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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘London’

British Lawmaker Rankles Jews with Tweet Attacking Ariel Sharon

Monday, January 20th, 2014

British lawmaker David Ward has raised Jewish ire again for tweeting two days after the death of Ariel Sharon. “Sharon’s death makes you think. The brutal, genocidal treatment of Jews must never be forgotten but … the Palestinians were not responsible.”

One tweet in response to Ward, by British Jewish gay rights activist Benjamin Cohen, read, “I’m not sure who has implied the Palestinians were, other than you of course.”

“We are disappointed to see David Ward tweeting about sensitive issues in such a way,” read a joint statement from the Jewish Leadership Council and Board of Deputies of British Jews, the London Jewish News reported. “It raises questions about his motives and his real intentions.”

Ward also tweeted on Jan. 13: “Signed #Holocaust Memorial Book of Commitment in advance of the Holocaust Memorial Day — we must stand up for oppressed wherever they be.”

Previously, Ward had angered the Jewish community on International Holocaust Memorial Day last January when he said he was “saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could, within a few years of liberation, be inflicting atrocities on the Palestinians in the new State of Israel — and continue to do so.”

The controversy was renewed when reports emerged that Ward asked his staff if replacing “the Jews” with “the Jewish community” would mollify his critics, leading to another round of complaints and sanctions including a requirement that he attend language classes.

In July, Ward was suspended from the party for three months after tweeting: “Am I wrong or are am I right? At long last the #Zionists are losing the battle – how long can the #apartheid State of #Israel last?”

British Rabbis Scold Orthodox Shul for Letting Women Hold Torah

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

The British organization of orthodox communities has scolded a London orthodox synagogue for allowing women to hold and pass around a Torah scroll in the women’s section during prayers on Shabbat.

The incident has caused far less sensation than the more extreme and public campaign of the so-called Women of the Wall, a group of approximately 100 women who for years have campaigned to claim that “equality” means they can not only hold a Torah Scroll but also can read it at the Western Wall, adjacent to the Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount, and in violation of the desires of most daily worshippers there.

Men, unlike women, have an obligation to pray in a minyan with at least nine other men and to hear the Torah scroll being read on Mondays, Thursday, holidays, Shabbat and holidays.

Women’s involvement in public prayer has become more pronounced in recent years, and orthodox Jewish “women’s only” minyans are not uncommon in the United States.

In almost all orthodox synagogues, the Torah scroll is taken out of the ark for reading and is carried through the men’s section, although women in many synagogues are able to touch it as it passes their sections.

The Golders Green United Synagogue has now allowed it to be handed over to a woman, who then passes it around the women’s section until it is returned for reading or to the ark.

Rabbis could raise the issue of Jewish law that perhaps a man cannot touch a Torah scroll that has been handled by a woman who is not ritually clean because of her menstrual period, but the overwhelming issue is the traditional separation of sexes and involvement in prayers as a matter of modesty. The fear is that once one traditional barrier is broken, all of the barriers will be battered down.

Professor Benny Chain, chairman of Golders Green United Synagogue, said, “People have said what an emotional experience it is and that they feel much more involved in the service,” the London Jewish Chronicle reported.

Rabbi Ephraim Padwa, head of the rabbinate of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, condemned the practice as “Reform-influenced,” explaining that women handling the Torah and “breaches of this nature” come “from the influence of the Reform.”

The issue in the Diaspora usually arises during Simchat Torah, following the holiday of Sukkot. Women in American communities in Israel and others in the United States hold their own minyan for the holiday, read from the Torah scrolls and dance with them, as men have done for centuries.

The most outstanding aspect of the event of women holding a Torah scroll in the Golders Green synagogue is that is has not captured attention among the anti-Orthodox crowd and media elsewhere.

The New York Times took it on itself this year to sponsor the Women of the Wall campaign on its pages, inciting the American Jewish community to fury over the very idea of women not having the “right” to disturb centuries of tradition  at the Western Wall, all in the name of democracy and not Judaism.

Their claim that the Western Wall is a public place, and therefore open to all, holds not water. The Western Wall is a synagogue and is legally under the authority of the Western Wall Rabbi, misguided or not in not allowing women to hold their own minyan in other areas that would not disturb the public at large.

