Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • God and religion and all that sort of thing

    Noa Gendler
    Oct 10, 2016

    The other day, after a few drinks, I got into a huge argument with one of my closest friends about God and religion and all that sort of thing.

    She doesn’t need God, she said, because she can see beauty in science. She can appreciate the world without old-fashioned explanations. She also said that she would rather base her choices on her own instincts and experiences, rather than on an ancient value system which discriminates against gay people, sex workers and lepers. But she held strong that Judaism was still her religion; she was culturally Jewish, and that was enough.

    I’ve struggled with this idea for a long time, but although it’s a question I often think about, my view on it very rarely changes. When I was deeply engaged with Judaism and went to shul a lot and believed in God, I felt that if you didn’t respect and understand the philosophical core of Judaism then you were missing out. The food and the music are one thing, but learning about the big ideas that have been discussed and debated for thousands of years are so much more precious, and so much more fragile. My friend would argue that she doesn’t need those ideas, and that she can find her own moral path without the help of dead homophobes.

  • Happy ending after a night at the movies

    Strictly Watch
    Oct 9, 2016

    Phew, that was close!

    Hands up who didn't feel the tiniest bit nervous as Lesley Joseph and partner Anton du Beke waited to hear their fate as one of the last two couples facing the dance-off.

    Thankfully for them, presenter Tess Daly announced it would be Tameka and Gorka having to take to the floor again to save their Strictly lives.

  • You don't belong here

    The JC Blog
    Oct 6, 2016

    Josh Jackman writes:

    “If you believe you’re a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere. You don’t understand what the very word ‘citizenship’ means.”

    If Theresa May is trying to appeal to Jews or young people, it’s not going well.

  • New year, new me

    Student Views
    Oct 5, 2016

    This year, Rosh Hashanah has conveniently coincided almost exactly with the start of my academic year at university. Because I was unable to go home for the holidays, I spent the Jewish New Year with my (exclusively non-Jewish) housemates, which resulted in a number of refreshing comments, one of which being: “you’re so lucky; you get double the amount of chances at a new year and a fresh start”. While this may seem a glaringly obvious statement, it stuck out to me; I never saw it like this until it was presented to me in this way.

    Last year, I was overwhelmingly excited to start university at a place in which I didn’t know a single person; a chance to completely reinvent myself. Little did I know, this is actually not as realistic as it may seem, and reinventing yourself is not something that happens just in one go. I don’t think I do too badly at being a human, but I can always study a little harder, wake up a little earlier, eat a little healthier, be a better daughter or friend, and everyone can do with an extra push to kick their tushy into self-improvement mode. Luckily for me, I get not one, but two of these kicks every year; and being as lazy as I am, I need all the help I can get.

    For me, last year was a tumultuous one to say the least, and returning to uni this year left me slightly overwhelmed at how I was to overcome that. However, the coinciding of my academic and religious new years was a blessing. I am far from religious, but I very often take lessons from Judaism that I find applicable to my own life, and this one came at what seems like exactly the right time. To me, the Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur period is the ultimate chance everyone gets every year to come to terms with and leave behind everything they regret from the past year. Denying things, pretending they never happened, is just as unhelpful as continuously torturing yourself with your mistakes and bringing them to the present when they are probably best left in the past. Acceptance and acknowledgment of past mistakes, owning your flaws with dignity, learning from them and moving forwards on a path of continuous self-improvement and positivity seems, to me at least, probably the only way to be at peace with yourself.

  • Positively scorching: Strictly gets theatrical

    Strictly Watch
    Oct 5, 2016

    It may be chillier outside, but the telly was scorching hot on Saturday, as Strictly Come Dancing sashayed into Week Two - disproving the notion that the BBC is far too wholesome for this day and age.

    The skirts were short, the bodies ripped, and Lesley Joseph fondled her way around the dancefloor with expert precision, delight and a mean twinkle in her eye.

    The 70-year-old actress - famed for her portrayal of the man-eating Dorien in Birds of a Feather - reveled in her role as seductress, revealing to the cameras before taking to the floor: “This week, we’re going to have much more fun.”

  • Allardyce: from dream to disaster

    The Arsenal Blog
    Sep 29, 2016

    From failure to scandal, the English national football team has reached a new low.

    After just 67 days in charge, Sam Allardyce has left his “dream job” by mutual agreement. In many ways, Allardyce symbolises the English footballing dream.

