Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • 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.

  • Beans, not burgers

    Simon Rocker
    Jan 7, 2013

    Should the 21st century ideal of kashrut include giving up eating meat altogether? A recent article in the JC has reignited the debate between veggies and fleishniks.

    In a letter in this week’s JC, Masorti’s Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, puts the meat-free case.

    “I care deeply about kashrut. I appreciate the importance of shechitah as truly intended — the way to respect animals and cause them the minimum of suffering at their death. Were the right to practise shechitah again in jeopardy in the UK, I would of course join the community in defending it.

  • Out of touch in Stamford Hill

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 28, 2012

    The United Synagogue’s decision to allow women to chair synagogues has been largely welcomed but not everyone is applauding.

    In the Jewish Tribune, the Stamford Hill- based Charedi weekly, columnist Ben Yitzchok calls it a "most regrettable and major step backwards”.

    He speculates that it was taken before Chief Rabbi-designate Ephraim Mirvis came to office because Rabbi Mirvis would have “refused to take the halachically objectionable decision, so it was conveniently arranged before his appointment”.

  • The top 10 participants’ comments at Limmud

    Anna Sheinman
    Dec 27, 2012

    The best thing about Limmud is not the presenters, or the sessions they give, it’s the questions the participants ask afterwards, what they say later on in the bar or let slip over breakfast. Here are my favourites so far:

    1) Over breakfast: “Did you go to the rebbetzin’s disco?”

    2) A nine year old at lunch to a YAD with a Jewfro: “But you said we could stick forks in your hair?”

  • 10 things that could only happen at Limmud

    Anna Sheinman
    Dec 25, 2012

    1. One 20-something girl goes up to a 20-something guy in the cafeteria: “Sorry to bother you, I think you lead me on tour?”

    2. Matisyahu, a rabbi and an artist hold an in-depth conversation at 1am about God’s sphincter muscle and ask – is it different from ours?

    3. When asked how to confront anti-Zionism in the community, an MP responds, “Well, I would be happy to come and give a talk to whoever wants, come and get my number after this is over.”

  • Masorti on the fence over gay marriage

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 13, 2012

    The Reform and Liberal movements have both welcomed the government’s promise to press ahead with the introduction of gay marriage.

    The Chief Rabbi has made his opposition known, but he has certainly not been as vocal about it as Catholic leaders.

    But the Masorti movement remains undecided. It did release a statement this week in which its senior rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg said: “Gay people have long been subject to misjudgment, humiliation and exclusion, especially in religious life. A key Conservative responsum advocates full inclusion of gay people in all areas of Jewish life and leadership.