Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Antisemitism & Its Antidotes

    Winston Pickett
    May 10, 2012

    Tonight I begin teaching an eight-week course called “Antisemitism and its Antidotes: From Talk to Action” as a part of a Limmud-inspired, cross-communal study programme in Brighton and Hove called Lishmah Sussex.

    I’ve chosen the title for two key reasons, both based on observations I have made over the years.

    The first is that when people raise the subject of antisemitism or talk about it in any way, the conversation rarely stays ‘on topic’. It tends to wander – from definitions of what constitutes antisemitism, to debates about its reality or pervasiveness, rapidly descending into an encapsulated history of Jew-hatred throughout the ages.

  • Vidal Sassoon: What a nice man

    Jenni Frazer
    May 9, 2012

    Without a doubt, Vidal Sassoon, whose death has just been announced, was a really lovely guy. I interviewed him a few years ago and was astonished when Sassoon, rather than take refuge behind a usual retinue of "people" and hangers-on, made all the arrangements for the meeting himself, phoning me up, just like a regular human being. This was unusual behaviour for a celebrity, but Sassoon was unusual. A fierce anti-fascist and lifelong fighter against antisemitism, he didn't just talk the talk. He was a mensch who never forgot his roots. Baruch Dayan emet.

  • Now we're 64: Ambassador Taub's children steal the show

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 30, 2012

    At the Israeli Embassy's Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration last week, Ambassador Daniel Taub's children wowed guests with their version of "When I'm 64".

    The song, performed by Judah, Sophie, Reuven, Asher and Amichai Taub, had the audience clapping and cheering - and for good reason.

    When we were younger, when Israel began, not so long ago

  • Keep me a seat in the Lords

    Simon Rocker
    Apr 26, 2012

    A parliamentary committee this week backed the government’s proposal that in future members of the House of Lords should be restricted to a maximum 15 years’ service.

  • Extraordinary

    Jenni Frazer
    Apr 25, 2012

    The Guardian's letters page and its adjunct Corrections column is a constant source of fascination. This week it excelled itself with a letter from Ben (I am not an antisemite) White, letters attacking the Globe Theatre for not withdrawing its invitation to Habima to perform in London, a correction for having traduced the JC over a BNP blog, and this little gem:
    "The caption on a photograph featuring passengers on a tram in Jerusalem observing a two-minute silence for Yom Hashoah, a day of remembrance for the six million Jews who died in the Holocaust, wrongly referred to the city as the Israeli capital. The Guardian style guide states: 'Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel; Tel Aviv is.'"
    Well. Where to start? With one hand the Guardian giveth, with the other it taketh away. It carefully cloaks itself in we-love-the-Jews-hood by running the Yom Hashoah photograph in the first place. Even the Guardian couldn't find anything snarky to say in the caption.
    But wait! Yes, it had made a mistake according to the paper's style guide. It is the paper's style guide, you see, which carelessly runs roughshod across international norms of sovereignty and a country's right of self-determination. No matter that Israelis believe Jerusalem to be their capital; the Guardian style guide trumps that belief, as simply wrong.
    No ifs, buts, qualifications; the Guardian knows best. Here is The Times on the same issue: "Jerusalem must not be used as a metonym or variant for Israel. It is not internationally recognised as the Israeli capital, and its status is one of the central controversies in the Middle East." That's a reasonable and sane approach.
    Sad conclusion: the Guardian has lost the plot.

  • What Mel Gibson could learn from Lady Bracknell

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 12, 2012

    So, does Mel Gibson really “hate Jews” quite as much as Joe Eszterhas claims he does?

    According to Eszterhas, Gibson is an unrepentant antisemite, who used him to clean up his reputation after that infamous drink-driving anti-Jew rant, and all the rest. Mel Gibson will no longer star as Judah Maccabee, the Jewish hero and warrior, or at least not in the Warner Bros version of the film as scripted by Eszterhas.

    Eszterhas’ private letter to the actor, made public on a gossip website as all good Hollywood take-downs are these days, includes some pretty strong accusations; Gibson wanting to convert Jews through the film (he thinks his acting is just that damn good?), rubbishing the Holocaust (that old faithful) and repeating the blood libel of “the sacrifice of Christian babies and infants” (FYI, Mel, that’s not what the Torah says).

  • Drake's "re-barmitzvah"

    Marcus Dysch
    Apr 11, 2012

    Canadian rapper Drake is one of the hottest names in the music industry at the moment.

    His collaborations with Rihanna have propelled him to the higher echelons of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. He has written tracks for, and performed with, global megastars including Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and Alicia Keys. Drake has almost seven million Twitter followers.

    Drake – whose real name is Aubrey Graham – was born in Toronto in October 1986, the son of an African-American father and Canadian-Jewish mother, who sent him to a Jewish school and ensured he had a barmitzvah.

  • The Sheikh, the minister and the shambles

    Marcus Dysch
    Apr 11, 2012

    What a mess.

    From start to finish Raed Salah's deportation has been an utter shambles. The latest ruling – this time from the Upper Immigration Tribunal – arguably only deepens the sense that the authorities have lost control of the case.

    For Mr Ockelton and his colleagues to have ruled that the blood libel was invoked and admitted that Jews would be offended by Sheikh Salah’s comments, but ultimately found in his favour, only adds to the confusion.

  • Seth Cohen, still the same after all these Chismukkahs

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 5, 2012

    If someone (me?) was ever to rank television's greatest Jewish characters, my vote might go Seth Cohen, the geeky, Jew-fro-sporting, wisecrack-making son of Kirsten and Sandy in the pop culture phenomenon that was The OC.

    Josh Schwartz's drama series might have centred on the lives of the rich and fabulous in Southern California, but at the heart of the affair was an idealistic Jewish lawyer from the Bronx and his son.

    Adam Brody, the actor who brought Seth to life for four seasons, has been out of the spotlight since the series wrapped. But according to New York Magazine, he's back. In an interview with him this week, there was a gem that could have come from the mouth of Seth himself.

  • Angels of Mersey

    Marcus Dysch
    Apr 3, 2012

    Among the most valuable work being done to help Jewish students around the country is that of the dozens of chaplaincy families employed by organisations representing all spectrums of Jewish life.

    New BBC documentary Angels of Mersey follows chaplains of all religions working in Liverpool. Among them is Rabbi Shmuli Brown, Chabad’s representative at universities in the city.

    Last night’s episode showed him at work and featured his efforts to engage with young Jews arriving for Freshers’ Week. Rabbi Brown explained how he is contacted by worried parents and carries out meticulous online research to find out who will be studying on Merseyside and what assistance they might need.