Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Antisemitism & Its Antidotes (3)

    Winston Pickett
    May 31, 2012

    Part of the joy that comes with investigation and research is the intellectual ride. You’ve got your topic. You may even have a working hypothesis to test. You prepare your field of inquiry and formulate your questions.

    If it’s a newspaper story, you line up your interviews. If it’s a research paper, you fire up your search engine.

    Now things start to get interesting. You start fine tuning your questions as your preliminary research begins to reshape the thrust of your inquiry. Your thesis begins to evolve and suddenly you discover a new angle that’s even more compelling than the one you began with.

  • Avram's Journey

    Marcus Dysch
    May 30, 2012

    Avram Grant has in the past revealed elements of the remarkable story of how his late father, Meir Granat, survived the Holocaust.

    But last night BBC Radio Five Live broadcast a new, chilling documentary with Grant, retracing the steps his father and grandfather took more than 70 years ago.

    Football Focus presenter Dan Walker travelled with the former Chelsea manager to the Polish village where Grant’s family lived, and then continued their journey to Auschwitz, where almost the entire family was decimated during the Shoah.

  • Should Orthodox deputies cover their heads?

    Simon Rocker
    May 24, 2012

    One of the novelties of the vice-presidential elections at the Board of Deputies on Sunday was that they were live-streamed, enabling web spectators to follow events.

    The same was also true of the hustings a few days before, where the candidates also had to endure the sight of sometimes critical commentary on their performance being tweeted on a live screen by outside viewers as well as members of the audiences.

    Meanwhile, here is one view of Sunday’s events which was blogged by Bnei Akiva deputy Noah Nathan:

  • Spot the Israeli flags at the Champions League final? This lot did...

    Marcus Dysch
    May 22, 2012

    During Saturday night’s Champions League final some of you will, I expect, have noticed two Israeli flags displayed in the stands.

    I spotted them in the first half – hanging at pitch level just near the halfway line – and then thought little more about it. Every now and again when they flashed across the screen they caught my eye, but they were really rather secondary to the remarkable match unfolding before my eyes.

    But while I and more than 10 million other Brits were watching Chelsea win London’s first ever European Cup, others were busy enquiring as to why the flags were there.

  • Antisemitism & Its Antidotes (2)

    Winston Pickett
    May 21, 2012

    Teaching can be the ultimate instructor. It is where your most basic assumptions are challenged, amplified – or both.

    Take the notion that simply ‘talking’ about antisemitism would spark debate. If I had any doubt that introducing the subject would lead to a spaghetti junction of contentious issues and live-wire associations – those misgivings were jettisoned during the first 20 minutes of my first class.

    With the mere introduction of the topic and the ostensibly ‘safe’ route of asking participants to say what they understood by antisemtism, it didn’t take long before a Pandora’s Box of competing definitions burst open. Anti-Zionism, anti-Israelism, racism, Jew-hatred and xenophobia all clambered for recognition while hot-button local events vied for equal time as concrete illustrations.

  • Did Mossad send a big-nosed bird to spy on Turkey?

    Jennifer Lipman
    May 15, 2012

    Could a Jewish Mossad agent have been masquerading as a bird to gather intel about Turkey?

    Remember when the Saudis captured a vulture on suspicion it was spying for Israel? Or the bizarre claim that the Sharm el-Sheikh shark had been sent by Israel to attack unsuspecting tourists? Well, to add to your list of spurious claims made by Israel's enemies about Mossad's dastardly tricks, I bring you the big-nosed bird spy.

    Apparently, the Turkish authorities are in a bit of a flutter about a European Bee-Eater (it's a species of bird – who knew?) that was recently found dead in a field in Ankara.

  • Deadly comments

    Simon Rocker
    May 14, 2012

    Last week’s Torah portion of Emor ended with the unhappy of a story of a man who was stoned for cursing God.

    Despite the biblical precedent, however, the rabbis, always reluctant to impose the death penalty, later made it extremely difficult to convict for blasphemy.

    Alas, modern trends seem to be going in the opposite direction. Kuwait is the latest country that has moved to make blasphemy (against the Prophet Muhammad) a capital offence. According to the Tablet, the crime was previously punishable by imprisonment (which is bad enough). The national assembly has passed a law to introduce harsher punishment, although it must still be approved by the Emir.

  • Antisemitism & Its Antidotes

    Winston Pickett
    May 10, 2012

    Tonight I begin teaching an eight-week course called “Antisemitism and its Antidotes: From Talk to Action” as a part of a Limmud-inspired, cross-communal study programme in Brighton and Hove called Lishmah Sussex.

    I’ve chosen the title for two key reasons, both based on observations I have made over the years.

    The first is that when people raise the subject of antisemitism or talk about it in any way, the conversation rarely stays ‘on topic’. It tends to wander – from definitions of what constitutes antisemitism, to debates about its reality or pervasiveness, rapidly descending into an encapsulated history of Jew-hatred throughout the ages.

  • Vidal Sassoon: What a nice man

    Jenni Frazer
    May 9, 2012

    Without a doubt, Vidal Sassoon, whose death has just been announced, was a really lovely guy. I interviewed him a few years ago and was astonished when Sassoon, rather than take refuge behind a usual retinue of "people" and hangers-on, made all the arrangements for the meeting himself, phoning me up, just like a regular human being. This was unusual behaviour for a celebrity, but Sassoon was unusual. A fierce anti-fascist and lifelong fighter against antisemitism, he didn't just talk the talk. He was a mensch who never forgot his roots. Baruch Dayan emet.

  • Now we're 64: Ambassador Taub's children steal the show

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 30, 2012

    At the Israeli Embassy's Yom Ha'atzmaut celebration last week, Ambassador Daniel Taub's children wowed guests with their version of "When I'm 64".

    The song, performed by Judah, Sophie, Reuven, Asher and Amichai Taub, had the audience clapping and cheering - and for good reason.

    When we were younger, when Israel began, not so long ago