Blogs

Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.


  • The Gateshead Rav on Limmud

    Simon Rocker
    Jan 6, 2014

    The Gateshead Rav, Rabbi Shraga Faivel Zimmerman, has returned to the question of Limmud, in an article in last week’s edition of the Orthodox weekly, the Jewish Tribune.

    Rabbi Zimmerman, you may remember, was one of the signatories of an open letter in October which condemned Orthodox participation in the cross-communal conference following the decision of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis to go there.

    The release of the letter brought a furious riposte from Jewish Leadership Council chairman Mick Davis and other community who denounced it as “a shocking failure of leadership”.

  • The next chief?

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 31, 2013

    As we forecast last month, Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of the Great Synagogue, Sydney, is set to come home to take the pulpit at Finchley United vacated in spring by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.

    Rabbi Lawrence’s likely return had been on the cards for some name - his name had previously been linked to another United Synagogue congregation.

    His prospective appointment to one of the US’s biggest congregations will lead to speculation that he might even follow Rabbi Mirvis and become chief rabbi himself.

  • Anelka and the 'quenelle' - this is only the beginning

    Marcus Dysch
    Dec 29, 2013

    West Bromwich Albion striker Nicolas Anelka’s antisemitic goal “celebration” has plunged English football into its third race row in as many years.

    The Frenchman’s “quenelle” salute – described by his country’s sports minister Valérie Fourneyron as an incitement to racial hatred, and by journalist Philippe Auclair as “cretinous” – brings to football stadiums in this country a controversy that is spiralling out of control across the Channel.

    The rise of the antisemitic signal – part Nazi salute, part “up yours” gesture – has been so rapid that French authorities want to ban its creator, antisemitic “comedian” Dieudonné from performing in public.

  • The chief rabbi and partnership minyans

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 27, 2013

    It was hardly a shock when Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis wrote to his rabbis last week to rule out partnership minyans – Orthodox services where women can read from the Torah and lead certain prayers.

    Whereas his recent decisions to go to Limmud or approve the election of women as trustees of the United Synagogue were welcome, they were not unexpected and hardly radical.

    Partnership minyans are a different matter, and most people would have been amazed if a relatively conservative institution such as the United Synagogue had endorsed them at this juncture.

  • European Jewry alive and kicking

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 27, 2013

    There are some people in the Jewish world who have written off European Jewry as a lost cause. But not everyone regards us as basically only a pool for potential aliyah.

    Barbara Lerner Spectre, the founding director of a Stockholm-based institute of higher Jewish education, called Paideia, believes that a new kind of Jew is emerging on the continent and that they have something to contribute to Jewry as a whole.

    Modern Jewish identity has largely been broken into three types, she explained at a Limmud session: religious, national or cultural – cultural meaning a “Woody Allen Jew”.

  • Why walk when you can waltz?

    Charlotte Oliver
    Dec 24, 2013

    In the last two days, I have seen things I will never un-see.

    I have witnessed a raucous group of Israelis “get down” at a silent disco rave…in the middle of the conference foyer.

    Imagine the scene: a cluster of headphone-wearing jitterbugsters waving their arms and legs in muted hysteria, while those sitting and chatting around them barely blinked an eye.

  • The Chief's Limmud triumph

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 24, 2013

    When Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis announced his decision to go to Limmud, he might have expected the odd murmur of disapproval to his right.

    But he must have been taken aback by the stridency of the resulting Charedi attack on Limmud, a clear attempt to dissuade his rabbinate from accompanying him there.

    Now perhaps he feels his trip was worth the aggravation, after his enthusiastic reception at the event. Both his office and Limmud itself had tried to play down the significance of his appearance: he was simply to be one presenter among 450.

  • Why I was blindfolded

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 24, 2013

    According to rabbinic lore, the giving of the Ten Commandments was almost fatal. The voice of God who uttered the first two was so powerful that it killed the Israelites and they had to be resurrected (after which, understandably, Moses took over).

    So imagine my apprehension when I attended a session which sought to recreate the receiving of the Ten Commandments.

    London-based composer Daniel Biro's electronic composition The Sounds of Sinai - which he released as a CD a couple of years ago - is an "an artistic impression of what the experience might have sounded like". Which is a tall order because the Torah text speaks of the people actually "seeing" the sounds, while the rabbis stated that the entire Decalogue actually unfolded in a single utterance.

  • Feminists can still like chick flicks at Limmud

    Charlotte Oliver
    Dec 23, 2013

    It is not exactly a secret that women get a bad rap on film and in print – in fact, I would say any trace of equality blew away for good the first time Honor Blackman purred: “Mr Bond, my name is Pussy Galore”.

    And yet, we still cannot fight the fantasy: men and women alike continue to buy into the very skewed presentation of gender relations on screen – and, at Odeon’s extortionate rates, that doesn’t come cheap.

    So what do you do? Do you swear to boycott Miramax, Universal, Paramount et al forever more, happy to be one of those “enlightened” who boasts: “Oh no, I don’t do the cinema, scoff scoff”.

  • Thinking aloud

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 23, 2013

    A leading Jewish philanthropist asked me what the value of Limmud was: it could hardly compete with the sustained,in-depth study, say, of a university course.

    Firstly, Limmud is a gateway for many people, opening areas of Jewish interest which they might never have thought of exploring before.

    Secondly, some serious thinking goes on here: it might be sparked off by a particular lecture, or a chance remark made in a follow-up discussion, it may go on in formal classes, or outside in the bar. Partly, it is the result of the concentration of so many people from different walks of Jewish life in one place, but it is also due to the free-thinking atmosphere that is an integral part of the experience here.