X-itement in Golders Green

As Jewish contestant Stacey Solomon sailed through to the second round of the live finals in Britain’s top TV show, fans have been flocking to the multi-million pound house where she and her fellow competitors are living.

Among those lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the stars were Kerem pupils Max and Reuben Gordon. “We literally live around the corner,” mum Talya told the Jewish News. “Every single day we drive past and I just happened to stop on the way to school because the gate of the house was opening.”

Lo and behold, the stars emerged and were happy to pose for pics with Max, seven, and Reuben, five. “They were very accommodating and really sweet,” said Talya.

So how did the children find their brush with X Factor fame? “They were completely overwhelmed and a bit shell-shocked,” recalled Talya. “They went very quiet but got quite excited afterwards. They thought it was great fun and couldn’t wait to get to school to tell everyone.”

While she says the Gordon family’s supporting Stacey all the way, she admits they’re also impressed by Lucie and Joe. But having met the contestants, have Max and Reuben set their sights on the spotlight? “I don’t think so,” mused Talya. “I wouldn’t say their singing abilities have shone through just yet.”

Meanwhile, X Factor twins John and Edward may have got a battering in the press and been slated by Simon Cowell, but Woodside Park resident Janette Hechel is having none of it.

“They’re so friendly,” she said. “I saw them last week and when I saw them again this week they remembered me. I thought I hated them before but they’re really adorable. They’re the nicest boys.”

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Noam Shalit: Young Have A Real Influence

In an emotional address to the 170 junior members of Team GB – many of them the same age as his captive son who was seized three years ago by Hamas terrorists – Noam Shalit recalled the plight of another Israeli declared missing in action, Ron Arad.

“Several governments failed to bring him back,” he said, “and unfortunately we lost him. Everybody should learn from this lesson.” He also revealed that he’d personally tried to make contact with Hamas leaders in an attempt to get access to his son. However, he said: “Those with influence, the decision-makers are not willing to talk to the family.

“We don’t have any clue about his health,” added Noam, “because Hamas prevent any access to him by bodies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.” Asked what Jews worldwide could do to help, he urged the global community to “put pressure on the ICRC to be more determined, more assertive to obtain access to Gilad and fulfil its duty by international law”.

He went on to criticise the UK and USA for pressurising Israel to ease border restrictions on Gaza, while failing to speak up for his son. “These governments don’t mention there is still an open account… an unresolved issue between Israel and the Palestinians.”

The evening also featured a talk from Amir Goldshmidt, an 18-year-old member of the Shalit campaign, who is due to begin his army service in three months. He asked the audience: “Who is 18 years old? You could also be Gilad Shalit.

“We need to go into the army in Israel, to serve our country and we’re glad to do it.”

But expressing his despair at the failure to secure Gilad’s release, he added: “I go into the army knowing I could die or be injured, but I want to know my government would do anything to get me out of there.”

Noam told the Jewish News after the event: “It’s very touching that young people are interested in such issues. They are not expected to show any interest in this crisis but it seems they do and they show they are involved.”

He added: “They are part of the Jewish community in the UK – they can have an influence through their parents or through their youth movements. The main thing though is to raise awareness of the issue of Gilad.”

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What A Bobby Dazzler!

As he stepped onto the pitch at Neurim where Maccabi GB’s Youth Football team were about to take on their Australian counterparts in the 18th Maccabiah Games on Monday, players from all countries, way too young to have witnessed the historic win against Germany, crowded around the legend eager to be photographed with the former Man U striker who that night would lead the British delegation into the Ramat Gan stadium for the tournament’s opening ceremony.

“I’m very pleased to be here,” the 71-year-old told TJ. “It’s obviously a very big tournament for the people involved. They’ve come a long, long way and put a lot of effort into getting here so you’ve got to hold your hands up and say how fantastic it is.”

As to his own association with Team GB, Sir Bobby said: “When they asked if I would go on with them for the opening ceremony, I was very honoured and very flattered. I said ‘yes’, of course.”

There was more to his trip though than just walking out with Team GB. During his stay in the Holy Land, Sir Bobby also visited Football For Peace, a programme that seeks to bridge the divide between Israeli and Arab children.