Unlike the Women of the Wall, the carrying of the Torah scroll by women in an orthodox synagogue is not a political campaign and is far more of a challenge to orthodox Jewry in the Diaspora. It raises a far more serious challenge to Orthodox rabbis throughout the world.

In Israel, where most Jews are “secular” but observe many Jewish laws and are generally respectful of tradition, “women’s rights” is of far less interest, The New York Times and the Women of the Wall notwithstanding.

Seventh Hanukkah Candle to Be Lit in Seven Nations Simultaneously

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Immigrants to Israel from seven countries will light Hanukkah candles Tuesday night simultaneously with Jews in seven other countries in a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Immigration and Absorption and The Jewish Agency for Israel.

The candle lighting in Israel will take place at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem, where 300 young olim  from France, Ethiopia, the United States, Yemen, Latvia, Latin America, and the Bnei Menashe community of India will be joined by Jews lighting at the same time in Paris, London, Moscow, Kiev, Tashkent and Budapest.

The event will be broadcast live  here at 3:30 p.m. Israel time (8:30 a.m. EST).

London Rabbi Suing Billionaire Philanthropist over Property Deal

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

A Ukrainian billionaire living in London is being sued by his rabbi over a joint property venture.

Rabbi Yonah Pruss claims that he and Gennadiy Bogolyubov, a philanthropist who is involved in the Chabad movement, entered into a deal to find, purchase and manage investment properties in Britain along with a surveyor, Colin Gershinson, according to the Times of London.

Bogolyubov put up the money for the properties identified by Pruss, a Chabad rabbi, and Gershinson, the newspaper reported. Pruss and Gershinson were to share in the profits.

But the rabbi, who reportedly eased Bogolyubov’s way into London Jewish society, discovered that two of the most valuable properties were placed into trust for Bogolyubov and his family. Pruss and Gershinson are now demanding millions of dollars for their share of the deals.

A lawsuit has been filed in a lower court, according to The Independent, and Pruss has threatened to take the case to Britain’s High Court.

Britain: ‘A World Capital for Islamic Finance’

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

The London Stock Exchange will be launching a new Islamic bond index in an effort to establish the City of London as one of the world’s leading centers of Islamic finance.

Britain also plans to become the first non-Muslim country to issue sovereign Islamic bonds, known as sukuk, beginning as early as 2014.

The plans are all part of the British government’s strategy to acquire as big a slice as possible of the fast-growing global market of Islamic finance, which operates according to Islamic Sharia law and is growing 50% faster than the conventional banking sector.

Although it is still a fraction of the global investment market — Sharia-compliant assets are estimated to make up only around 1% of the world’s financial assets — Islamic finance is expected to be worth £1.3 trillion (€1.5 trillion; $2 trillion) by 2014, a 150% increase from its value in 2006, according to the World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report 2012-2013, published in May 2013 by the consultancy Ernst & Young.

But critics say that Britain’s ambitions to attract investments from Muslim countries, companies and individuals are spurring the gradual establishment of a parallel global financial system based on Islamic Sharia law.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced the plans during a keynote speech at the ninth World Islamic Economic Forum, which was held in London from October 29-31, the first time the event has ever been held outside the Muslim world.

“Already London is the biggest center for Islamic finance outside the Islamic world,” Cameron told the audience of more than 1,800 international political and business leaders from over 115 countries.

“And today our ambition is to go further still. Because I don’t just want London to be a great capital of Islamic finance in the Western world, I want London to stand alongside Dubai and Kuala Lumpur as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the world.”

Cameron said the new Islamic bond index on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) would help stimulate fixed-income investments from Muslim investors — especially investors from oil-rich Persian Gulf countries — by helping them identify which listed companies adhere to Islamic principles.

Investors who practice Islamic finance — which is said to be structured to conform to a strict code of ethics based on the Koran and Sharia law — refuse to invest in companies that are linked to alcohol, gambling, pornography, tobacco, weapons or pork. Islamic finance also forbids collecting or paying interest and requires that deals be based on tangible assets.

Unlike conventional bonds, sukuk are described as investments rather than loans, with the initial payment made from an Islamic investor in the form of a tangible asset such as land. The lender of a sukuk earns money as profit from rent, as in real estate, rather than traditional interest.

