Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Gay cakes and women drivers

    Simon Rocker
    May 29, 2015

    In Northern Ireland, a Christian-run bakery is appealing against a ruling that it broke the law when it refused an order to make a cake celebrating gay marriage.

    It’s a case that tests the balance between equality and religious freedom.

    A similar clash of principles is at stake in the story we have covered this week about a Charedi group in Stamford Hill saying that children will not be able to attend its schools if their mothers drive.

  • Come to the learning party this Shavuot

    Simon Rocker
    May 22, 2015

    Shavuot is often regarded as the Cinderella of major festivals that often slips by unnoticed. While shuls may be greened up and cholestorol levels rise with the proliferation of cheesecake, there are no home practices associated with it such as succah or Seder.

    But Shavuot has begun to enjoy a revival in recent years. More synagogues than used to be the case will stage a nocturnal study session, a tikkun leil Shavuot, tomorrow night to celebrate the joy of study. Even secular groups in Israel hold learning get-togethers.

    If you can't find a local tikkun leil to go, here's a DIY option. You can download this little study pack from Limmud and have a discussion among family and friends.

  • Shimon Peres, a true legend

    Sandy Rashty
    May 18, 2015

    Every year, communal organisations compete to secure the services of a top speaker who will bring in the crowds, and as a result, the big bucks.

    On Sunday night, the Zionist Federation pulled in a 900-person crowd, who flocked to the central London Grosvenor Hotel (at £250 a head) to hear guest speaker Shimon Peres in conversation with Israeli Arab journalist Lucy Aharish.

    The event, which is the ZF's largest fundraising dinner to date, turned into an outpouring of support for the former Israeli president. One guest told me: “I just had to come. I just had to hear him speak. He’s the most inspiring…” – and then she clasped her hand to her chest, and sighed. Another had heard Mr Peres speak in Israel. “I flew out there especially to see him. He spoke so well then, and so well now. I am so happy I have had the chance to hear him, twice!”

  • The rabbis have brought some hope back to Toulouse

    Naomi Firsht
    May 14, 2015

    A few weeks ago I was in Bergen Belsen concentration camp trying to comprehend the atrocities that happened over 70 years ago. This morning I walked into a children’s playground in Toulouse and tried to understand a horror that happened just three years ago.

    On March 19 2012, Muslim extremist Mohammed Merah forced his way into Ohr Torah (formerly Ozar Hatorah) school and shot dead three school children and a teacher for the crime of being Jewish.

    The buildings are low and square, in a cheerful orange coloured stone, nothing extraordinary, just your average school building. But the high surrounding walls, topped with barbed wire (added since the attack), and the line of policemen along the road outside, remind you that something awful happened here.

  • After JFS, students have a responsibility to protect our schools

    Sandy Rashty
    May 13, 2015

    While they were pelting classmates with eggs, pulling a security fence out of place, trashing toilets, spraying graffiti on public and school property, did the student vandals ever consider the impact their actions would have on JFS – and more importantly, state-funded faith schools across the country?

    When one trying gangster looked to camera in a black balaclava before defacing a public sign, did he consider the impact his image, circulated on media outlets across the UK and a video that went viral, would have on watching school governors, councillors and backers.

    Enough has been said about the sheer embarrassment last week’s Year 11 so-called “muck-up day” has caused JFS pupils, parents, teachers and graduates (of which I am one).

  • JFS is much more than raw chickens and fireworks

    Emma Jacobs
    May 13, 2015

    Last week, a JFS "muck-up day" caught the attention of national headlines. Year 11 students "celebrated" the end of their first five years at JFS. Some students took the celebrations too far.

    The whole year was escorted out of school after fireworks and raw chicken were found on the premises. The police were called and news spread fast across the cafes and nail bars of north west London.

    By Shabbat, the reports had assumed epic proportions, with talk of 40 live chickens running amok and missiles being fired. The eruv couldn’t contain the story.

  • Braced for benefit cuts

    Simon Rocker
    May 12, 2015

    Most British Jews will be pleased or relieved at the election result, if our poll indicating that a significant majority intended to vote Conservative was accurate.

    But not everyone in the community will be feeling the same way. Here is an extract from a letter from an anonymous Orthodox Jewish school teacher from Golders Green which was published in last week’s edition of the Charedi weekly Hamodia:

    “I am on a low wage and I’m forced to come on to government help for housing and basic expenditures.

  • I’m a Princess and don’t you dare forget it!

    Charlotte Oliver
    May 7, 2015

    I have long suspected I was a princess, bolstered by my grandmother’s insistences. I felt it in the thin air I breathed, in my irritatingly-picky palate, and in the fact I have never quite managed a good night’s sleep.

    “Mother, plump the mattresses!” I shrieked in distress. “I can still feel that sodding pea!”

    Imagine my relief, then, that my suspicions have been confirmed thanks to the latest addition to the Royal Family — baby Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. That my royal pageantry, mastered so artfully after years of practice, has not been in vain. Forearm upright and perma-grin pursed, I am ready to meet my subjects. Please form an orderly queue. “Why the pomp?” my naysayers will ask. “Just because she’s called Charlotte, that doesn’t make you a princess!”