“The project’s marvellous,” he reflected. “I support anything that brings people together. It doesn’t matter about your religion or whatever, the game of football overcomes everything. It’s the most fantastic sport.”

He was equally effusive in praising Israel, a country he’s visited a number of times over the years. “My wife and I have been well looked after,” he said, “We couldn’t expect anything better.”

Favourite locations, he revealed, include Caesarea and, of course, Jerusalem. “It’s marvellous,” he mused, “I’ve been three times but there’s always something new to see.”

A beautiful country, but what of the beautiful game – did Sir Bobby think the Jewish state could make its mark on the global pitch?

These days, football teams all over the world put a lot of effort in,” he said. “There’s a great scientific approach to the game. Smaller teams in the past may have thought that they had no chance against certain others. But now everyone can learn the defensive formations and all the different ways of just doing something that little bit special. Football’s changing and the growth of it is great.”

And what of the match we were watching? “It’s a good standard,” mused the veteran pro, before expressing a sentiment that could be applied to the whole Maccabiah. “There’s nice, sunny weather and the result is not the only thing… It’s not professional so enjoy it.”

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Sun-day on a Wednesday

Birkat Hachamah is recited just once every 28 years, marking the occasion when the sun returns to the precise position where it was when it was when it was first created.

An estimated 50,000 people came together for the blessing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, just one of a number of key locations in Israel where ceremonies were held. Worshippers also gathered in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, the holy city of Tsfat and on top of Masada where congregants watched the sun rise over the Dead Sea

Among the many venues in the UK at which the blessing was recited were the grounds of Kenwood, where Lubavitch of Edgware’s Rabbi Leivi Sudak presided over the service, accompanied by Chazan Avromi Freilich. The majestic location had been suggested by Dayan Ehrentreu with legendary concert promoter Harvey Goldsmith helping Chabad to get permission for the gathering. Describing Goldsmith as a “magician”, Rabbi Sudak said: “On erev Pesach, when we’re in such a rush and there are so many things to do, we take time out and we thank God for all the lovely things he gives to us.

“What I know, having spoken to someone in Israel is that overnight it was overcast, it was stormy and people were looking out of their windows and thinking would they be able to bless God over the sun or not. And then at quarter to seven, the sun came out and all of Israel has been basked in sunshine since. The same thing happened here in London. And I’m sure around the world, wherever Jewish people have gathered or will gather this morning, they will be waking up to sunshine.”

Around 200 Jews from Kol Chai, Middlesex New, Radlett and Bushey Reform and Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogues came together, meanwhile, for a service at the Grimsdyke Hotel in Old Redding.

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein of NPLS said: “We are celebrating as Progressive Jews and do not believe that this celebration actually marks the time when the sun is in the same position as when it was created. However, it is an opportunity to consider the works of Creation and their fragility. We are reminded of our obligation to take responsibility for our environment and to reflect on our use and abuse of the natural world.”

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Reprieve for Demjanjuk

Officers carried the 89-year-old out of his Ohio home in a wheelchair on Tuesday as members of his family looked on. He was due to be extradited to Germany to face charges in connection with the deaths of 29,000 Jews.

The retired autoworker, who was once sentenced to death for being Treblinka’s Ivan The Terrible – a conviction that was subsequently overturned by Israel‘s Supreme Court – is now accused by German prosecutors of being a guard at Sobibor in 1943. Demjanjuk claims that he himself was a prisoner of war.

Having been stripped of his American citizenship for a second time in 2002, a series of recent rulings in favour of his extradition have been overturned at the last minute. He had been due to fly to Munich on Monday last week but was granted a stay at the eleventh hour which was subsequently revoked.

On Tuesday, Demjanjuk was taken to a federal building in Cleveland, from where he was expected to be taken to a plane which would fly him to Munich.

However, his son launched a successful appeal at the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, claiming the trip would be tantamount to torture.

Welcoming the court’s decision to consider his former father-in-law’s bid for the case to be reopened, family spokesman Ed Nishnic said: “It’s just a shame that Mr Demjanjuk had to go through the hell that he went through once again this morning.”

