Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Positively scorching: Strictly gets theatrical

    Strictly Watch
    Oct 5, 2016

    It may be chillier outside, but the telly was scorching hot on Saturday, as Strictly Come Dancing sashayed into Week Two - disproving the notion that the BBC is far too wholesome for this day and age.

    The skirts were short, the bodies ripped, and Lesley Joseph fondled her way around the dancefloor with expert precision, delight and a mean twinkle in her eye.

    The 70-year-old actress - famed for her portrayal of the man-eating Dorien in Birds of a Feather - reveled in her role as seductress, revealing to the cameras before taking to the floor: “This week, we’re going to have much more fun.”

  • Allardyce: from dream to disaster

    The Arsenal Blog
    Sep 29, 2016

    From failure to scandal, the English national football team has reached a new low.

    After just 67 days in charge, Sam Allardyce has left his “dream job” by mutual agreement. In many ways, Allardyce symbolises the English footballing dream.

    A fresh start means another chance for optimism, and when 'Big Sam' was appointed as head coach, he couldn't keep a smile off his face. He took England to a first victory in the World Cup qualifiers and things were looking up. A lucky 1-0 win against Slovakia - how far could we go under Sam’s guidance? World Cup contenders? Winners? Best team in the world? That is the fantasy of every England fan.

  • Football figures can go from hero to zero – within months

    The Arsenal Blog
    Sep 26, 2016

    This season had brought not only huge signings such as Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but managers with possibly even bigger profiles. The old rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho has been renewed, and the fearsome Antonio Conte has been added to the mix. Never before have managers been as much in the spotlight as they are now.

    With the recent increase in funding to England's biggest league, even the smallest teams have had tens of millions to spend. For the first time ever, spending reached over one billion pounds. This has not only led to an increase in player wages, but a significant rise in that of managers. This has given Premier League clubs the opportunity to attract the most widely renowned coaches. Not only could the gulf in terms of world-class players be opening between England and the rest of the world; a gulf in terms of managers could be widening too.

    We have entered the age of short-term managers. With Arsene Wenger the only coach to be currently serving one club after over four years (he has been the Arsenal manager for 20 years), there is no longer a tradition of extended commitment. Part of the reason for this change is the myriad of options that clubs have.

  • First dances: Robert Rinder's facial gymnastics, Daisy Lowe's top score and Lesley Joseph's chest nestling

    Strictly Watch
    Sep 26, 2016

    The nights are longer, the air is crisper, and our Saturday nights are once again deluged with enough cheese to feed a fondue festival. It can only mean one thing – Strictly is back.

    And what a return it made over the weekend, with a double-whammy: two nights of glitter-suited celebrities shaking their tail feathers around the dancefloor, most with surprising levels of competence and, dare I say, talent. Apart from Ed Balls, of course.

    The Jewish contestants among them made pretty spectacular debuts.

  • It's a family affair

    The Spurs Blog
    Sep 22, 2016

    Emerging from Wembley Park tube last week and casting my eyes towards the National Stadium to be greeted by the sight of tens of thousands of Lilywhite clad Spurs fans was quite something. A lump-in-the-throat, pinch yourself moment. A sea of Spurs, bathed in sunshine. Usually at Wembley it's a mix of fans from both teams; not last week. It was just a tidal wave of Tottenham.

    Having grown up a stone’s throw from the old Wembley in an era when my grandpa and uncle stopped by our house on the way to and from the numerous Spurs cup finals and Charity Shields, it has always been special to go back to Wembley with Spurs (or of course with North London Raiders who play at the Ark, in the shadow of the Arch).

    On Wednesday night I couldn't help but think of my grandpa - the man most responsible for my love of Spurs, who took me to my first Spurs game, at White Hart Lane in 1978 and whose cheeky charm meant that for years my passage in to the Lane was secured with a cheeky pound note and a wink to the turnstile operator as I was slipped in, ticketless, under the creaking metal contraption.

  • Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it

    Student Views
    Sep 20, 2016

    Every year, when I return to England from visiting Israel, my connection with the country feels renewed. For me, Israel isn't just the 'home of the Jews'; it is the place where I took my first steps, said my first words, made my first memories and friends. So when people attack Israel, I can't help but take it personally. Starting at university exactly a year ago, I was shocked at just how strong people's opinions on Israel were, considering how little they actually knew; people who were supposed to be educated and obviously intelligent were making wrong, frightening and dangerous assumptions about my homeland.

    Growing up in a Jewish community and going to a Jewish school up until I was 18, I wasn't as well equipped to handle this as I thought I was. So, how do Jewish university students handle dangerous comments against Israel? I had to learn the difference between criticism of Israel, the government, and the policies and dangerous comments: free speech is only a human right as long as what you are saying doesn't endanger another human being. 'I don't agree with Israel's policies' is acceptable; “all Israelis should burn in hell” is not. My mother is Israeli, I am Israeli, half of my family is Israeli. When somebody questions Israel’s right to exist, for me, it is a personal problem; are you telling me that my grandfather, my uncles, my mother are terrorists and deserve to die?

