Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Moving out of (or in to) the Jewish bubble

    Student Views
    Jul 12, 2016

    This blog has been shortlisted as part of our JC student blogger competition

    Being Jewish, I’m constantly running into family friends. Being about to go to university, the small talk is fairly predictable:

    Where are you going to uni? (Oxford) Your parents must be so proud! (They are) Are you excited? (Yes) Are you nervous? (Yes) Oh you’ll make friends.

  • What to do about intermarriage?

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 7, 2016

    When the Institute for Jewish Policy Research launched its report on marriage this week, there was surprise among the audience.

    Although the intermarriage rate, at 26 per cent, has reached an all-time in the UK, many had expected it to be higher. If it has not quite plateaued, it has risen only slightly in the past couple of decades.

    There has been an assumption that where American Jewry goes, British Jewry eventually follows. So if the American intermarriage rate has stood at over 50 per cent for some time, it led to the belief that the UK would not be so far off now. (Important differences remain between the two communities, however: British Jewry is more Orthodox and traditional and has a much higher proportion of Charedim).

  • Are we, as Jews, doomed to a love of learning?

    Student Views
    Jul 5, 2016

    This blog has been shortlisted as part of our JC student blogger competition

    How do I write a blog about my student life after the academic year has ended? Well, pretty much ended, anyway. I submitted my last assignment for this year two weeks ago, for which I will not receive the courtesy of a mark until about mid-August. Ish. Ten weeks, give or take the odd week or two. Roughly. Not because we are on Jew-ish time, which is vague enough at the best of times, but because we are running on something even more nebulous than JMT: Open University Time.

    This, it transpires only after you have enrolled and committed the next six years of your life to them, is an entirely separate realm of mathematics, that is only slightly harder to understand than quantum physics. The Open University is a very strange world. You are both surrounded by colleagues - at seminars, study days, Facebook groups and course module online chatrooms - and completely and utterly alone - sat at home surrounded by books, with no one to talk to, little structure to speak of, guidance or support.

  • The upsides - and downsides - of avoiding a 'Jewniversity'

    Student Views
    Jun 28, 2016

    This blog has been shortlisted as part of our JC student blogger competition

    When all of my friends from back home went to ‘Jewniversities’, I chose Durham. My Jewish identity was strong enough that I didn’t need to be surrounded by them for my entire university life; I wanted to branch out, meet new people beyond the world I have always known, try something new. Right?

    On my first Friday night there, my parents called to wish me a Shabbat Shalom, and I didn’t even realise it was Friday; it just seemed like any other day of the week. I was shocked at myself. We aren’t especially religious; I hardly expected myself to be lighting candles, but I thought I’d have at least remembered, that something deep rooted within me would have been activated. I was wrong. At a university where the average turnout for JSoc is 20 people, where almost none of the people in my halls had even met a Jew before me, and where educated, intelligent people actually believe the stereotypes that I thought had been left behind in Nazi Germany, it is difficult to maintain my Jewish identity.

  • The dark suburbs of Paris, the City of Light

    Le Blog Français
    Jun 24, 2016

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

    I remember the tap on my shoulder. As I turned around, my heart sank and my legs suddenly felt weak. There were three people facing me, and another twenty in the background. “Give us 10 Francs!” the person right in front of me said. I didn’t even manage to mutter that I didn’t have anything when a couple of punches found their way to my nose. A shot of adrenaline, blood and tunnel vision followed but as I crossed the road to escape the scrum I managed to get a glance of my four schoolmates, all against the wall, surrounded by the pack. As I had a wider view of the scene, I also saw that from the corner of this block, more people were coming, running towards us to get some “action”. Horror was inevitable. Only by a sheer stroke of luck did a school parent happen to pass by, swing the doors of her car open, and manage to get all five of us in the back seat.

    It was 1997 in a suburb north of Paris: I was 17 years old and it was the last time I wore my kippa in public.

  • So far Euro 2016 hasn't got me buzzing as much as I'd hoped

    The Arsenal Blog
    Jun 22, 2016

    The buzz of international football is well underway. Goals have been relatively sparse, but while the net hasn’t bustled, tension has reigned supreme. Riots have broken out amongst fans, last minute goals have thrilled spectators while the best player in the competition, Cristiano Ronaldo, has played more like Nicklas Bendtner than a global superstar.

    Meanwhile, England has once again taken us down the all too familiar road of uncertainty. A cagey opening performance against Russia left fans cautiously optimistic about our tournament prospects. Then, one euphoric moment in the last minute of our Great British derby rocketed fans expectations sky high. We enjoyed floating amongst the clouds for four days, before we crashed back down to reality with a classic display of mediocrity against Slovakia. I sat down in front of the television, popcorn and crisps at hand, hopeful for a triumphant finale to the group stages and a safe first place finish. Ninety minutes of boredom later, I realised that I had fooled myself into thinking that Daniel Sturridge’s lucky goal was a symbol of change; the moment of England’s metamorphosis from dull to electrifying, from average to classy. I was wrong.

