Simon Rocker

Stacey's snappy dad

By Simon Rocker, November 12, 2009

While Stacey Solomon sings her way towards TV stardom, her dad David is busy capturing happy memories as a simchah photographer. His speciality is Charedi dos, judging from the smiling couples in his online gallery such as Betzalel and Esty, Moshe and Sheina, Shloimele and Miriam.

Pity they don’t allow women wedding singers at frum functions, because I am sure Stacey does a mean Siman Tov Umazeltov.

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Ross Kemp takes on Israel

By Simon Rocker, November 12, 2009

A few weeks ago we reported a sighting of EastEnders actor Ross Kemp frolicking off the Tel Aviv beach.

But there was more to his visit than may have appeared. Sky have revealed that he is to present a two-part documentary series in January on the political situation in Israel and Gaza.

The programmes will give people “a better understanding of this complex and troubled part of the world”, he hopes.

His TV documentary career has already led him to explore gang warfare and soldiering in Afghanistan.

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The rabbi who created the rainbow tallit

By Simon Rocker, November 12, 2009

As the Jewish delegates strolled to the opening of last week’s interfaith conference on the environment at Windsor Castle, one in particular would have caught your eye: a man with a white beard, black hat and a multi-coloured tallit. Its wearer is one of the true innovators in contemporary Judaism, the neo-Chasidic rebbe who gave birth to the Jewish Renewal movement, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, over here on a rare visit here from the United States.

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Tony Blair plugs the Chief Rabbi's new book

By Simon Rocker, November 10, 2009

The first volume of the Chief Rabbi's commentary on the Torah, based on his online essay series, Covenant & Conversation, is now out. You can read an extract here:

"Jonathan Sacks is a truly towering figure," writes Tony Blair on the back cover. "As few other people can, he relates the insights of religion to the modern world."

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Chief Rabbi: Muslims can learn from Jews

By Simon Rocker, November 6, 2009

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said that Muslims need to learn to separate religion from power, in a major lecture in London this week.

“One of the great advantages of being Jewish, is you know how to sing in a minor key,” The Times reported him saying. “We have had 26 centuries of experience, ever since the Babylonian exile, of living as a minority in the midst of a culture that does not share our views.”

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Halve your kosher meat eating, say campaigners

By Simon Rocker, November 5, 2009

Jews should try to cut their meat consumption by half over the next few years in order to help combat global warming, according to leading Jewish environmental campaigners attending an international conference hosted by Prince Philip.

Representatives of the world’s faiths detailed their ideas to offset the impact of climate change at an Alliance of Religions and Conservation event (Arc) at Windsor Castle this week, attended by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

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Board fights 'racism' label in JFS hearing

By Simon Rocker, November 5, 2009

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on the JFS admissions dispute before the end of the year.

In the court’s most high-profile case since it opened last month, nine judges will decide whether Jewish schools can allocate places according to whether a child’s parent is Jewish.

JFS has contested a Court of Appeal decision made on behalf of a boy who had originally been rejected because the Chief Rabbi does not recognise his mother’s non-Orthodox conversion.

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Tonge defiant over fascist link

By Simon Rocker, November 5, 2009

Liberal Democratic peer Baroness Tonge is to attend a pro-Palestinian conference from which she had been asked by an anti-racist group to withdraw.

The anti-BNP Nothing British group called on her to pull out of the event organised by the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London over an apparent invitation to the far-right Hungarian MP Kristina Morvai.

Baroness Tonge, confirming her attendance this week, said: “Ms Morvai is not attending the conference. I understand the invitation was never issued formally.”

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Channel 4 defends Israel lobby probe

By Simon Rocker, November 5, 2009

Channel 4’s flagship investigations programme, Dispatches, is to probe what it calls “one of the most powerful and influential political lobbies in Britain” — the pro-Israel lobby.

The political columnist Peter Oborne is to front an hour-long broadcast, Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby, due to be broadcast on Monday week.

The hard-hitting documentary strand has been responsible for such programmes as Undercover Mosque two years ago, which included covert filming of Islamist extremists preaching in British mosques.

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Good times over as JNF seeks cash from Iceland

By Simon Rocker, November 5, 2009

The UK’s third biggest fundraising Jewish charity retains hopes of eventually recovering £375,000 that was caught up in the Icelandic banking crisis.

JNF UK deposited the money with a UK subsidiary of Iceland’s Kaupthing Bank, Kaupthing, Singer and Friedlander, which went into administration last year.

