Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Was the Chief Rabbi right on Zionism?

    Simon Rocker
    May 13, 2016

    The Chief Rabbi made his strongest public statement since coming into office two and a half years ago when he intervened in the Labour antisemitism controversy, warning that the party had a “severe problem”.

    But one point he made has particularly generated over the past week – the relationship of Zionism to Judaism.

    This is what Rabbi Mirvis wrote: “Zionism is a belief in the right to Jewish self-determination in a land that has been at the centre of the Jewish world for more than 3,000 years ago. One can no more separate it from Judaism than separate the City of London from Great Britain.”

  • Small can be beautiful

    The Football Blog
    May 11, 2016

    Leicester City's astonishing Premier League victory has been one of the most romantic footballing stories of all time. Struggling against relegation last season; lifting the world-renowned trophy at the end of this one – Claudio Ranieri himself said it felt like a dream.

    Leicester hasn't only brought joy to fans all over the world, they have done a service to the Premier League as well. The rapidly widening gap between the richer, more famous clubs was becoming a concern for fans of the world's 'best league'. But Leicester’s unprecedented victory has proved that money is not a necessity for success, and that the top-flight should not be an exclusive playground for the big four.

    Looking back at my league predictions from July, the unpredictability of English top division is clear. I said that Chelsea would come second and Leicester, remarkably, rock bottom. Such was the magic of a true underdog story, to overcome all the odds (specifically, odds of 5,000/1).

  • Being stuck in revision is the very reason I need Shabbat

    Student Views
    May 11, 2016

    Friday evening rolled around and I was sitting in a corner of the library making notes on the performance history of Othello. At one point I checked my phone to see if I could justify turning in yet. It was only half seven, so the answer was no. It was still light outside.

    Then I realised that, if I wanted, I could run to my room and change, and then cycle over to shul in time for Kabbalat Shabbat. I only had forty-five minutes but that was enough. It was enough time for me to choose to have a proper Shabbat, to lay off revision for twenty-five hours and not feel guilty, to go to JSoc and appreciate a part of my life which I’ve sort of left behind.

    I used to really love Shabbat. It was something I looked forward to, and I’d get home from school on a Friday and have a shower and walk to shul, whatever the weather. I used to feel calm sitting at the back of the service, singing or listening, alone or with family or friends. When I was about seventeen I had a white sundress that I would wear in all seasons, and my brother had these strange white pyjamas, and we probably looked like idiots but we were doing it for a reason and we were happy about it. Kabbalat Shabbat used to be something routine and important. It’s not anymore.

  • The new London Mayor is a righteous priest!

    Le Blog Français
    May 10, 2016

    The views of a group of French Jews who are now living in London

    It occurred to me that Sadiq Khan, with a little twist with letters, could mean in Hebrew the righteous priest. Funny, isn’t it? In France, people focus on his religion: London has a Muslim mayor! Some say it is the sign of a healthy, open, diverse society. Others mourn the end of a civilization. I tried to explain that in London, the voters were not really interested in his Muslim identity, but rather in his ability to make a difference for the city. Of course, some tried to use this as a turn-off during the mayoral campaign, which I found quite absurd and a very low political argument. The fact is his victory is final.

    As I said in a previous post, I exercised my right to vote in a local election, as a European citizen living in a EU country (as do thousands of Brits in France and beyond). I am not going to tell whom I voted of course; it is a private matter, but I found quite interesting the choice Londoners made.

  • It is no longer enough to have beautiful football, we want to win

    Usually the Emirates stadium is filled to the brim with eager fans lapping up the Arsenal football. But last Thursday night, large portions of the stands were left vacant, season-ticket holders opting to stay in rather than watching the 2-0 victory.

    It could just be the inconvenience of a Thursday night kick-off, but I think that there is a deeper reason for the sparsely populated stands.

    The familiar placards reading 'Time for a change: Arsenal FC, not Arsene FC' were out in force again. Arsenal fans are disillusioned. Under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool fans once showed this same sense of resignation. I fear that we’re sinking deeper into a similar hole of mediocrity. To paraphrase the advert, we're good, but not quite Carling. We don't have that spark that ignites Leicester, or the hunger and desire that Jurgen Klopp has brought to Liverpool. It is no longer enough to have beautiful football, we want to win the Premier League.

  • We know antisemitism, so trust us when we identify it

    The JC Blog
    May 4, 2016

    It’s been a long week and I’m done.

    Antisemitism - discrimination against Jews - is not special. It’s a type of racism like any other.

    And like any other form of racism, it’s defined by the people who suffer from it, in this case, Jews.

  • Politics in the UK

    The views of a group of French Jews who are now living in London

    As a stereotyped Jewish Frenchman, I love politics. I believe we are lucky enough to live in democratic countries, on both sides of the Channel, and I dare to think that every voice counts.

    I am a curious observer of the British political landscape and, even though I do not get always all the subtleties, I find the British sense of democracy fascinating. Come on: a Queen and a democracy! For a French mind, that is quite a step. But it works.

  • End the beans ban now

    Simon Rocker
    Apr 28, 2016

    More Conservative Jews in the USA have been eating beans and rice this Pesach after the movement’s rabbinate lifted the ban on Ashkenazim eating kitniot, legumes.

    Among the factors cited for ending a centuries-old tradition were the growing number of mixed Ashkenazi-Sephardi families or the need to cater for vegans or people on gluten-free diets.

    But there is another reason why rabbis elsewhere ought to consider following suit: health.

  • I need to stop seeing every guy as a potential husband…

    Student Views
    Apr 26, 2016

    One of the great joys in life is blaming one’s mother.

    My mother and I have a long list of things that I’ll punish her for in later life. It includes her not teaching me how to blow-dry my hair, not buying me those patent shoes all the other girls wore, not providing me with a sister, and forcing me to listen to songs about times tables in the car. As I hope anyone can tell, this list is all tongue in cheek – it’s all true, but I don’t think the trauma of having to teach myself to blow-dry my hair is going to have a lasting impact.

    And, what’s more, she made a concerted effort to pass on some things which make up for it: for example, she hid her fear of spiders from me so that I can deal with them effortlessly, and she always encouraged me to make my own choices so that I didn’t inherit her indecisiveness.

  • On Malia Bouattia’s election as NUS President

    Student Views
    Apr 21, 2016

    Malia Bouattia’s views are incompatible with the values of the vast majority of Jewish students. This is a person who has welcomed an endorsement from a member of MPAC UK, an inherently antisemitic organisation. She has spoken in favour of ‘violent resistance’ and shared a stage with a PFLP hijacker. She has described the media as being “Zionist led”, and labelled her own University of Birmingham, a campus with the country’s largest Jewish student population, as “something of a Zionist outpost.” Many Jewish Society Presidents and others have since signed an open letter roundly condemning her.

    Recently the NUS endorsed the BDS movement and removed Jewish students from its anti-racism campaigns. Some attendees at this year’s conference reportedly argued against commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day. It is within this context that yesterday’s election of Malia Bouattia as President marks an irreversible shift in the NUS towards political irrelevance and ideological extremism.

    Most students don’t want divisive leaders. The NUS badly needs a President that unites students regardless of background or beliefs. Jewish students repeatedly complain of being ignored or suspected of acting in bad faith. Little indicates that Malia will do much to repair damaged relations between Jews and student activists, nor promote a respectful campus dialogue freed from the toxic debates of Israel-Palestine and the Middle East at large.