Cameron says the British Treasury will issue £200 million (€235 million; $320 million) worth of sukuk as early as 2014. The objective is to enable the government to borrow from Muslim investors. The Treasury plans to issue fixed returns based on the profit made by a given asset, thereby allowing Muslims to invest without breaking Islamic laws forbidding interest-bearing bonds.

The Treasury also said some sukuk bond issues may require the British government to restrict its dealings with Israeli-owned companies in order to attract Muslim money.

Although Britain has already established itself as the leading secondary market for sukuk — the LSE has listed 49 sukuk bonds worth $34 billion during the past five years — such bonds have rarely been issued from local firms and never from the government.

“For years people have been talking about creating an Islamic bond, or sukuk, outside the Islamic world. But it’s never quite happened,” Cameron said. “Changing that is a question of pragmatism and political will. And here in Britain we’ve got both.”

According to Cameron, this “pragmatism and political will” is being influenced by the fact that Islamic finance is “already fundamental” to the success of the British economy. Indeed, it is.

Britain is already the leading Western center for Islamic financial and related professional services. It is a leading provider of Sharia-compliant finance, with reported assets of $19 billion, according to Islamic Finance 2013, a new report published by The City UK, a financial sector lobby group.

El Al Teams Up with GetTaxi

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

El Al has signed an agreement with GetTaxi to offer passengers discounts for GetTaxi’s cab hailing service in New York, Tel Aviv and other cities where it operates, the Globes business newspaper reported.

The discount from JFK to Manhattan will take $25 off the usual fare of $60-85. The discount program also is available in London and St. Petersburg, Russia.

The GetTaxi service in Israel will operate to the airport, giving El Al passengers a $5 discount. The discount is not available to inbound passengers because of an airport contract that gives one cab company exclusive rights to carry passengers out of the airport.

Roger Waters Open Letter Calls on Musicians to Boycott Israel

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

British rocker Roger Waters published an open letter calling on fellow musicians to join a boycott of Israel.

“I write to you now, my brothers and sisters in the family of Rock and Roll, to ask you to join with me, and thousands of other artists around the world, to declare a cultural boycott on Israel,” Waters wrote in the letter dated Aug. 18. The letter was previously drafted in July.

The former Pink Floyd front man said he was inspired to release the letter after British violinist Nigel Kennedy at a recent promenade concert at the Albert Hall in London called Israel an apartheid state. The BBC said it would remove his remarks in rebroadcasts of the concert.

Waters, who has been active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement for at least seven years, referred to the boycott of apartheid South Africa, saying that first a trickle of artists refused to play there, leading to a “flood.”

He singled out Stevie Wonder’s canceling of a performance for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces as a recent success story. Wonder quit his participation in the December fundraiser at the last minute under pressure from many corners.

“Please join me and all our brothers and sisters in global civil society in proclaiming our rejection of Apartheid in Israel and occupied Palestine, by pledging not to perform or exhibit in Israel or accept any award or funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights,” Waters wrote.

Waters recently came under fire for using at in his concerts a huge inflated balloon in the shape of a wild boar with a prominently visible Star of David, as well as a hammer and sickle, crosses and a dollar sign, among other symbols. It is a gimmick he has used for several years.

Henry Shaw & Names

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

What’s in a name? My late father had an only sibling called Henry Shaw. We loved our Uncle Hashy as we called him. He was huge, almost six-and-a-half feet tall, and had to stoop to get through the doors of our house. He had a deep but soft bass voice and a wonderful sense of humor. He was a marvelous raconteur, steeped in Yiddish culture and the intricacies of internal Jewish political warfare in Eastern Europe. His greatest impact on my life was the range of experiences he introduced me to, from Chazanut to Verdi’s Requiem, from Hillel Zeitlin to AJP Taylor, from Martin Buber to Bertrand Russell. He was less charismatic than my father, less combative, but a much more approachable person.