Responding to the latest twist in the extradition tale, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre said: “We remain confident that John Demjanjuk will be deported and will finally face the bar of justice for the unspeakable crimes he committed during World War II.”

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Playwright Pinter Mourned

The author of such modern stage classics as The Birthday Party and The Caretaker, and movies such as The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Go-Between, passed away last Wednesday aged 78, following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Renowned for creating chilling characters and introducing disturbing ‘Pinteresque’ pauses into his works, he was hailed by fellow Jewish playwright Arnold Wesker as one of the world of theatre’s “favourite sons”.

Wesker told TJ: “Harold was brilliant at what Harold was brilliant. The landscape will not be the same without him.”

Actor Michael Bradley, currently appearing in Pinter’s No Man’s Land, said : “His loss is monumental and his influence cannot be calculated.”

Despite his acclaim as a writer and despite crediting his experiences of anti-semitism as the son of immigrants growing up in the East End as one of the factors that led him to become a playwright, Pinter often courted controversy for his outspoken political views, particularly on American foreign policy and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

A signatory to Jews for Justice for Palestinians and Independent Jewish Voices, he decried “Israel’s injustice to the Palestinians” as “an outrage”.
Actress-turned-MP Glenda Jackson said his death was “a great loss not only to the theatre but… also a great loss to people who fight for human rights.”

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New Dame In Time For Panto Season

Topping the bill in the gong show was the former head of BBC radio Jenny Abramsky. The 62-year-old, who left the corporation in June to assume the role as Chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, has been made a dame in recognition of her services to broadcasting.

“I’m thrilled,” she said, “because I believe this honour recognises the importance of radio in this country.”

She added: “Radio is an astonishing medium that people feel passionate about and I’m proud to have played a part in ensuring that it continues to thrive.”

Also honoured is Stanley Cundle who picked up an MBE for services to the Jewish community in Leeds. It’s the second accolade for the Alwoodley resident in three months.

In October, the 69-year-old who is chair of the Makor charitable trust, the Leeds Jewish International Performing Arts Festival and vice chair of the Zone youth club, as well as a former head of the Leeds Community Security Trust, was given the first ever Leeds award for services to the city.

Staying in Leeds, there was another MBE in the list for Auschwitz survivor Arek Hersh. A regular speaker at the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre, all proceeds from his book A Detail of History are donated to the facility.

Lauderdale Road Synagogue member Jenny Arwas, meanwhile, was also awarded an MBE for charitable services. A member of the London Council of the Prince’s Trust, a non-executive director of Employment Opportunities, which helps to find work for people with disabilities and medical conditions and a supporter of the Chickenshed theatre company, the mother-of-two said: “I am very honoured to be awarded an MBE. It was a complete surprise.”

Among others honoured were Marilyn Lazarus who was awarded an MBE for voluntary service to the Jewish Association for the Mentally Ill, Gerry Ells for services to tennis, Charlotte Michaels for voluntary service to the community in North London, Captain Samson Judah honoured for services to business and to the community in the East Riding region of Yorkshire and Bernard Lewis of Buckinghamshire for charitable services.

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A Kosher Butcher?

Cast your mind back to Guy Ritchie’s 2000 flick Snatch and you may recall that Mike Reid, who played the patriarch of Walford’s Butcher family, Frank, swapped Albert Square for Hatton Garden. More importantly, he also swapped his trademark porkpie hat for altogether more chassidic headgear and peyot, masquerading as diamond dealer Doug ‘The Head’ Denovitz.

Sounds authentic, but it was all just a scam. Fast forward eight years and back in Albert Square Frank’s youngest daughter seems to have seen Snatch and been rather impressed with her on-screen dad’s antics.

For now Janine – the Butcher child born with not just her own brains but also those clearly left behind by big brother Ricky when he emerged from the womb – has decided that she too can make a mint (or in EastEnders terms perhaps that should be make a Minty) by also conning people into believing she’s Jewish.

