Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Instructive antisemitic comparison

    Stephen Pollard
    Jan 29, 2013

    Oh dear. I really didn't want to have to write about antisemitism again. Believe me it's not something I ever want to have to discuss. But this past week there have been two instructive episodes.

    At the end of last week, a LibDem MP no one had ever heard of called David Ward decided to share his thoughts for Holocaust Memorial Day. In a spectacularly appalling piece of timing, he posted the following on his blog immediately after signing the Holocaust Memorial Trust's book of remembrance:

    "Having visited Auschwitz twice– once with my family and once with local schools ... I am saddened that the Jews, who suffered
    unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust, could within a few years of liberation from the death camps be inflicting atrocities on Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so on a daily basis in the West Bank and Gaza."

  • Inquiring minds

    Jenni Frazer
    Jan 29, 2013

    Let us unpick the events of the week so far. On Sunday, it was Holocaust Memorial Day: a yearly event initiated by the British government to mark, in line with many other countries, the attempted complete annihilation of a people. It is right and proper that HMD is used as an educational tool to mark other genocides. It is not right and proper to make a moral equivalence between what happened to the Jews between 1933 and 1945, and what is happening today in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

    On Holocaust Memorial Day the editors at the Sunday Times chose to publish two curiosities: a peculiar magazine story about David Irving, the Holocaust denier, and the tours he is running in concentration camps; and the by-now bizarre cartoon from Gerald Scarfe, featuring a bloodthirsty Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall and using murdered Palestinians for its cement.

    Scarfe himself has said he very much regretted the timing of the publication, claiming he did not know that it was HMD. But even if it had not been the anniversary, the cartoon was not just offensive - but missed the point in its comment on the Israeli elections. Netanyahu did not win an overwhelming victory and nor did the anti-peace camp forces in Israel.

  • Nothing like a good argument

    Simon Rocker
    Jan 24, 2013

    The British-born Israeli Talmud scholar Daniel Sperber – who is speaking at South Hampstead Synagogue on Sunday night – is one of the most eminent Orthodox academics.

    But Orthodoxy and academia haven’t always sat easily together. The relationship and tensions between Orthodox thinking and university research will be the focus of a new programme in London, “Arguments for Heaven's Sake”, of which Rabbi Sperber will be giving the inaugural lecture. It is sponsored by the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the Friends of Louis Jacobs.

    Over the next few months Oxford will also be hosting a number of international scholars for a related programme exploring questions raised by the work of Rabbi Louis Jacobs, who tried to reconcile academic scholarship and traditional Judaism, though, of course, not in a way which always met the approval of the Orthodox establishment.

  • Hold onto your seats

    Orlando Radice
    Jan 23, 2013

    What a wonderful surprise. Israel did not swing en masse to the extreme right as many of us were fearing. Since nobody seems to know what Netanyahu really thinks about anything, it’s time to pray that he will club together with Yair Lapid to keep Naftali Bennett and the one-state disaster out. Here’s hoping for an Aristotelian denouement. Moderation in all things.

  • A changed Board?

    Marcus Dysch
    Jan 23, 2013

    I've been attending and reporting on Board of Deputies meetings for a couple of years.

    At my first meeting the biggest surprise came when I discovered that, far from being the august, grand debating chamber of the community that I had expected it to be, the Board plenary was more akin to a shouty shul council meeting a with a bit of a Vicar of Dibley-style shambles thrown in.

    I've since discussed those impressions with Board veterans, newcomers and outsiders alike, and have heard many of them express similar views.

  • My Jewish identity

    Jenni Frazer
    Jan 17, 2013

    I have been thinking recently about the question of Jewish identity, a matter sparked by our current joint project with JW3, the Jewish Community Centre for London. We set people the task of trying to define their Jewishness in an unenviable 50 words, which is a lot harder than it sounds.

    Being Jewish in Britain is sometimes the easiest thing in the world, sometimes the most difficult. At any given moment we can fade into the wallpaper if we choose, blending with the general population. At other times we may decide to be out and loud, in-your-face Jews, full-on. It's a bit of a tightrope act.

    Here's my take, anyway. Not for a time capsule, just for what I'm feeling at the moment.

  • The Board and Oxfam - a wholly unnecessary row

    Marcus Dysch
    Jan 10, 2013

    So here we are again: the Board of Deputies once more finds itself mired in internal strife - and largely because its elected leaders tried to do the right thing.

    We could spend an age debating – not for the first time – whether the Board stumbled into this embarrassing mess through weak leadership, a misunderstanding of its deputies’ concerns, its own complex democratic process, or a mixture of all three.

    What is clear is that the Grow Tatzmiach joint campaign with Oxfam will help starving people – and that cannot be a bad thing.

  • 150 years of the London Underground

    Jennifer Lipman
    Jan 7, 2013

    This week marks the sesquicentenary – or 150th birthday - of the tube.

    Yes, even though it sometimes seems like the engineering of the Northern Line predates the battle of Hastings, or that bewildered travellers have been trying to circumnavigate the Circle Line since the time of Columbus, the tube is actually only 15 decades old.

    The first journey on what we now know of as London Underground took place on January 9 1863, between Paddington and Farringdon Street on the Metropolitan Line. Historians believe that was the last time there was good service on all London Underground lines.