Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • 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.

  • Once for Labour, now for Zac? London's Jewish community could turn Tory

    The JC Blog
    Apr 20, 2016

    Analysis and views from the JC reporters

    Zac Goldsmith was running forty minutes late for his tour around Golders Green over the weekend.

    The Conservative candidate for Mayor of London in next month’s election, Mr Goldsmith, whose grandfather Frank was Jewish, spent last Sunday touring north-west London with lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel.

  • Why I love football

    The Football Blog
    Apr 20, 2016

    Liverpool's stunning defeat of Borussia Dortmund epitomised the magic of football. There was an electric atmosphere with the stage perfectly set in the historic Anfield arena that has witnessed so many famous European nights.

    Millions around the world sat on their sofas to join those inside the stadium as Liverpool, flying the English flag, went 2-0 down, then 3-1 down with the downcast players needing to score an impossible three goals to win the tie.

    However, football isn't simply about the players; it's about the fans. Many English fans were united in their living rooms, hoping, praying, that Liverpool could mount one of the greatest comebacks in their history.

  • Crossing the Channel

    Le Blog Français
    Apr 20, 2016

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

    There is nothing traumatic in crossing the English Channel. You just have to sit comfortably in your car, or in a Eurostar carriage, and wait for the journey to be completed. For some French Jews, however, crossing the Channel looked like crossing the Sea of Reeds, as some of us made this journey to flee from a situation they thought unbearable.

    It very much depends on your on personal experience, as Jewish life in France is rich, thriving, exciting, but some of my fellow Jews felt threatened after the Paris attacks last year. Is it a reality, or is it more a general feeling that something is changing in France? I cannot tell.

  • Oxford’s Labour Club is just the tip of the iceberg

    Student Views
    Apr 19, 2016

    Ever since the widely reported resignation of Alex Chalmers from Oxford University’s Labour Club, the media has shone a spotlight on antisemitism within the Labour Party at large. The litany of abuses are shocking but, regrettably, becoming less surprising under a Labour leader who cannot see Jew hatred before his very eyes.

    In my experience, the overwhelming majority of Oxford teachers and students are intelligent, tolerant and thoroughly decent. Oxford Jewish life is flourishing – with a thriving JSoc and Chabad society, excellent inter-faith relations and a buzzing social scene of both Jews and non-Jews. Most Oxford students resolutely abhor antisemitism, racism and other forms of prejudice. It’s in their DNA.

    Before coming to Oxford, I desperately wanted to affirm my Jewishness in this positive vein. I didn’t want my Judaism to be defined by antisemites. Unfortunately, for me and many other Jewish students, that has not always been possible. Four years there have shown me that antisemitism feeds off prejudices that build up incrementally over a long period. Like a plague, it is carried by sometimes unconscious hosts, until it spreads to the point at which it seems unstoppable. Four years have shown me that antisemitic prejudice is far from uncommon at one of the world’s greatest universities. Nor is it consigned to the Labour Club or the radical Left.

  • The entire culture surrounding Pesach is broken

    The JC Blog
    Apr 19, 2016

    Analysis and views from the JC reporters

    While writing last week's front-page feature on Pesach prices and the way religious folk are being priced out of celebrating their own festival, I heard a lot of blame being thrown around.

    From the KLBD to the shops, to the rabbis, to peer pressure, to general poverty, to anyone else you can throw an afikomen at, practically no-one was spared.

  • Is segregation the price Jewish teenagers must pay for a less stressful social life?

    Student Views
    Apr 12, 2016

    When I was seventeen, I used to beg to go out on Friday nights. My friends would congregate at one house every week after school, and they’d stay until late, drinking cheap wine bought from the wilfully ignorant man in the corner shop who’d decided they were all eighteen and didn’t ask any more questions. It was an institution for the group.

    Unfortunately for my parents, I fell in with this crowd rather than the no-Friday-nights group with whom I’d gone on Israel tour. I can imagine that it would have been easier for them, and for me, if my friends had all been more like me – the rows over the Shabbos table would have been less frequent, I wouldn’t have had to work so hard to stay included, and I could have continued enjoying Friday nights at home with my parents and frustratingly undemanding younger brother.

    Then again, perhaps it was healthy to have something to rebel against. My very liberal, tolerant parents never put an unholy amount of pressure on me about anything (except for the morning of my Physics GCSE, when my mother sat in the car outside the exam hall with me and plutzed about the fact that I could not remember a single one of the necessary equations or rules). They bought me nice clothes, fed me good food and took me on fun holidays. With my parents, I never really had much to complain about. And they were sympathetic when I (regularly) hated teachers; when girls at school were horrible; when (Jewish) boys didn’t fancy me. They looked after me and were supportive in all manners. So it was only natural that at some point we’d come to an impasse, and that’s probably a good thing, otherwise I might have developed those neuroses for kids who are never told ‘no’.