Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • The Board of Deputies shouldn't insult non-Jewish schools, nor the parents who send kids to them

    Keren David
    Jul 1, 2015

    ‘If you don’t live in a leafy suburb like Richmond,’ said the new president of the Board of Deputies, Jonathan Arkush, last week, ‘you just won’t send your children to the local schools. They are rife with problems – bullying, violence, drug-taking and racism.’

    In Mr Arkush’s day job he is a barrister, paid to construct clever arguments. In this statement, hidden within a double negative is a fearful view of the world outside a sealed sphere of privilege. For ‘leafy’ read affluent, for ‘local’ read working class and multi-cultural. Mr Arkush seems to believe that Jewish children can only be safe when removed from the mainstream. He speaks out against racism, but there is a disquieting undercurrent to his words that pulls in the other direction.

    I wonder why Richmond escapes his gloomy view of the world. Perhaps he has friends who live there who send their children to local schools. Maybe these children are clearly happy and well-adjusted, neither bullied or bullying and manifestly drug-free. Richmond, he allows is the exception to the rule. A utopia where Jewish children are free to mingle with their non-Jewish peers, unlike the dystopian hell that rules elsewhere.

  • Rally result is a victory for our community - not a time to score points

    Marcus Dysch
    Jun 30, 2015

    There will inevitably be a lengthy post-mortem into the various co-ordinated and un-coordinated responses to the antisemitic demonstration due to take place this weekend.

    The roles of campaign groups, security groups, politicians, police, the media, and more will all be assessed.

    There was, understandably, substantial concern within both the Jewish and local communities about the prospect of skinheads on the streets at the heart of our community this Shabbat.

  • Sacks and Violence

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 29, 2015

    Simon Rocker is Judaism Editor for the JC

    Lord Sacks’s new book, Not in God’s Name – Confronting Religious Violence, should be a must-read for any Jewish educator. Its central section is a close reading of some of the stories of Genesis, interpreting them in a way which shows how sacred texts can support conciliation between people of different faiths rather than confrontation.

    While he depicts conflict between Jews, Christians and Muslims as a form of sibling rivalry, it is not a permanent condition, he argues. Genesis begins with fratricide – Cain murders Abel – but ends with the reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers.

  • An Open Letter to those living in the UK

    Liora Resnick
    Jun 25, 2015

    This blog was first shared on Facebook as an open letter from 16 year-old Hasmonean student Liora Resnick

    Like all sixteen year olds my age, irrespective of my race, religion or ethnicity, I worry about normal sixteen-year old things: I worry about whether I have done the right homework and what to wear to the oh-so-important party next Saturday night. I worry about if I can afford those concert tickets that I am desperate to go to, and I worry about if that look that boy gave me that one time meant anything or not.

    But unlike most other sixteen-year old girls, I worry about something that is far bigger than any of those trivial things:

  • Experts failed to see this school-places shortfall coming

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 25, 2015

    The competition for Jewish secondary school places has clearly caught the community's educations leaders by surprise. With little over two months to go to the start of the new school year, you might have found a handful of children still waiting for places at this stage in the past few years. But there appear to be at least a classful this year.

    What has fuelled anguish even more is that many of these children are at Jewish primary schools and had expected to go on to Jewish secondary schools. It must be galling to have invested in your children's Jewish education and be left in the lurch, when other, less committed, families may have clinched places through the entry lottery simply by turning up to synagogue a few times.

    The opening of two new state-aided Jewish secondary schools in the north-west London area in the past decade - Yavneh College in Hertfordshire and the Jewish Community Secondary School in East Barnet - had led to fears of the opposite problem: too few Jewish pupils to fill them. Instead the reverse has happened in a relatively short space of time.

  • London has a duty and responsibility to stand together with its Jewish citizens

    Tulip Siddiq
    Jun 24, 2015

    Last week in Parliament, I felt deeply honoured to give my maiden speech before the House of Commons. I felt honoured to celebrate the rich political history, the tapestry of cultures and the spirit of community that defines my constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn. Crucially, I felt honoured to speak for the values upon which I was elected, particularly the need for collective responsibility in the face of adversity.

    It is in that spirit that I have decided to sponsor an Early Day Motion as my parliamentary response to the anticipated presence of far right groups in Golders Green. The motion calls upon the Government to isolate the politics of hate and division, but also to celebrate the work being done to promote solidarity and celebrate diversity in the local area. Whilst some MPs may dismiss such motions as simple gestures, I would argue that the historic consequences of allowing bigotry to fester unchallenged are too grave to ignore.

    As with several neighbouring constituencies of North London, Hampstead has seen an increase in antisemitic incidents over the past year. Whether it was swastikas being daubed on signs in Hampstead Heath, or concerned parents fearing for their children's safety in school, antisemitism has reared its ugly head and must continue to be met with an uncompromising, zero-tolerance response. My Early Day Motion forms a small part of the necessary efforts, which is why its wording sought to give a platform for the work of local campaigners.

  • Strategy conference? This was all about the politics

    Orlando Radice
    Jun 24, 2015

    It was billed as a strategy conference and boasted an impressive line-up of guest speakers, but the only narrative truly advanced by Bicom’s UK-Israel policy event in London on Monday was that Israeli politics is a mess.

    The Knesset is an uncomfortable place these days. The government has a majority of one and in the horse-trading that preceded the creation of the current coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to hand out roles on the basis of whether MKs would support him in Knesset votes rather than whether they were best suited to the position.

    Enter the conference’s headline speaker, Silvan Shalom, who has three day jobs: Deputy Prime Minister, Interior Minister and head of any future peace talks.

  • JW3's pop-up learning

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 23, 2015

    There are probably more people involved in the serious study of Jewish texts than ever before. But you don’t have to have gone to yeshivah or sem to enjoy it.

    If you want a taster of text, then London’s JW3 centre is running a “Pop-Up Beit Midrash” tomorrow night (Wednesday June 24, tickets £10 with supper).

    It is being led by two tutors from the Pardes Institute of Jerusalem, Nechama Goldman-Barash and Rabbi Alex Israel.

  • Sex education is failing pupils

    Emma Jacobs
    Jun 11, 2015

    As far as I am concerned, it is time to talk about sex.

    Earlier this year, David Cameron announced his plans to tackle the ubiquity of porn. According to him, porn is "corroding childhood" - something he wants to change by having internet providers to UK homes block pornography, unless the homeowner specifically opts in to view adult content.

    But recently leaked documents from the Council of the European Union suggest that the only "block" to his plans is coming from Brussels, which opposes his measures.

  • Why we’ll be on the streets on July 4

    Gideon Falter
    Jun 11, 2015

    Just how accepting are we supposed to be of neo-Nazis? Should we repeatedly allow them to walk past the homes and families of Holocaust survivors? Should we indulge them as they desecrate the calm of Shabbat? Must we explain to our children that "never again" comes with a special waiver for "small" demonstrations?

    On April 18, the community ignored a small neo-Nazi demonstration in Stamford Hill, and Campaign Against Antisemitism did not disagree with that decision.

    The neo-Nazis go from community to community looking for attention, and the conventional wisdom is that the worst thing to do is to give it to them. Their demonstration in Stamford Hill was a damp squib; they wanted to demonstrate against Jews but to avoid arrest they had to settle for protesting against the livery painted on a Shomrim car. They demonstrated in small numbers, then went to a local pub.