    Football is, by nature, a game of fine margins. Sturridge’s last-gasp winner against Wales was no exception. With Roy Hodgson under increasing pressure, his reaction was one of pure joy and relief. While the whole nation celebrated and chanted songs of praise for England, I pondered on how much footballing success is dependent on chance.

  • I will speak out for Israeli students, because nobody else seems to want to

    Student Views
    Jun 22, 2016

    This blog has been shortlisted as part of our JC student blogger competition

    Back in February, when my student union passed a motion in support of BDS, I sent a message to a friend on the editorial team of the student newspaper, asking if I could write a response. I picked up and put down the metaphorical pen time and again, trying to find the right words to express my anger at having my country singled out in this way, at me being singled out by extension. In the end, I took the wrong course: I put the pen down. I had only one year left of my degree, I reasoned, better just to keep a low profile, keep my head down and let it blow over. I don’t immediately identify as Israeli to people I meet (thanks to my British accent, it’s not automatically clear), and I didn’t want to make myself a target.

    In the following months, everything that happened with NUS has made me realise that’s not an option. Nowhere has that been clearer than in the post-conference discussions. The endless, inane, cyclical arguments over whether NUS and its new president are antisemitic or simply anti-Zionist are as off-target as an Englishman in a World Cup penalty shootout. I am all of the above: Jewish. Zionist. Israeli. I am one of hundreds of Israeli citizens on campuses across the UK. Bouattia openly endorses violence against us, students that she supposedly represents, so what does it even matter if she genuinely is “anti-Zionist” or “anti-Israel”? How has that become the debate?

  • I come from refugee stock - that’s why I’ll be voting Remain on Thursday

    Student Views
    Jun 21, 2016

    Many of my more liberal Jewish friends have struggled in the past with my association with an immigrant identity. “Your family have lived in the UK for almost one hundred years,” someone said to me a few months ago. “Why do you define yourself as separate from the rest of the population; why do you still see yourself as a foreigner?” Non-Jewish friends have struggled too – when I explain that I can’t see myself as more British than Jewish, I’ve been met by raised eyebrows and incredulity.

    I’m not saying I don’t think Britain is my home. It one hundred per cent is, and I love it here. I very rarely feel religiously oppressed and I’ve been surrounded for my whole life by people who respect my background, are interested in my perspective, and value the differences between us. The only thing is, I’ve grown up hyper-aware of the fact that Jews haven’t always been treated this way, and we have to watch out because it doesn’t take much to become the scapegoat again. Time and time again, we’ve thought we were safe, and were then chased out of places we’ve called home. In my opinion, we should appreciate what we’ve got here – like, really appreciate it – but not let our guard down.

    And if my friends knew what was going on in my head most of the time, it would probably be clearer to them. A lot of what makes a person culturally British is a part of me, but a lot isn’t. I’ve never had the rush of excitement as Christmas approaches because I have my own festivals to get excited about. I experience a conflict of interest when England plays Israel at football. And when antisemitism levels rise, I feel that threat. We’re still Jews, and history has proved that we’ll always be somewhat separate. We’ll always be immigrants.

  • Impressions of Israel - from a Jew struggling with life in France

    Le Blog Français
    Jun 20, 2016

    We have visited Israel regularly since our honeymoon in 1972 but still marvel at its miracles. Truckloads of surplus oranges and austere kibbutzim have given way to superhighways, wifi-enabled trains and hi-tech innovation. Water treatment, solar panels and underwater gas supplies have made water and energy shortages a thing of the past. Israel’s intelligence and defence capabilities have universal respect, while a precariously small population has grown to more than 8 million. Viewed from France, aliyah looks more like an opportunity than a sacrifice as the economy keeps growing and everything seems possible.

    We left Paris struggling with unrelenting strikes, street violence and floods. We flew into Ben Gurion to bright skies, warm sun and a palpable sense of freedom, the weight of minority status lifted from our shoulders. Israelis ask anxiously about life in France and encourage aliyah with a smile, but their remarks feel welcoming while in Paris questions about aliyah feel like a form of expulsion.

    In Israel we take pleasure in everything. A “sound and light” night walk through Jerusalem’s Old City the extraordinary Hurva synagogue beautifully restored after Jordanian destruction in 1948, a miniature Eiffel Tower on Ben Yehuda, the lively Germany colony and train station, the new top floor restaurant at Ticho’s House, Mahane Yehuda transforming itself under our eyes. The French tramway rolling quietly through the city centre carrying Haredi rubbing shoulders with bare-armed tourists, Arab families and secular Jews. An assertive modernity dressed in Jerusalem stone.