    A fresh start means another chance for optimism, and when 'Big Sam' was appointed as head coach, he couldn't keep a smile off his face. He took England to a first victory in the World Cup qualifiers and things were looking up. A lucky 1-0 win against Slovakia - how far could we go under Sam’s guidance? World Cup contenders? Winners? Best team in the world? That is the fantasy of every England fan.

  • Football figures can go from hero to zero – within months

    The Arsenal Blog
    Sep 26, 2016

    This season had brought not only huge signings such as Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but managers with possibly even bigger profiles. The old rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho has been renewed, and the fearsome Antonio Conte has been added to the mix. Never before have managers been as much in the spotlight as they are now.

    With the recent increase in funding to England's biggest league, even the smallest teams have had tens of millions to spend. For the first time ever, spending reached over one billion pounds. This has not only led to an increase in player wages, but a significant rise in that of managers. This has given Premier League clubs the opportunity to attract the most widely renowned coaches. Not only could the gulf in terms of world-class players be opening between England and the rest of the world; a gulf in terms of managers could be widening too.

    We have entered the age of short-term managers. With Arsene Wenger the only coach to be currently serving one club after over four years (he has been the Arsenal manager for 20 years), there is no longer a tradition of extended commitment. Part of the reason for this change is the myriad of options that clubs have.

  • First dances: Robert Rinder's facial gymnastics, Daisy Lowe's top score and Lesley Joseph's chest nestling

    Strictly Watch
    Sep 26, 2016

    The nights are longer, the air is crisper, and our Saturday nights are once again deluged with enough cheese to feed a fondue festival. It can only mean one thing – Strictly is back.

    And what a return it made over the weekend, with a double-whammy: two nights of glitter-suited celebrities shaking their tail feathers around the dancefloor, most with surprising levels of competence and, dare I say, talent. Apart from Ed Balls, of course.

    The Jewish contestants among them made pretty spectacular debuts.

  • It's a family affair

    The Spurs Blog
    Sep 22, 2016

    Emerging from Wembley Park tube last week and casting my eyes towards the National Stadium to be greeted by the sight of tens of thousands of Lilywhite clad Spurs fans was quite something. A lump-in-the-throat, pinch yourself moment. A sea of Spurs, bathed in sunshine. Usually at Wembley it's a mix of fans from both teams; not last week. It was just a tidal wave of Tottenham.

    Having grown up a stone’s throw from the old Wembley in an era when my grandpa and uncle stopped by our house on the way to and from the numerous Spurs cup finals and Charity Shields, it has always been special to go back to Wembley with Spurs (or of course with North London Raiders who play at the Ark, in the shadow of the Arch).

    On Wednesday night I couldn't help but think of my grandpa - the man most responsible for my love of Spurs, who took me to my first Spurs game, at White Hart Lane in 1978 and whose cheeky charm meant that for years my passage in to the Lane was secured with a cheeky pound note and a wink to the turnstile operator as I was slipped in, ticketless, under the creaking metal contraption.

  • Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

    Student Views
    Sep 20, 2016

    Every year, when I return to England from visiting Israel, my connection with the country feels renewed. For me, Israel isn't just the 'home of the Jews'; it is the place where I took my first steps, said my first words, made my first memories and friends. So when people attack Israel, I can't help but take it personally. Starting at university exactly a year ago, I was shocked at just how strong people's opinions on Israel were, considering how little they actually knew; people who were supposed to be educated and obviously intelligent were making wrong, frightening and dangerous assumptions about my homeland.

    Growing up in a Jewish community and going to a Jewish school up until I was 18, I wasn't as well equipped to handle this as I thought I was. So, how do Jewish university students handle dangerous comments against Israel? I had to learn the difference between criticism of Israel, the government, and the policies and dangerous comments: free speech is only a human right as long as what you are saying doesn't endanger another human being. 'I don't agree with Israel's policies' is acceptable; “all Israelis should burn in hell” is not. My mother is Israeli, I am Israeli, half of my family is Israeli. When somebody questions Israel’s right to exist, for me, it is a personal problem; are you telling me that my grandfather, my uncles, my mother are terrorists and deserve to die?

    Educating myself was also key. I had to arm myself with facts and statistics, backed with impartial evidence, to fight against the slander and misinformation so ingrained in people's minds, which meant acknowledging and understanding the other side of the argument.