Simon Rocker

European rabbis attack American conversion group

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Members of the London Beth Din have attacked a controversial conversion organisation with which their former head, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, is involved.

The LBD judges signed a statement from the Conference of European Rabbis, protesting at the American-based Eternal Jewish Family setting up in Europe and calling for the cancellation on its seminar in Munich this week.

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Panorama to screen Israel film

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

The first edition of BBC1’s main current affairs programme, Panorama, in 2010, is to look at Israeli policy in Jerusalem.

Promoting next Monday night’s documentary, the programme’s website says: “The fight is on for the holiest city in the holy land. The Israelis say Jerusalem must never be divided; the Palestinians say the east of the city is theirs and must become the capital of a new state.”

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JPR says Boyd is new chief

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Jonathan Boyd, the acting director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research since April, has been confirmed as its executive director.

Mr Boyd, who has previously worked with the UJIA and the Joint Distribution Committee’s International Centre for Community Development, joined the institute a year ago as a research fellow.

He will oversee the launch this week of the first national online survey of British Jews’ attitudes towards Israel. It is being conducted by Ipsos Mori.

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Gaza questioned in Israel poll

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

The most detailed survey of what British Jews think of Israel was launched today by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research.

Conducted by Ipsos Mori and commissioned by the Pears Foundation, it consists of a questionnaire that takes about 15 minutes to complete online.

Correspondents are asked, among other things, if they think Israel’s incursion into Gaza a year ago was an act of self-defence, whether West Bank settlements should be expanded and whether Israeli actions cause antisemitism in Britain.

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Q&A on JFS

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Why did the Board of Deputies want to amend the Equality Bill to overturn the Supreme Court judgement on Jewish school admissions?

The Supreme Court ruled that Jewish schools can no longer admit children simply on the basis of whether their parents are Jewish. This is because Jews are considered by law as an ethnic group (like Sikhs, but not Christians or Muslims) and to choose children according to parental descent is a matter of ethnic origin, therefore a case of racial discrimination.

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JFS fight collapses as Board retreats

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Jewish leaders this week dramatically dropped plans to press for a change in the law to overturn the recent Supreme Court decision on Jewish school admissions.

On Tuesday the Board of Deputies called off a meeting planned for the next day with synagogue leaders, which was to have discussed introducing an amendment to the government’s Equality Bill.

Vivian Wineman, president of the Board, said that there was widespread agreement that it was better not to go immediately for legislative change in case it produced “unintended consequences”.

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Joan's brush with security

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

After last month’s bomb attempt on an American plane, security experts say we need more sophisticated profiling of passengers to spot likely suspects before they get too far. So watch out, then, if you are an elderly Jewish comedienne.

The redoubtable Joan Rivers was stopped on Sunday from boarding a plane from Costa Rica back to the USA. Officials’ suspicions were aroused because her passport bore dual names, Joan Rosenberg aka Joan Rivers (Rosenberg her late husband’s name).

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Crisis in the kosher kitchen

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

I think someone better declare a state of emergency. My wife’s copy of Evelyn Rose’s International Jewish Cookbook has fallen to bits but when she tried to order a new copy, she found it was unavailable. How could this be, since the Bible of kosher cuisine must surely be the most popular book in Anglo-Jewish homes after the siddur?

Publishers Anova reassure me that the book is “not out of print” but “out of stock”. An updated, illustrated version is in preparation but not due out till the end of the year, or even early next.

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Our yiddishe madam

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

I thought Big Brother had been put out of its misery but Channel 4 is inflicting one last celebrity version on us.

For followers of small screen Jewry, among this year’s entrants is Heidi Fleiss, whose claim to fame lies largely in having being jailed in the 1990s for supplying call girls to Hollywood’s rich and famous.

Her activities have since included running a laundrette in Nevada. The programme-makers must hope she’ll be washing her dirty linen in public.

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Pork's not all white

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Retired Israeli cardiologist Eli Landau is doubtless causing palpitations among his countrymen with the publication of a cookbook about his favourite food: pork. He claims that The White Book is the first in Israel devoted to the euphemistically called “white meat”.