    Educating myself was also key. I had to arm myself with facts and statistics, backed with impartial evidence, to fight against the slander and misinformation so ingrained in people's minds, which meant acknowledging and understanding the other side of the argument.

  • Jews in fiction – worth the read?

    Noa Gendler
    Sep 6, 2016

    In Alan Bennett's play The History Boys, Hector says: "The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours." I get that sort of buzz when I come across a Jewish character in a book, especially if the writer isn't Jewish. It's like an acknowledgement of my existence from outside the circle, and it makes me feel included.

    I'm currently reading The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, and as I was stumbling through this labyrinth of back and forth, past and present, I came across a character whose parents were Holocaust survivors, whose father anglicised his surname 'Cohen', and whose whole family reverberated with memories of the camps. The explanation of the family was handled with such delicacy and care that one might wonder whether Rushdie had interviewed survivors, or the children of survivors, in order to maintain authenticity. The best thing about this character is that her Judaism is largely incidental. Her role in the narrative does not depend on her religion, but her personality, manifesting itself (as all of our personalities do) in choices and behaviours, is greatly informed by her parents' history and her upbringing. She's a real Jew, not a caricature.

    I've been racking my brains to think of another character in a book who fills this framework – Jewish, but genuine. I have to say, I haven't been able to find one. Daniel Deronda hardly counts, and neither can Mirah Lapidoth or Mordecai Cohen. As sensitively portrayed as these characters are (although I know many would disagree with me – but that's an argument for another time), their Judaism is an inherent part of their engagement with the narrative. The novel is about them as Jews. Similarly, Riah in Our Mutual Friend (a much more disingenuous, suspicious depiction of a Jew, if you ask me) is definitively Jewish, and there's not much more to him. His struggle against antisemitism is certainly poignant, but Dickens was still completely unable to draw his humanity as distinct from his religion. And then there's JK Rowling's Anthony Goldstein, but he's really just a name who pops up to fulfil a quota.

  • Is a bat mitzvah too much study for a girl - or not enough?

    Noa Gendler
    Aug 23, 2016

    Two weeks ago I wrote about how the gifts my brother and I received for our bat and bar mitzvahs made an impact on me, and it got me thinking about another crucial gender-based difference in our experiences. I celebrated my bat mitzvah at twelve, and he celebrated his bar mitzvah at thirteen.

    I was proud of what I’d achieved, at the time. I leyned Rishon, Maftir and Haftorah – certainly more than most girls do, but an average amount for a girl at my shul, which has a strong egalitarian minyan alongside a non-egalitarian one. I also did a d’var Torah, sang Anim Zemirot, and lead the Kiddush. But two years later, my brother did the same things and more, learning to leyn almost his entire parashah and doing an extended project on the history of Jews in Thessaloniki with his teacher. For his bar mitzvah he went to Greece with our dad. I wondered why I hadn’t done the same thing two years earlier.

    I raised this recently with my mum. “Why did Gabriel do so much more than me?” I asked. “Where did that whole plan for him come from?”

  • When it comes to the future of our multi-cultural, multi-faith societies we are at a crossroads

    Le Blog Français
    Aug 22, 2016

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

    As you know, French people love a good controversy. Sometimes, it is funny, sometimes tiring, but it is also sometimes worrying. The latest in France is about the burkini, a contraction of “burka” and “bikini”. The mayor of the southern city of Cannes has decided to ban burkinis from the beach, followed by other mayors. He triggered a heated debate, which is unfortunately almost always the same. On one side, some argue that “laïcité” or secularity is in danger. On the other, some argue that religious freedom is in danger in France.

    Let us go back to the roots of this debate. In 1905, the French Assembly passed a law called “Séparation des Églises et de l’État” (Separation of Churches and State - note the plural form). This law recognises and protects religion, but the State does not finance ministers or places of worship. This law came after a long conflict between the Catholic Church and the French Republic about who has the moral leadership over the country.

  • Israel Tour: a journey of self-discovery

    Ella Garai-Ebner
    Aug 17, 2016

    For many people growing up in the Jewish community, Israel Tour at the end of Year 11 is a rite of passage - and something motivational to think about when GCSE revision becomes increasingly laborious. I was told that it would be an experience that would stay with me forever, and it did not disappoint.

    This summer, I was lucky enough to go on Tour with Noam, the Masorti youth movement. Having never been involved with Noam before, I didn't know exactly what to expect, but I quickly became familiar with the madrichim (leaders) chanichim (participants) and Noam's egalitarian ideologies.

    I've been asked multiple times what the highlight of my trip was. Each time, I surprise myself with my reply. As someone who has always hidden in the corner of PE class, I was not expecting to love the more physical activities - but I really did! Snorkeling in the Red Sea was an amazing (although very short) experience, and kayaking in the Jordan river was the ideal balance of being extremely fun and enjoyable, but also strenuous and challenging. I think the fact that I enjoyed the activities I was so sure I wouldn't sums up Israel Tour; it is a journey of self-discovery, and, on the flight home, nobody is exactly who they were on the flight there.