Blogs

Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.


  • Drake's "re-barmitzvah"

    Marcus Dysch
    Apr 11, 2012

    Canadian rapper Drake is one of the hottest names in the music industry at the moment.

    His collaborations with Rihanna have propelled him to the higher echelons of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. He has written tracks for, and performed with, global megastars including Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and Alicia Keys. Drake has almost seven million Twitter followers.

    Drake – whose real name is Aubrey Graham – was born in Toronto in October 1986, the son of an African-American father and Canadian-Jewish mother, who sent him to a Jewish school and ensured he had a barmitzvah.

  • The Sheikh, the minister and the shambles

    Marcus Dysch
    Apr 11, 2012

    What a mess.

    From start to finish Raed Salah's deportation has been an utter shambles. The latest ruling – this time from the Upper Immigration Tribunal – arguably only deepens the sense that the authorities have lost control of the case.

    For Mr Ockelton and his colleagues to have ruled that the blood libel was invoked and admitted that Jews would be offended by Sheikh Salah’s comments, but ultimately found in his favour, only adds to the confusion.

  • Seth Cohen, still the same after all these Chismukkahs

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 5, 2012

    If someone (me?) was ever to rank television's greatest Jewish characters, my vote might go Seth Cohen, the geeky, Jew-fro-sporting, wisecrack-making son of Kirsten and Sandy in the pop culture phenomenon that was The OC.

    Josh Schwartz's drama series might have centred on the lives of the rich and fabulous in Southern California, but at the heart of the affair was an idealistic Jewish lawyer from the Bronx and his son.

    Adam Brody, the actor who brought Seth to life for four seasons, has been out of the spotlight since the series wrapped. But according to New York Magazine, he's back. In an interview with him this week, there was a gem that could have come from the mouth of Seth himself.

  • Angels of Mersey

    Marcus Dysch
    Apr 3, 2012

    Among the most valuable work being done to help Jewish students around the country is that of the dozens of chaplaincy families employed by organisations representing all spectrums of Jewish life.

    New BBC documentary Angels of Mersey follows chaplains of all religions working in Liverpool. Among them is Rabbi Shmuli Brown, Chabad’s representative at universities in the city.

    Last night’s episode showed him at work and featured his efforts to engage with young Jews arriving for Freshers’ Week. Rabbi Brown explained how he is contacted by worried parents and carries out meticulous online research to find out who will be studying on Merseyside and what assistance they might need.

  • Ken means I can't back Labour

    Jessica Elgot
    Mar 28, 2012

    I'm thinking of starting a support group. Our community is full of charities and counselling services covering every cough, spit and ailment in the medical dictionary. But I think we need another.

    I'd call it "I used to vote Labour, but now I don't know what to do." To those six Labour supporters who wrote a letter to Ed Miliband last week, expressing their concerns about Ken Livingstone's obsession with Israel, to the brave Jonathan Freedland, I say: "Comrades! You are not alone!" Together, I daresay we could add hundreds of signatures to that letter. Figures seem to suggest one in three Labour voters won't back Ken.

    I imagine we'd sit in a semi-circle, heads in our hands, recalling how Ken campaigned for Lutfur Rahman - an independent with alleged links to the Islamic Forum of Europe - to be mayor of Tower Hamlets, rather than the Labour candidate. We'd grimace at the memory of his chumminess with controversial Islamic cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

  • Wilful blindness

    Jenni Frazer
    Mar 23, 2012

    Our story this week about Ken Livingstone's remarks, which prudence dictates we should still refer to as alleged, is fascinating on a number of levels. For new readers, Livingstone apparently dismissed the possibility of most Jews voting for him, because Jews were "rich" and thus unlikely to vote for the left.

    Leaving aside Livingstone's effrontery at even suggesting such a thing, it makes no sense even in his own terms. It is well known that Livingstone has spent many years cosying up to the community in Stamford Hill, whom he perceives to be "real Jews," not the inauthentic, ersatz model who give him such a hard time over inconveniences like the Oliver Finegold incident and all the other "difficult" baggage which he trails with him.

    It cannot have escaped even Livingstone's blinkered world view that surprisingly few of the Stamford Hill crowd fall into the "Jews are rich" category.

  • When George Clooney met a rabbi...

    Jennifer Lipman
    Mar 22, 2012

    When we think of Hollywood, we think of bright lights, red carpets, emotional speeches and fast-talking agents. We think of sparkly dresses and glamour, of put-upon-screenwriters and waiters waiting for their big breaks. We don't really tend to think of rabbis.

    But perhaps we should. Because, despite sounding like a contender for the "film pitch that is least likely to see the light of day award", have you heard the one about George Clooney and Rabbi Steve Gutow?

    Gorgeous George and Rabbi Gutow were among the motley crew of politicians and activists who were arrested last week during a demonstration outside the Sudanese Embassy.

  • Lord Sacks and the Whale

    Simon Rocker
    Mar 13, 2012

    I’ve heard quite a few people comment on the Chief Rabbi’s recent Jewish Book Week conversation with mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

    I can't see that the Chief dropped any theological bombshells, although he did say, when asked about Jonah and the Whale, “No one has ever read these stories in the Jewish tradition literally.”

    Anyway, you can hear the exchange yourself because there is now a video of it on the Book Week website.

  • Chicken fun, all day long

    Jennifer Lipman
    Mar 1, 2012

    This is one for anyone in need of a distraction from work or study.

    Rosh Pinah Primary School (incidentally, the institution where I started my academic life) have set up a wonderful site with a live feed to the class pet.

    The Rosh Pinah ChickCam offers the chance to monitor these adorable fluffy fellows throughout the day. Enjoy.

  • Extraordinary

    Jenni Frazer
    Feb 27, 2012

    The news last week that there had been multiple resignations from the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have attracted rather more attention than it did. At least two of the resignations were whistleblowers who wanted to highlight the behaviour of a third colleague, the Prime Minister's bureau chief, Natan Eshel. Eshel has now resigned after admitting to sexual harassment of a female employee in the office.
    It really says something when the country's former president is in prison for multiple sexual harassment and rape, and still there are men who believe they can behave as inappropriately as they like towards women, secure in the illusion that they are untouchable because they are in positions of power.
    Eshel, plainly, learnt nothing from the Katzav affair. I do wonder, however, whether Mr Netanyahu himself has absorbed any useful lessons. He reserved his rage last week for his whistleblowing staffers because he had to learn about the Eshel situation from the media. Too much amour propre and not enough attention to what was going on, almost literally, under his nose.