Simon Rocker

Going for Goldie

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2010

Goldie Hawn has apparently charmed the Tories with the idea of importing some of her education methods into UK schools.

Her charitable foundation promotes "deep belly breathing" and other exercises designed to help children focus better.

The goldilocked actress has a longstanding interest in Eastern spirituality as a Jewish Buddhist, or Buju - or should that be Jubu?

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See the family silver

By Simon Rocker, February 18, 2010

When Plymouth’s tiny Jewish community sold many of their antique artefacts at the end of last year to help pay for the upkeep of their 18th-century listed synagogue, there were the usual mutterings about Anglo-Jewry flogging off the family silver.

Historic items such as these often end up overseas; but at least some parts of the Plymouth collection were saved for the nation. They were bought by the British Museum in London and, now back from the conservators, they are going on view from Monday.

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The Pontiff and the Prophylactics

By Simon Rocker, February 12, 2010

My favourite headline from the religious press this week: "Vatican shelves 200-page condom study."
(from the Catholic journal, The Tablet)

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Michael Wolkind: I defended the BNP

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

This week’s Torah portion is clear: if a thief breaks into your house at night, you are entitled to take his life — though not in daylight.

How much force householders can use against intruders is once again under debate in Britain, following the case of Munir Hussain, the Buckinghamshire businessman jailed, then freed on appeal last month, after clubbing a burglar.

Despite calls for change, Michael Wolkind QC, the barrister who represented him, believes that the law should stand as it is.

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Beth Din rejects rabbis' call for end to conversion

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

The London Beth Din has rejected a call from a senior rabbi for a worldwide halt to conversions.

Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet of Mill Hill Synagogue, chairman of the US Rabbinical Council, proposed the suspension in a JC article last week because of continuing controversy over converts in Israel.

But the Beth Din said it took “exception” to his comments which did not reflect its “principles, policies or intended plans”.

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Tonge: Investigate IDF stealing organs in Haiti

By Simon Rocker and Martin Bright, February 11, 2010

Baroness Tonge, the Liberal peer, said this week that Israel should set up an inquiry to disprove allegations that its medical teams in Haiti “harvested” organs of earthquake victims for use in transplants.

Her call has been sharply criticised by fellow LibDems, but party leader Nick Clegg has refused to act against her.

The organ theft claims were published last week in the Palestine Telegraph, an online journal based in Gaza of which Baroness Tonge is a patron.

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United Synagogue helping JCoSS on kashrut issues

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

The United Synagogue is advising on kashrut arrangements at the cross-communal Jewish Community Secondary School, which will open in Barnet in September.

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Liberal Judaism to sponsor Book Festival

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

Liberal Judaism has joined the sponsors of one of the country’s top book events, next month’s Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival.

“The Oxford Literary Festival is growing in importance and scope and we’re thrilled to be part of it,” said Liberal Judaism chairman Lucian Hudson. “Liberal Judaism loves to challenge and be challenged where ideas are being discussed.

“What could be more fitting for the People of the Book than a literary festival? ”

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Fry: My gripe with Moses

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

Will Stephen Fry get an invitation to the Chief Rabbi’s next Chanucah bash — “Latkes and lox and bagels and blintzes. Hurrah,” he twittered after last year’s do?

Possibly not, I think, after his contribution to Channel 4’s programme on the Ten Commandments on Sunday. They were “the hysterical believings of a group of desert tribes,” he said. “Those desert tribes have stirred up more misery for mankind than any other group of people in the history of the planet and they are doing it to this day.”

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TV's battle of the brains

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

Fingers on the remote for BBC2 next Monday evening for the quarter-final of University Challenge, which features the long-awaited clash between two of the brainiest Jewish boys in Britain.

Natural scientist Alex Guttenplan will be battling for bonus points against physics undergraduate Gilead Amit, the respective captains of Emmanuel College, Cambridge and Imperial College London.

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Bernard hits the botul

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

Much snickering in Paris at the expense of Bernard-Henri Lévy. Taking a potshot at an Immanuel Kant in his latest book, the pin-up philosopher quoted from a book called The Sex Life of Immanuel Kant by one Jean-Baptiste Botul.