Samuel Hayek, JNF chairman, said: “We have had confirmation from the administrators that at least 60-75 per cent will be recovered. But we are hopeful that all the money will be recovered.”

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Punch and Juju

By Simon Rocker, November 5, 2009

Wanted: four to six “fairly observant” Jewish lads, aged between 16 and 25, willing to spend a weekend in Newcastle next month with some Muslim peers for a video project. Filmmakers Juju Productions want to record the “jovial rivalry” between the two groups, culminating in a trip to watch the world boxing title fight between Muslim Amir Khan and Jewish Dmitry Salita in the city on the night of Saturday December 5.

The young spectators are meant to bond in interfaith fraternity while their light-welterweight role models try to pound each other to a pulp.

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Cohen sings the carols

By Simon Rocker, November 5, 2009

Of course, next month’s Christmas Carol Singalong at London’s Albert Hall had to be led by one Jonathan Cohen.

The festive musician, whose credits include Playschool and Rentaghost, hails from the wouldn’t-have-got-into-JFS branch of Cohens, being of paternal Jewish descent, as well as a former church organist.So little chance of him slipping in Maoz Tzur between the herald angels and merry gents.

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Friend and F.O.

By Simon Rocker, November 5, 2009

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens found a warmer reception at the Foreign Office than on his last visit 20 years ago.

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Anger over anti-Zionist Rebbe’s visit

By Simon Rocker, November 4, 2009

Religious Zionists are up in arms over an impending visit this week by the anti-Zionist Toldos Avrohom Yitzchok Rebbe to a synagogue built by the late Rabbi Walter Wurzburger, a leading light in American modern Orthodoxy.
You can read more on the Honestly Frum blog.
“Is this a smart move?” wondered an editorial in the local

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Organ donation could be 'murder'

By Simon Rocker, November 3, 2009

Almighty row brewing in Israel, according to Ynet. Israel's Chief Rabbinate has said that brain death is acceptable in Jewish law for the purposes of removing organs for donation - but the right-wing Eda Charedit says: "If organs are taken from (a person in such a condition) it is murder."

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Don’t clap the barmitzvah boy

By Simon Rocker, November 3, 2009

Something happened in shul on Shabbat which I don’t recall before. When the barmitzvah boy finished his part, having leyned a sizeable chunk of sidrah and haftarah with aplomb, he was greeted with applause from among some of the congregation. Where has this new craze come from? Does anyone know? When rabbis finish their sermons, can we now expect the shammas to urge "Now, please show your appreciation in the customary way..."

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Equality watchdog: JFS admissions are racist

By Simon Rocker, October 30, 2009

Britain’s equality watchdog has weighed into the JFS court case, arguing that it should remain unlawful for Jewish schools to select children on the basis of whether their parents are Jewish.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission told the Supreme Court this week that it considered using parental descent to decide admissions as racial discrimination.

The commission “considers that all rules based on a person’s descent from a particular class of persons are properly considered to be racial rules,” it stated in a written submission to the court.

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School in radical Islam link

By Simon Rocker, October 29, 2009

Haringey Council has suspended funding to an Islamic primary school whose backers have been linked to the radical group Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HUT).

The Islamic Shaksiyah Foundation, which runs schools in Tottenham, north London, and in Slough, received £113,411 of government educational grants in 2007/8, according to a report from the Centre for Social Cohesion due out this week.

It named ISF trustees Farah Ahmed and Yusra Hamilton as members of HUT, a group which Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said he would ban.

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Chatham House man 'fired' because of pro-Israel book

By Simon Rocker, October 29, 2009

The author of a new book sympathetic to Israel believes his views ultimately cost him his job at the UK’s most prestigious foreign-affairs think tank.

Robin Shepherd, whose new book, A State Beyond the Pale — Europe’s Problem with Israel explores hostility towards the Jewish state, says his pro-Israel position put him at odds with the leadership of London’s Chatham House.

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Top judges ask who is a Jew as JFS hits Supreme Court

By Simon Rocker, October 29, 2009

Nine of the leading judges in England and Wales this week grappled with the fraught question of who is a Jew as the legal dispute over entry to JFS finally reached the highest secular court, the new Supreme Court.

A three-day hearing before a packed courtroom opened on Tuesday with far-reaching implications not only for other Jewish schools but potentially for those of some other faiths as well.

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