Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Don't switch off yet

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jun 19, 2009

    Of course, it had to happen one day. A reform synagogue in Virginia podcasts all its religious services and, reports the rabbi of Temple B'nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, “It's been fantastic for our members, especially the elderly, people with chronic illness and those serving in the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and foreign service assignments.” Why, people even “take services on their vacations and on business trips...our teens listen to the podcasts even when they are not away.” I cannot imagine this will ever catch on with the United Synagogue. Can you imagine, no more deficit shuls or crumbling cathedrals (often the same)? Services will be transmitted from Studio 4B at Marble Arch and from the property sales there would be tons of money for the redundant rabbis' pension fund. Of course, it would spell the end of communal kiddushim and we would have to take kiddush at home alone. No, most definitely not for the United Synagogue. Not in my lifetime...

  • A nose for a good story

    Jenni Frazer
    Jun 18, 2009

    How, I wonder, could I have missed this piece of essential information for the world of journalism? The New York Times has a perfume critic.
    True, the appointment is now nearly three years old, but hey, some news takes time to filter through and it's always worth saving the best until last.

    But a perfume critic? In a newspaper? The perfectly named Chandler Burr, one of those roll-off-the-tongue American names which sound like parcels or marker posts for remote villages, is indeed the incumbent of this post. Every so often, his column sniffs the latest and then distils the top ten smells for a breathless public.

    Just think of the sheer, unbridled luxury of a newspaper that has a correspondent for absolutely everything. I'm sure that's what the JC is missing. We need a perfume critic. I love the smell of burning chopped and fried fish in the morning...

  • They're like us

    Stephen Pollard
    Jun 18, 2009

    Wednesdays are bad blogging days for me - it's press day - so forgive me being a day late with this, but if you haven't read Daniel Finkelstein's wonderful column on Iran, drop everything and do so now. It's here. I won't print an extract because I want you to read it all.

  • Fur-fetched

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 17, 2009

    A proposal in Israel to ban imports of fur could have unfortunate consequences for the Chasidic community: it could put a stop to streimels, the ornamental hats worn on Shabbat and festivals (and once described by the late Peter Cook as “furry frisbees”).
    Synthetic alternatives are available, apparently.

  • Let's have more inquiries

    Stephen Pollard
    Jun 16, 2009

    John Rentoul's blog is a must-read for analysis. His post today on the latest Iraq war inquiry is typically taut:

    What we really need are two inquiries into the Iraq war. The one announced
    by the Prime Minister yesterday, "to identify lessons learned", as he
    put it. And another one to do what its critics almost unanimously agree
    that the Chilcot inquiry will fail to do.* The terms of reference for
    this second inquiry were set out in a letter to Editor of The Independent in December (I paraphrase):

    inquire into the reasons why the four previous inquiries into the Iraq
    war failed to come up with the conclusions expected by all
    right-thinking people.

    This inquiry should be held in
    public, be fully independent (chaired by Tony Benn, members George
    Galloway, Philippe Sands, Jon Snow, etc.) and the cost borne by public


  • Twittering Iran

    Stephen Pollard
    Jun 16, 2009

    Here's an interesting take from The Times' tech blog on the Iranian protests which shows how sites such as Twitter aren't merely for teenagers (or, for that matter, middle aged editors) who want to tweet inanely:

    Twitter is one of the means of communication that appears to be
    playing a revolutionary role in the aftermath of the Iranian elections.
    Tens of thousands of tweets with the tags #iranelection and #iran are
    filling the microblogging service as Twitter users inside Iran get news
    out of the demonstrations and beatings and have their tweets passed on.

    One of the big trending topics was also protests about the
    scheduled maintenance downtime for Twitter which was supposed to be
    tonight (Pacific time) #nomaintenance. In response Twitter moved the
    downtime to tomorrow 2-3pm Pacific time which is in the middle of the
    night Iran time.

  • Anger management, rabbinical style

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 15, 2009

    Rabbis don’t often talk openly about the problems that they have with congregants.

    But in an article for the latest edition of Common Ground , the magazine of the Council of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer reveals how he coped with “a small but vociferous” element at his previous community (Northwood).

    “It seemed to be that whatever I did, I could not please them and their unfair criticism and machinations put a tremendous strain upon me and my family,” he writes.

  • After Tehran, Cairo - but different

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jun 14, 2009

    Egypt is not exactly a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. Although President Mubarak, now in his fifth term, authorised a multi-party system of presidential elections in 2005, matters were so rigged that almost nobody else had a chance of winning. He would probably win once more if he stood again when his term ends in 2011. But he will then be 83.

    Egypt is key to the maintenance of peace in the Middle East. Although her peace treaty with Israel has never blossomed into the warm and friendly neighbourly relations that so many Israelis hoped for, she has rigorously upheld the legal terms of the treaty and frequently placed a cooling hand on those local and regional hotheads who would like to turn the cold peace into a hot war.

    Who follows Mubarak is important to the continuation of tranquility on Israel's southern border. Nothing is certain in the Middle East, but current signs are that, as has happened in Morocco, Syria and Jordan, a son will follow a father into the seat of power and Husni Mubarak will be succeeded by his 45-year old son, Gamal (known to the “street” in Cairo as “Jimmy”).