Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Get texting - Limmud style

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 24, 2015

    War and peace may shortly be starting on BBC but Limmud has got there first.

    After all the recent debate over military intervention in Syria, there could hardly be more apposite theme for the chavruta - one to one - study programme at Limmud conference than that of war and peace.

    For an hour each day of the conference you can explore the subject with a study partner, looking it at through the prism of classic Jewish texts.

  • Where have all the Israelis gone?

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 17, 2015

    Charedi MK Rabbi Yisroel Eichler of the United Torah Judaism party was in town recently.

    In an interview with the Jewish Tribune, he set out his view why there was "no place" for a yeshivah student to be in the Israeli army.

    Whereas the number of soldiers was important in the past, today technology made it possible for an army to fight with fewer people, he argued.

  • Where have all the (US) rabbis gone?

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 10, 2015

    This is something I imagine I’d not be writing about again.

    But first some figures.

    Number of United Synagogue rabbis listed to speak in the Limmud UK conference programme:
    2013: 10
    2014: 9
    2015: 1

  • When it comes to domestic abuse we need to act and make a change - I should know

    Esther Marshall
    Dec 7, 2015

    Eight years ago I thought I had found someone who loved me. Sometimes he did seem to love me, but at other times, after the drug taking and the drinking, he became a different person. I was scared of him. What happened shook me and shattered my self-confidence to rock bottom. I would sit in the bathroom crying and in pain. But I never told anyone any specific details - because I was afraid; afraid of people thinking I was weak.

    Then last year I went to a conference called One Young World. One Young World is a conference for young leaders around the world, bringing together 1,300 young leaders from 196 countries - only the Olympic Games involves more countries.

    I sat and listened to all these young people talking about the amazing ways in which they were helping to make the world a better place. I couldn’t stop thinking that other people had done such wonderful things and inspired so many, and that all I had done was hide from the issues. I had written down my feelings but not shared them. I decided that I had to do something. I went back to my room each night and started to draw up a plan of what I’m most passionate about: Safety. Safety for women and girls.

  • Home alone without a Jewish school

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 22, 2015

    Last week we ran a feature about an 11-year-old Hertfordshire boy being kept at home by his parents because he had been unable to gain a place at a Jewish secondary school.

    Although he had attended a Jewish primary school, his applications to JFS, Yavneh College and JCoSS had all failed.

    He was offered a place at an academy in Watford or alternatively he could travel to King Solomon High School in Essex, where there have been plenty of spare places for Jewish children in recent years.

  • The heresy hunt comes to Europe

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 19, 2015

    Two years after a brave young American rabbi published an online essay, the row it provoked continues to rumble.

    You could not say that Rabbi Zev Farber’s thoughts were revolutionary. Others had expressed similar ideas before. But he opened the lid on a box that the Orthodox establishment in the States as well as elsewhere has tried to keep well and firmly shut for many years.

    He could no longer accept the classical Orthodox belief that the Torah was simply dictated intact from heaven to Moses during the Israelites’ years in the wilderness; its text was edited over time by divinely inspired prophets, he argued. The sanctity of Torah still remained for him; it was just that his interpretation of Torah miSinai, Torah from Sinai, differed from the norm.

  • What to do about the children of intermarried couples?

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 17, 2015

    Inreach or outreach? It’s a continuing dilemma for policy-makers in Jewish communities.

    Do you target your educational efforts on those who are already within the communal loop – synagogue members, Jewish day school pupils etc? Or do you try to engage the widest spectrum of Jews, or even potential Jews? If money were no object, of course, you would not have to choose.

    When the intermarriage rate is now close to 60 per cent, as it is in the United States - and 70 per cent of the majority non-Orthodox Jewish population who have recently married have a non-Jewish partner - then it is harder to ignore the children of mixed marriages.

  • Israel, British Jews and the religious divide

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 12, 2015

    The findings of the City University survey on British-Jewish attitudes to Israel will no doubt be talked and argued about over Friday night tables, Saturday morning kiddush and elsewhere over the next few days.

    While some of the headline stats will attract attention – massive opposition to settlement expansion and concern at the Israeli government’s stance on peace - the report overall presents a more complex and nuanced picture of British Jew’s relationship with Israel.

    One striking trend is the relationship between religious affiliation and dovishness. It is not new – as the authors of the report note, it was reported on by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research 20 years ago. But the latest figures present it in more depth.

  • Does the Jewish community care about climate change?

    Amy Leckerman
    Nov 6, 2015

    A few months ago we were told to start thinking about our dissertation – the 10,000-word research project that would be the biggest piece of work we would submit at university.

    I study geography at the University of Sussex, which isn’t a popular subject for Jewish students here; there are two of us in my year of over 100 students. Yet I’ve always been interested in it, and particularly so when it comes to climate change as it is such a topical and constantly debated issue.

    Media, experience in extreme weather events and religion have all had a massive influence on people’s perceptions. However Christianity was the only religion discussed during lectures on the topic. There was no mention of Judaism or any other religion.

  • Here we are, the Jews again

    Marcus Dysch
    Nov 4, 2015

    “Here we are, the Jews again.”

    That was the infamous welcome Sir Gerald Kaufman offered when his fellow Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman rose to speak in the Commons in March 2011.

    I wonder though, as we wade through yet another antisemitism row in Westminster, whether it is also becoming a standard reaction in the corridors of power whenever the Jewish community raises its indignation over the latest outrageous antisemitic comments of one of our politicians.