools rated outstanding in Ofsted inspections will be able to go to the head of queue and become academies as early as this September.

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HMD grants escape coalition cuts

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

Two grants made by the previous Labour government to mark Holocaust Memorial Day will escape a review of Whitehall spending ordered by the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

In January, allocations of £100,000 each to the Wiener Library and the Jewish Museum in London were announced by the then Culture Minister, Margaret Hodge.

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Church values Jewish roots

By Simon Rocker, May 27, 2010

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, Patrick Kelly, said he would rethink his view of Jewish-Christian relations after an address in the city on Monday from a senior Vatican official.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, who oversees the church's relations with Jews, said at Liverpool Hope University: "Cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries weakened the church, a weakness that became evident in the altogether too feeble resistance against the persecution of the Jews."

But without the church, Israel was "in danger of becoming too particularistic and reclusive", he stated.

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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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