Blogs

Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.


  • Crossing the Channel

    Le Blog Français
    Apr 20, 2016

    The views of a group of French Jews who are now living in London

    There is nothing traumatic in crossing the English Channel. You just have to sit comfortably in your car, or in a Eurostar carriage, and wait for the journey to be completed. For some French Jews, however, crossing the Channel looked like crossing the Sea of Reeds, as some of us made this journey to flee from a situation they thought unbearable.

    It very much depends on your on personal experience, as Jewish life in France is rich, thriving, exciting, but some of my fellow Jews felt threatened after the Paris attacks last year. Is it a reality, or is it more a general feeling that something is changing in France? I cannot tell.

  • Oxford’s Labour Club is just the tip of the iceberg

    Student Views
    Apr 19, 2016

    Ever since the widely reported resignation of Alex Chalmers from Oxford University’s Labour Club, the media has shone a spotlight on antisemitism within the Labour Party at large. The litany of abuses are shocking but, regrettably, becoming less surprising under a Labour leader who cannot see Jew hatred before his very eyes.

    In my experience, the overwhelming majority of Oxford teachers and students are intelligent, tolerant and thoroughly decent. Oxford Jewish life is flourishing – with a thriving JSoc and Chabad society, excellent inter-faith relations and a buzzing social scene of both Jews and non-Jews. Most Oxford students resolutely abhor antisemitism, racism and other forms of prejudice. It’s in their DNA.

    Before coming to Oxford, I desperately wanted to affirm my Jewishness in this positive vein. I didn’t want my Judaism to be defined by antisemites. Unfortunately, for me and many other Jewish students, that has not always been possible. Four years there have shown me that antisemitism feeds off prejudices that build up incrementally over a long period. Like a plague, it is carried by sometimes unconscious hosts, until it spreads to the point at which it seems unstoppable. Four years have shown me that antisemitic prejudice is far from uncommon at one of the world’s greatest universities. Nor is it consigned to the Labour Club or the radical Left.

  • The entire culture surrounding Pesach is broken

    The JC Blog
    Apr 19, 2016

    Analysis and views from the JC reporters

    While writing last week's front-page feature on Pesach prices and the way religious folk are being priced out of celebrating their own festival, I heard a lot of blame being thrown around.

    From the KLBD to the shops, to the rabbis, to peer pressure, to general poverty, to anyone else you can throw an afikomen at, practically no-one was spared.

  • Is segregation the price Jewish teenagers must pay for a less stressful social life?

    Student Views
    Apr 12, 2016

    When I was seventeen, I used to beg to go out on Friday nights. My friends would congregate at one house every week after school, and they’d stay until late, drinking cheap wine bought from the wilfully ignorant man in the corner shop who’d decided they were all eighteen and didn’t ask any more questions. It was an institution for the group.

    Unfortunately for my parents, I fell in with this crowd rather than the no-Friday-nights group with whom I’d gone on Israel tour. I can imagine that it would have been easier for them, and for me, if my friends had all been more like me – the rows over the Shabbos table would have been less frequent, I wouldn’t have had to work so hard to stay included, and I could have continued enjoying Friday nights at home with my parents and frustratingly undemanding younger brother.

    Then again, perhaps it was healthy to have something to rebel against. My very liberal, tolerant parents never put an unholy amount of pressure on me about anything (except for the morning of my Physics GCSE, when my mother sat in the car outside the exam hall with me and plutzed about the fact that I could not remember a single one of the necessary equations or rules). They bought me nice clothes, fed me good food and took me on fun holidays. With my parents, I never really had much to complain about. And they were sympathetic when I (regularly) hated teachers; when girls at school were horrible; when (Jewish) boys didn’t fancy me. They looked after me and were supportive in all manners. So it was only natural that at some point we’d come to an impasse, and that’s probably a good thing, otherwise I might have developed those neuroses for kids who are never told ‘no’.

  • Are we doing enough for Jewish students in our universities?

    Imogen Wilson
    Apr 6, 2016

    Last week my Students’ Association voted to support the Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign, with 249 votes for and 153 against. I spoke passionately against the motion, on the grounds that antisemitism is a growing problem in student politics, and that it would be foolish to subscribe to a movement that could divide our campus even further.

    I’ve been an elected sabbatical officer at Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) or almost a year now, and my first experience of BDS was at a National Union of Students’ Conference in Bolton last summer. There was an awards dinner event that was sponsored by Coca Cola, a company that is on some BDS lists for having a franchise in the West Bank. NUS have had a BDS policy since 2014, and when some NUS officers found out about the sponsorship there was a complete uproar.

    Many of the students there, including myself, were new to wider student politics circles and issues. Therefore, our first impression of BDS, and NUS, was a protest outside the dinner that was supposed to be celebrating student achievements from across the UK. I remember thinking how alarming this must have been for Jewish and Israeli student representatives, who on top of being surprised by a protest, may have felt that it was somehow targeted at them.

  • Missing boys in Charedi schools

    Simon Rocker
    Apr 1, 2016

    Last night Newsnight ran a lengthy report on the “missing boys” – the hundreds of Charedi youngsters in Stamford Hill being taught in unregistered schools.

    I am not quite sure how “exclusive” it was since we have been reporting on this for years, and other media have picked up the issue too.

    The Department for Education has got tougher and recently ordered one unregistered primary school to close.

  • 'Reform scumbags'

    Simon Rocker
    Mar 31, 2016

    The plan to establish a new egalitarian section at the Kotel in Jerusalem was meant to solve a long-running dispute. But the compromise has now precipitated an ugly round of religious polemics as the Charedi political establishment tries to defend the state against the encroachment of the non-Orthodox.

    Praying at the Kotel is not the only issue but it has become the most emotive, laying bare Israel’s religious divisions. Israel is different from the diaspora but what goes on there has some impact on Jewish communities abroad.

    A few weeks ago I was astonished to read an account of the Kotel controversy in the Anglo-Charedi newspaper, the Jewish Tribune. Astonished because in the continuation of a front page article, “Outcry against Reform”, the paper reported that Shas rabbis had instructed their political leader to “do everything he could to prevent the Reform scumbags from achieving their goals”.

  • Why the Purim story is one for the ages

    Simon Rocker
    Mar 23, 2016

    Purim is the joker in the pack of Jewish festivals. It is the closest we get to carnival, with the fancy dress, the mayhem of the megillah reading, the alcohol – it’s a mitzvah to get tipsy if not paralytic – and the Purim spiels.

    But there is a darker current beneath the merriment. It is the commemoration of thwarted genocide of a diaspora community. And though written more than 2,000 years ago, Haman’s words as he justifies his lethal plot retain their chilling ring. “There is a certain people,” he tells the king, “scattered and separate from the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, and their rules are different from every people’s….”

    The Jews are the irredeemable Other, a people apart, a law unto themselves, good only for extinction. For some, Purim represents the archetypal story of the situation of the Jews, ever threatened by an enduring enmity that travels through history in different guises. We can never rest in comfort for even when we feel as if we have never had it so good, the danger remains.

  • The top ten Jewish women in history? The list is endless...

    Today is International Woman’s Day. The theme for this year is gender parity, but as in previous years, IWD celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements and contributions of women around the world and throughout history.

    When I think of great, inspirational Jewish women, my list is varied. A quick straw poll of my female editorial colleagues resulted in this list, including a prime minister, an author, a singer and cook.

    Who would you add to our list of the top ten Jewish women in history?