Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Making the case for the Bible

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 11, 2012

    It’s back to Bereshit this week as the Torah reading cycle begins anew. While the stories may be familiar, what has kept them fresh is the belief that there are always new insights to be gleaned.

    And as a source of new thinking, Israeli author Yoram Hazony’s book The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture comes highly recommended. “A paradigm-shifting work of immense significance,” says Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.

    Hazony argues that the Tanach has been wrongly omitted from the Western philosophical tradition of inquiry into ethics and understanding the human condition.

  • Claire Danes and the boycotter's dilemma

    Jennifer Lipman
    Sep 25, 2012

    I'm 90 per cent of the way through the first series of Homeland, and I'm as hooked as everyone said I would be (nb: do not tell me what happens, I'll get there eventually). Its almighty awards grab at the Emmy awards on Sunday has confirmed it not only as the programme of choice for the masses, but the top pick of the critics too.

    Must be tough for the Israel boycotters out there, of course, that the hit show of the year started life as an Israeli series about Israeli soldiers captured in war while fighting for the survival of the Jewish state.

    Inconvenient, perhaps, that Homeland's writer, Gideon Raff, is an Israeli, and that episodes of the eagerly awaited second series have again been filmed in Israel.

  • YomKipTopTips - Top tips for the fast from the JC

    Anna Sheinman
    Sep 25, 2012

    The fast is never easy. To make it that bit more bearable, I’ve asked those bastions of Jewish knowledge – the JC staff – to share their top tips on how to make it through. Here’s what they came up with.

    Jennifer Lipman, comment editor @JenLipman:
    “Never wear a watch. All you’ll do is sit there looking at the time, it won’t help the 25 hours go faster!”

    Gerald Jacobs, literary editor:
    “Take a break, go home, get out a good book and read horizontally. It’s important that you’re horizontal.”

    Cathy Forman, community editor:
    “Never sit next to a hypochondriac in shul.”
    “Also, we know a couple who sleep in and go to synagogue for 2pm, so they’ve only got 6 hours left.”

    Simon Round, features writer (and former food editor) @simon_round:
    “I’d recommend food with a low glycaemic index like barley, lentils and oats, for slow release energy, as well as protein to stop you feeling hungry. A chicken and lentil dahl with brown rice would be a perfect meal to start the fast. Eat as much as possible.”

    Sharron Livingstone, travel editor:
    “You’ve got to get into the spirit of the day. Think about what you’re doing, and meditate on where you are and where you want to be this time next year.”

  • You can run but you can't hide

    Jennifer Lipman
    Sep 21, 2012

    As I have written before, if there is one area involving women and Judaism that seems stuck in a ghastly status quo it is divorce, and the requirement for a man to grant his former wife a get to free her from the chains of a failed marriage.

    One case that has attracted a fair bit of media attention in recent months is that of Tamar Friedman, a chained wife whose husband (a senior aide to a congressman) has been targeted in a high-profile social media campaign.

    Showing an admirable "you can run but you can't hide" approach, the latest move of her supporters (the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot) has been to place an advert on the Washington DC transport system.

  • Conspiracy theories, Mossad and the tragic Al-Hilli murder

    Jennifer Lipman
    Sep 12, 2012

    Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory, right? Aliens in Roswell, the moon landing that never was, Elvis alive and living in the countryside; we all like to stretch our imagination beyond the realms of what is possible or plausible.

    Invariably, one notion that tends to figure high on the list for the conspiracy theorists is the "it's the Jews wot dunnit" scenario.

    Throughout history, conspiracy theorists have chosen to speculate about the shadowy Jews and blame them for any and every scandal or disaster imaginable, from the medieval blood libels to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or the Jewish grasp on politics, world finance and the media.

  • In praise of the endangered

    Jenni Frazer
    Sep 6, 2012

    Maybe it is a metaphor for life. But I am increasingly worried about the fate of the apostrophe and its place — and do, please note, how that three-letter word is displayed — in the firmament.

    We are long past, it seems to me, the amusement at the so-called "greengrocer's apostrophe", wherein sellers of fruit and veg decorated their shops and market stalls with notices suggesting there were "apples' and oranges'" for sale.

    No, things have degenerated. Lynne Truss couldn't publish her best-selling comic look at grammar and punctuation, "Eats Shoots and Leaves" today. Because unfortunately more and more people, even including those who are supposed to have had an education, are putting an apostrophe in a word to denote a plural. Thus such horrors as the "Israeli's" or "the Nazi's" when the - well, I hesitate to call them "writer" — means more than one such person.

  • Orient, here we come

    Simon Rocker
    Aug 24, 2012

    Next month's strictly Orthodox rally in London on the dangers of the internet has proved so popular that the organisers have had to move it from Alexandra Palace to Leyton Orient's football stadium.

    American Charedim have used sports stadia to stage events in the past but this is the first time I can recall that one has been hired in the UK.

    Perhaps we can have a Chasidim v Mitnagdim soccer match to kick off proceedings.

  • Home free?

    Jenni Frazer
    Jul 27, 2012

    After his deplorable reception of two of the Munich massacre widows on Wednesday night — my colleague Jennifer Lipman reported the two women were devastated and heartbroken at his response — Jacques Rogge may well be feeling pretty pleased with himself.

    To his Israeli and Jewish critics, he is able to spread his arms wide, shrug his shoulders and insist, yes, I did something — his "spontaneous" minute's silence at the Athletes' Village on Monday, during the ironically-titled event, Olympic Truce. Spontaneous my foot — rarely can there have been a man whose every move was so calculated as to its later effect.

    To the Arab representatives on the IOC, who very much did not want Rogge to agree to a minute's silence at the Opening Ceremony, and to the Palestinians who have attacked the idea as "racism" — I even heard a rumour that the Palestinians would only agree to a minute's silence provided it included those members of Black September who died in Munich — Rogge has delivered what they asked.

  • So let me get this straight

    Jenni Frazer
    Jul 23, 2012

    Jacques Rogge is president of the International Olympic Committee.

    Jacques Rogge, in this capacity, has consistently and repeatedly refused to hold a minute's silence in memory of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes. Their deaths, incidentally, took place at the Munich Games at which Rogge himself represented his country as an Olympian.

    As recently as Saturday, Rogge rejected yet again the idea of a minute's silence at the Opening Ceremony.