Asked about the likely reaction from his religious compatriots, he replied: “I don’t bother them, they shouldn’t bother me. Live and let live.”

Advice not applied to the pigs, a stuffed specimen of which he was sewing up with surgical thread when his Sky News interviewer found him.

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More fuss over faith school entry rules

By Simon Rocker, January 5, 2010

It's not only in the Jewish community where admissions policies to faith schools have become a hot potato. The Catholic Church has filed a complaint with the Office of Schools Adjudicator about one of its own schools in West London because it thinks the entry conditions are too strict and penalise less observant candidates.

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Did the Coens get it right?

By Simon Rocker, January 4, 2010

Lots of debate over the merits of the Coens' A Serious Man. I found the film strong and unsettling, with some excruciatingly funny moments, but an acquaintance I ran into in the foyer (as one does in NWLondon) did not think much of it.

But I wondered, would rabbis in a Conservative Temple in the 60s have said "Hashem"?

ps Who knows the Jewish members of Jefferson Airplane/Starship?

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Things are better, but not by much

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

When the Institute for Jewish Policy Research appointed a commission to investigate who speaks for British Jews, “the nervousness in some establishment bodies was palpable”, recalled JPR’s then director Antony Lerman.

The very commission was seen as a challenge to venerable institutions such as the Board of Deputies and the Chief Rabbinate. The report it issued in 2000, A Community of Communities, duly reflected discontent.

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Muslim anger over war-crime law pledge

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

The Muslim Council of Britain has protested to Foreign Secretary David Miliband over plans to change the law to prevent the arrest of Israeli politicians visiting Britain.

MCB general secretary Muhammad Abdul Bari wrote of the council’s “deep disappointment” and “grave concern” at the government’s position following former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s cancellation of a visit to Britain last month.

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Hornby’s second thoughts

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

Author Nick Hornby has revealed he considered changing the Jewish identity of a key character in his new film, An Education, for which he wrote the screenplay.

It is based on journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir about her relationship as a teenager with an older man, called in the film David Goldman (as played by actor Peter Sarsgaard, below). Goldman is a dodgy wheeler-dealer whose contacts include the 60s racketeer Peter Rackman.

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No show Oborne

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

One man unable to make Limmud was journalist Peter Oborne, presenter of Channel 4’s recent attempted expose of the Israel lobby in Britain. He was invited to speak at the conference. but was too busy on assignment in Zimbabwe to complete his application form in time.

Or was the Israel lobby secretly out there on safari?

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Limmud table talk

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

Lots of feelgood fraternising at the Limmud conference where United Synagogue Rabbis Michael Rosenfeld and Natan Levy breakfasted with Liberal Rabbi Danny Rich, and Jewish Leadership Council chief exec Jeremy Newmark and his team courted the grassroots at the bar till 2am.

“Who says we are remote?” tweeted the still sober JLC head.

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Lock up your dummies

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

On Edgware K, an email forum where kosher folk advertise barmitzvah lessons or announce the latest addition to their brood, the following message was posted: “Seeking a pregnant mannekin”.

Is some new golem on the loose in Middlesex? Or could there be any link to another message on the forum seeking loan of a “maternity wedding gown”?

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Yiddish test for Yentob

By Simon Rocker, December 30, 2009

Alan Yentob’s TV foray into Scrabble last week saw him take on the word game’s top woman player in a test to pick out genuine words from a list. “Kittel,” he was heard murmuring, “I’d rather like that to be a word”.

Kittel indeed is one: the white robe worn on High Holy Days by some Ashkenazim, which might explain its unfamiliarity to the Sephardi Yentob.

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See you in court

By Simon Rocker, December 24, 2009

In my analysis piece on the JFS case in today’s JC,, I suggested this may not be the last time we see an intra-communal dispute come before the secular courts.

The Catholic Herald recently reported that Equalites Minister Mike Foster believes that the Equality Bill, going through Parliament, could result in more religious discrimination suits.

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