Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • My brave mum's fight for herself and others is inspirational

    Maryon Stewart
    Oct 19, 2015

    I took time out from my schedule to be my mum’s personal PR Officer for the last few weeks. She’s 84 and has terminal ovarian cancer. On the day they told her that she’s coming to the end of her life she decided to do a sky dive to raise funds for research so that women with ovarian cancer have a better chance of survival long after she is gone. At first I thought she was joking; but she was deadly serious, because she wanted to give back and felt she had nothing to lose.

    She has been receiving treatment from the Royal Marsden Hospital in Fulham for nearly two years. First she had six sessions of chemo, followed by a huge operation, and then another six sessions of chemo. That controlled the cancer for a few months, but sadly it began growing again and none of the treatments tried since have managed to control it.
    Essentially, she’s been presented with a really difficult challenge, both physically and mentally, and the way she has dealt with it has been completely inspirational.

    In days gone by my mum would have perhaps been anxious and tearful, but instead she transformed into a zen-like Elder and has been an amazing example to us all. In the extra two years her doctor Professor Gore and his team at the Royal Marsden Hospital have given her, she has experienced so much personal joy through her family. She became a great-grandmother for the first time when my daughter Phoebe had baby Marnie. A few months later my eldest son Chesney married a wonderful young woman called Laura, who absolutely adores my mother. Her two grandchildren in Australia Emile and Chessca graduated from university and lastly - but by no means least in my world - I got engaged to a wonderful man.

  • When Twitter really was a community social network

    Jessica Weinstein
    Oct 16, 2015

    Today I helped man the JC’s Twitter takeover with the Chief Rabbi. As media partners of ShabbatUK, the theme of the takeover was Shabbat, and readers and Twitter users were encouraged to take part using the hashtag #weloveshabbat.

    Before he arrived there was a lot of activity in the office – tidying stacks of paper, cleaning desks, setting up food (this is a Jewish office after all). Staff members were debating whether to wear kippot and how to address him. It’s a weird phenomenon that people in the public eye take on an almost other-worldly quality when you meet them – and the fact that the Chief Rabbi came with his own security convoy to scope out the building didn’t help to lessen this!

    After a couple of weeks of our Twitter feed being unfortunately filled with harrowing and frankly scary headlines, it was nice to fill it with – as trite as this might sound – happy thoughts, messages of peace - and cholent recipes.

  • Why did Theresa May change her mind on immigrants?

    Josh Jackman
    Oct 7, 2015

    Three months ago, Home Secretary Theresa May told 420 guests at Hasmonean High School’s annual fundraising dinner that Britain was better off for immigrants - in fact, that diversity was the very reason for our success as a nation.

    Speaking with pride and certainty, she declared: “Britain is an amazing country, a thriving liberal country precisely because of the cooperation between peoples of different faiths and backgrounds.

    “It is at the heart of what makes this country such a great place to live, and is something we must always work hard to protect.”

  • Maccabi Tel Aviv were like rabbits caught in headlights

    Danny Caro
    Sep 17, 2015

    It was a bit like watching the school bully in the playground.

    Maccabi backed off and backed off until the bully hit them. Not once, but four times. And there were more than a few near misses too. In the end Chelsea were toying with them. And they didn’t need to break sweat.

    After 11 years in the wilderness of Europe’s elite, this was embarrassingly easy for Chelsea. Men against boys.

  • As Jews we should be outraged that Britain is not doing more to help refugees

    Josh Jackman
    Sep 3, 2015

    This could have been you. This could have been your family. In another time, during another war, while other people suffered this fate.

    These are humans, escaping death, poverty and the destruction of their homelands, risking everything they have to search for safety.

    Not for benefits, not for jobs or streets paved with gold. They come because the alternative is horrifying.

  • It is time to hush up the fear of exams and envelopes

    Charlotte Oliver
    Aug 18, 2015

    Envelopes still make me anxious.

    Eight years may have passed since I sat my A-Levels – but believe me, the foreboding still festers.

    I feel it as summertime beckons and April showers slip into the month of May, bringing with it the haunting flashback of devising revision timetables and committing myself to life chez library.

  • Should a charity ever turn down money?

    Josh Jackman
    Aug 12, 2015

    Not accepting money from a convicted paedophile sounds like a sensible idea, particularly for a children’s charity.

    But beyond the initial gut reaction, which is understandable - what justification is there for denying the most vulnerable children across the UK the care they desperately need?

    Barnardo’s works to banish the horrors of poverty, sexual exploitation, disability and domestic violence from the lives of children. For sure, it would be a PR disaster for the organisation to accept money from former Hasmonean pupil Miles Esterson, but cutting funding for these services cannot be the better option.

  • PC Rashty? It's no job for a nice Jewish girl

    Sandy Rashty
    Aug 6, 2015

    I have a confession to make.

    I once dreamed of joining the Metropolitan Police. It sounded like a wonderful career opportunity, a chance to make a difference and help people more vulnerable than myself.

    I thought of rescuing children who had been born into abusive homes, or women who were victims of domestic violence. I felt I had the strength of character and right demeanour to make a good officer. The danger the profession posed and the attacks officers face on a day to day basis, came, rightly or wrongly, as an afterthought.

  • Jews do community and youth leadership better than anyone else

    Nick Trapp
    Aug 5, 2015

    It was two years ago when I first came across the unique Debra Brunner, who masterminds the twinning programme between Finchley Reform Synagogue and the Jewish community of Polotsk in Belarus, and founded The Together Plan. Her proposition was that I and a friend (Jonathan Clingman, a big name in the twinning programme) spend July to September of 2013 there going native with the local community and helping them reconnect with their Judaism, a bit like something out of The Book Of Mormon.

    I'm not Jewish; why would anybody want to spend their summer holiday in Europe's last dictatorship, teaching a religion they didn't belong to for free? My reason was Russian. I had a deferred place to study it at university and had to fill my gap year with language practice. Belarus would be perfect immersion because it's practically foreigner free and none of our roles there involved speaking English. Before leaving I met up with FRS's Rabbi, went to a seder meal at Jonathan's and did some homework (who knew the festival of Kapparot involved swinging a chicken around your head?)

    Those three months were eye-opening. Belarus isn't third world, but it's poor. Polotsk was charming, but full of stray dogs and buildings in need of a repair. Hospitality is second nature to the Belarusians - I'm especially and eternally indebted to the family who put us up for three whole months. Along with the local madrichim I ran events for Jewish holy days, helped out at the town's children's shelter (for children whose parents are absent or in no state to look after them), translated prayers, learnt the Hebrew alphabet in order to draw and read posters, did what I could to support Jonathan as he taught his Bar Mitzvah group, and even fasted for Yom Kippur. The biggest event, though, was the summer camp, for which a group of English madrichim fly over for five crazy days.