Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • 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.

  • 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”.