Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • The United Synagogue and free speech

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 20, 2015

    On the Richter Scale of communal controversies, it may have registered low. But you might still catch the tremor if you put your ear closer to the ground.

    The Chief Rabbi’s recent warning to his rabbis not to host “inappropriate speakers” in their synagogues inevitably raises the question: what does the United Synagogue (US) stand for and what kind of Orthodoxy does it represent.

    The Chief Rabbi did not spell out who he was warning against, only that synagogues should avoid speakers “who represent a hashkafah [outlook] which encourages practices which run contrary to our normative United Synagogue approach”.

  • Mr Ellwood’s in a pickle over Israel

    Marcus Dysch
    Oct 20, 2015

    Today’s foreign affairs session in the Commons was telling – in a number of ways.

    Most immediately noticeable was the fact that questions about Israel and the Palestinians were not reached for half an hour. Sure, the international picture is packed at the moment and the Syrian refugee crisis and other issues were understandably raised first.

    But the shuffling of the Middle East’s most intractable conflict down the pecking order also shows the evident lack of desire on the British political scene to weigh in.

  • Remembrance is not static - it bridges that gap between the past and the now

    Charlotte Oliver
    Oct 20, 2015

    Every night, without fail, the bugles begin.

    Come winter’s chill or summer’s balm, their notes play and echo around the Belgian town of Ypres. A town whose magnificent steeple and quaint, quiet streets of shops and cafes belie a war-torn history.

    It was here, 100 years ago, that allied soldiers made their march towards the front line of battle. It was also here that artillery fire blazed high and wide from every side. By the end of the First World War, the town was almost completely laid to waste and erased from the modern map.

  • 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.