Which brings us to the soap wedding of the year – or rather chuppah of the year – when golddigger Janine, pretending to be a nice Jewish girl by the name of Judith Bernstein, ties the knot in Hendon United Synagogue with elderly sugar daddy David. Having convinced her groom that her own family were all killed in a car crash, the plan comes a cropper when Ricky, Billy and Pat learn of the ceremony and decide to attend – the latter proclaiming in shul: “She’s about as Jewish as a bacon sandwich!”

Meanwhile, when David, played by Harry Towb, quizzes the two men about the fact their not wearing kippot, Billy declares: “We’re not Orthodox”, and Ricky adds: “We’re unorthodox”.

Charlie Brooks, who plays Janine, told Digital Spy that her character took being Jewish very seriously. “It was a full commitment for her. She doesn’t do anything by halves. As soon as her groom’s dead though, Judaism’s dead as far as she’s concerned.”

• Janine’s wedding is on EastEnders, BBC1, 8pm, 18 December.

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Rabbi Murdered In Indian Terrorist Attack

The Lubavitch centre where they were based, Nariman House, had been seized by gunmen on Wednesday night. In the early hours of Friday morning, commandos had stormed the five-storey building in an effort to free the hostages.

Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife were among four civilian casualties found dead at the scene.

Their two year old child Moshe had been brought to safety on Thursday morning, rescued by a member of staff at the Chabad Centre.

Gavriel, 29, and Rivka, 23, who were both born in Israel, but subsequently brought up in Crown Heights, New York, had arrived in India in 2003 to run the popular outreach centre – a popular destination for Jewish and Israeli visitors to India.

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L’Inyonei Chinuch, the educational arm of Chabad-Lubavitch said: “As emissaries to Mumbai, Gabi and Rivky gave up the comforts of the West in order to spread Jewish pride in a corner of the world that was a frequent stop for throngs of Israeli tourists.

“Their selfless love will live on with all the people they touched. We will continue the work they started.”

Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, chairman of Chabad’s educational and social services arm, hailed the couple as “two of our finest” and described the centre as “a thriving hub of goodness and kindness”.

The American Jewish Committee issued a statement saying: “We express our grief over all who have been made victims of this terrorist rampage. We are both deeply saddened and utterly appalled by yet another vicious attack apparently by radical Islamist terrorists upon democracies and upon innocent civilians. In addition to grieving for all the civilians who have been killed, we honor the memories of the brave souls of the Indian security forces who have lost their lives fighting the terrorists.”

Speaking to the LA Times, Jerusalem-based Rabbi Mendy Deren said: “We are all sharing in this pain. It really is our brother and our sister. Their son, Moshe, now has 4,000 parents adopting him.”

The terror strike on Nariman House attack was part of a coordinated assault, with hundreds of individuals held hostage in two luxury hotels, many of them foreign nationals.

A group calling themselves ‘Deccan Mujahdeen’ has reportedly taken responsibilty for the attacks, with at least seven locations having been attacked since Wednesday night.

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Shine A Light For Kristallnacht Anniversary

Dozens of people were killed and thousands more rounded up for deportation, during an orchestrated night of violence which saw countless synagogues and Jewish-owned buildings throughout Germany and Austria ransacked and torched.

To commemorate the anniversary, more than 100 Members of Parliament have put their names to an Early Day Motion, tabled by Tory MP David Amess, noting that “Kristallnacht was a watershed event in Nazi rule, marking the beginning of the systematic eradication of the Jewish people and a prelude to the Holocaust”.

Praising the work of organisations such as the Holocaust Educational Trust, the EDM goes on to declare “that Kristallnacht should remind us that evil must always be confronted forcefully and that the civilised world cannot stand idly by whilst barbarism and mass murder continue to be committed against innocent people.”

Meanwhile, the United Synagogue is calling upon communities under its auspices to mark the anniversary by turning on a prominent light in their buildings on the night of 9 November.

Writing for TJ this week, US Chief Executive Jeremy Jacobs said such an act would “be a poignant expression of our freedoms 70 years after that fateful night, as well as acting as a memorial for all those who lost their lives during that attack”.

And urging other communal groups to take part, he added: “It gives us all an opportunity to work together in a meaningful and harmonious way; something we at the United Synagogue truly believe is vital for British Jewry as we unfortunately still face so many challenges, despite our freedoms.”

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