The only trouble is Botul doesn’t exist: he was a spoof figure invented by a journalist, Frédéric Pages.

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Deputies charmed

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

You can teach an old dep new tricks, as members of the Board of Deputies proved when they went for a show at the Magic Circle last Thursday.

Among them was former Board president Lord Janner, a member of the Circle himself who displayed the odd sleight of hand or two. Still, even he couldn’t produce any rabbis from the hat.

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Bibi and the boy wonder

By Simon Rocker, February 11, 2010

It could all been so different for Bibi…

Benjamin Cohen, Channel 4’s technology correspondent and ex-JFS pupil, who recalled his 1990s’ fame as a “teenage dotcom millionaire” on BBC radio this week, revealed that he came out of his English class at school one day when he got a call from the Israeli Embassy in London.

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New Israel Fund under fresh attack

By Simon Rocker, February 8, 2010

A second front has been opened against the New Israel Fund, the progressive philanthropic organisation.
NIF has already been under fire in Israel for funding organisations whose critical comments on the IDF’s conduct in last year’s Gaza operation were included in the controversial Goldstone report.
Now an article in the latest English-language edition of the strictly Orthodox newspaper, Hamodia, lays into the group for fostering pluralism in Israel.

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Media monitor says FT blames Israel

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

The Financial Times believes Israel is largely responsible for the failure to achieve peace with the Palestinians, according to the media analysis group Just Journalism.

The paper regards Israel’s settlement building as the main obstacle.

At the same time, it downplays other factors such as Palestinian terrorism, disunity between Fatah and Hamas and Palestinian failure to recognise Israel as a Jewish status, Just Journalism says, in a report based on examination of 121 editorials about the Middle East in the FT in 2009.

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Minister calms fears over Equality Bill

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

Mike Foster, the Equalities Minister, moved to reassure the Board of Deputies this week after the Pope attacked Britain’s anti-discrimination laws for threatening religious freedom.

Jon Benjamin, the Board’s chief executive, said that the minister had called him to reiterate the government’s belief that the Equality Bill, currently under debate in the Lords, would do no more than consolidate existing legislation.

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RE books often fail Judaism

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

Judaism is inadequately portrayed in religious education materials used in general schools, according to a report prepared for the government.

Textbooks contained inaccuracies and ignored the ethics and philosophy of the rabbinic tradition, the research team from Warwick University found.

“A particular issue was the failure of many of the resources to engage with the long tradition of Jewish thought over the last 2000 years,” the report said.

“Instead, the religion all too often comes across as the Old Testament religion that preceded Christianity.”

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Jewish charities struggle on funds

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

Communal welfare organisations are facing a further squeeze on their funding from local authorities, increasing the pressure to raise more from donors to maintain services.

Jewish Care chairman Stephen Zimmerman told a breakfast meeting of its business group this week that the charity was still battling with Barnet Council over funding.

“This year Jewish Care is currently not going to receive any increase in the amount given by our largest local authority and we are even fighting to achieve the status quo.”

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The Dame meets a Churchill

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

Among the 450 guests who graced the Anne Frank Trust’s annual lunch last Thursday was wartime forces’ sweetheart Dame Vera Lynn.

Popularity has never faded away from the veteran singer, now 92 (whose late husband was clarinet and sax player Harry Lewis — their marriage was recorded in the JC’s “dance band news” column in 1939).

“Everyone knows you more or less won the war single-handed,” one gushing trust volunteer was overheard telling her at the event.

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Diana's royal regret

By Simon Rocker, February 4, 2010

Anthony Julius’s history of English antisemitism, Trials of the Diaspora, acclaimed by Philip Roth for its author’s “intellectual acumen” and “staggering erudition”, is already creating a stir ahead of its publication later this month.

In a Sunday Times extract, the literary lawyer revealed that Princess Diana, whom he represented in her divorce with Charles, had told him that she should never have married into a German family.

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