He qualified in social studies at London University and spent his life devoted to the Jewish Community, first in London in the Association of Jewish Youth, then running Hillel House in Endsleigh Street, London. He and his devoted wife, Sybil, provided a home from home for thousands of Jewish students from around the world for over twenty years. I saw most of him in my own student years and he was very supportive and encouraging. But then they ‘disappeared’ from my life and went off to Australia to take over the Hillel Foundation of Victoria which involved the Melbourne and Monash Universities. Five years later Henry switched to academia to help establish a Jewish studies program at Prahran College. His work eventually morphed into the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization at Monash. Sybil died in 1978, but Henry flourished until 1996.

I am writing this piece because this week is his Yahrzeit. But also because I am embarrassed to admit that I never found out why he adopted the surname Shaw. Which leads me to the issue of Jewish surnames. We Jews never really took them very seriously. Napoleon’s civil reforms insisted that everyone had to have a surname. Previously non-Jews had Christian names (yes, that’s what first names were called in Britain until the sixties) and Jews had Jewish names on to which occasionally one added a location or a profession. When the law of the land insisted on surnames Jews usually took their profession, the town they came from, or a Latin version of a Hebrew word like Benedict or Priest. Amongst themselves they invariably used only Hebrew names, until the process of acculturation took hold. This explains why Jews tended to be rather cavalier about changing their civil names or having them changed by others.

My paternal grandparents came from Radomsk. My grandmother was a Bialystock, the name of a Polish town. My grandfather’s family name was a more Russian, Rozrasowski . During the great migrations of over a hundred years ago, lots of migrants took or had simpler or more western names given to them as they came through immigration. You have heard of the old Jewish gentleman called, improbably, Shawn Fergusson because when he arrived at immigration in a state of exhaustion and shock and was asked his name he said in Yiddish, “Shoyn Fergessen“ (“I forgotten.”). Or the Chinese man called Moishe Greenberg because as he came through after a Jewish migrant and gave his name as Sam Ting, they thought he meant “the same thing”.

Seriously, when the Rozrasowskis came to London in the early part of the twentieth century the family simplified its name to Rosen. They must have thought it would sound more English! There were five girls and four boys. The boys decided that they’d rather be known by their first names, so as to differentiate themselves. That was how my Grandfather Shlomo came to be known as Mr. Solomons. Indeed his tombstone in Dublin (where he moved during the Depression) gives his name as “Mr. Sydney Solomons (Rosen)”.

My father was always known as Rosen, but his elder brother Hashy became Shaw. Was it to sound more English, or actually Irish? Shaw is a popular Irish name. When his parents moved to Ireland this was an era in which when getting a job or an apartment with a Jewish name was as difficult as getting one with an African name fifty years later. Or was it just a play on Henry’s nickname Hashy? One family tradition had it that he had lost his papers and got an Irish passport on the black market. The most improbable was that he had accidentally killed an anti-Semitic drunk in a fight and carried his name as a penance. Who knows? He never gave me a straight answer.

But if you think this story strange, let me tell you about my maternal grandfather, Moishe Yaakov Cohen, known as MJ. He was born Moishe Shumacher in Uman in the Ukraine. As a boy he emigrated to Tredegar in Wales. There he was taken under the wing of a relative whose name was Cohen, who had become the godfather of Jewish peddlers servicing the isolated Welsh mining villages of the Rhonda with haberdashery and other supplies that the miners paid for in installments. The peddlers went out on foot on a Sunday with goods provided by Mr. Cohen and did not come back till Friday to spend Shabbes together and make up the minyan. It was suggested to Moishe that if he had the same name as the boss it would inspire confidence. So Moishe Shumacher, the Levi from Uman, became MJ Cohen. Soon he did well enough to set himself up in business on his own in Manchester as MJ Cohen, General Draper (a fancy name for selling odds and ends). Later he transferred to Cardiff. One day he sent a letter back home on his notepaper inviting relatives to come and join him. When they read the invitation they had no idea who MJ Cohen was, but they did recognize the word “General” and assumed he’d been promoted in the army and had changed his name to Draper. Which explains why we once had relatives in Manchester called Draper.

All these people I have mentioned here only had one Hebrew name from the beginning to the end, names that linked them directly to their heritage of millennia. Their surnames were secondary, like a chameleon’s skin. But they, like my Uncle Hashy, were and are all proud and contributing members of the Jewish people. As far as I am concerned that’s what counts.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/henry-shaw-names/2013/08/18/

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