Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Man of mystery

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 14, 2013

    Kabbalah was once dismissed as medieval mumbo-jumbo that no self-respecting Jew in the West would give any time to.

    Now the mystical tradition is widely recognised as the extraordinary product of the Jewish religious imagination and an enduring source of spiritual insight.

    That is no small measure due to Gershom Scholem, the German-born Israeli scholar (1897-1982), who gave academic respectability to the study of Kabbalah.

  • Logic, Mr Hague?

    Orlando Radice
    May 31, 2013

    The reasoning behind Britain and France’s drive to have the EU lift its arms embargo on Syria – which was agreed on this week by European foreign ministers after considerable bickering - seems to be that by strengthening the rebels, the West can eventually force the two sides to the negotiating table.

    That does not seem logical.

    Leave aside the fact that Russia responded by saying it would arm Assad with sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles, a move that Hague and the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, could not necessarily have predicted. The Russian missile offer caps off month of military gains by the Syrian regime, which has retaken large swathes of the country back from the rebels.

  • Chief Rabbi and gay marriage

    Simon Rocker
    May 26, 2013

    Do the Chief Rabbi’s remarks on gay marriage this week represent a shift in United Synagogue policy?

    Lord Sacks disputed the suggestion that he had “come out strongly” against government proposals to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry.

    And that is so. Compared to other clerics who were vocal in their opposition to the plans, the Chief Rabbi’s office repeatedly declined to comment when approached by the JC last year.

  • What the rich list doesn't tell you

    Anna Sheinman
    Apr 25, 2013

    Anita Zabludowicz and her husband Poju may now be number 48 on the rich list, but perhaps more excitingly in December 1973 Anita was one of three girls presented with an Eshet Chayil certificate at the Gosforth and Kenton Synagogue for passing the examinations of the Hebrew Classes of the United Hebrew Congregation of Newcastle, set by the headmaster Rabbi M M Baddiel.

    Many know that Laurence Graff (31) began his work in the diamond industry as a diamond mounter in Hatton Garden aged 15. What only the JC archives remember is that in 1969 Laurence Graff (Jewellery Creations) Ltd. had almost completed their marketing plans for 1970 and were looking for “an above average Sales Executive, 30-50 years of age” to “help them complete their plans”.

    Mark Pears and his brothers Trevor and David (36) grew up in Hendon and run the William Pears Group, named after the grocery business run by their grandfather Bernard, who changed his name from Schleicher on emigrating from Austria. In 1987 the wedding of Mark and Debra Groves at Marble Arch Synagogue was reported in the JC.

  • Good luck, Mr Kerry

    Orlando Radice
    Apr 19, 2013

    Much has been written in the Western press about Israeli intransigence on the peace process in recent months. There are good reasons for this. Announcing new settlements in sensitive areas such as the E1 corridor – as the Israeli government did last November – is not the action of a side that has any interest in signing a peace deal.

    And withholding customs revenue destined for the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to apply for a status upgrade at the UN General Assembly was probably a major factor in causing the resignation of Salam Fayyad last week. It gave rise to economic misery in the West Bank, which Abbas leveraged to force Fayyad out. Fayyad, for all his faults, co-operated closely with Israel, renounced violence, was a key state-builder for the Palestinians and opposed Abbas’s unilateral push to secure statehood.

    So much for the Israeli peace drive. Less has been said, however, about Palestinian efforts to avoid negotiations.

  • Justin Bieber and Anne Frank: Why the fuss?

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 15, 2013

    Dear Kitty (as Anne Frank never wrote),

    "I'm soo sick of being stuck in hiding, because my dad keeps telling me to turn down the volume on my Justin Bieber CD. If only I could get out to go and see him on tour…"

    Clearly, Anne– the teenage diarist forced into hiding by the Nazis, who eventually died at Bergen Belsen – had more serious considerations than the average 21st century western teenager. In her diary, perhaps one of the most well-known examples of Holocaust-era testimony, she wrote of an everyday existence blighted by fear, death and hatred.

  • Land of the Locust Eaters

    Simon Rocker
    Mar 7, 2013

    The swarm of locusts which, showing no respect for borders, arrived in Israel this week from Egypt has triggered a good deal of online comment about whether you can eat them or not (though how you catch them I don't know - perhaps with an aeroplane with a very large net).

  • Goodbye to all that

    Jenni Frazer
    Mar 6, 2013

    Today is our last day in Furnival Street; our last day in the City. The JC is moving and as the paper does so, years worth of memories of life in this maddening, rackety building, come flooding back.

    When I joined as a (very) junior reporter there was a hierarchy which almost defies belief today. It was hard to work out who was who, from the ancient man who, apparently as a messenger of 14, had actually brought the Balfour Declaration to the paper for publication, to the several defiantly foreign men who mangled the English language in their speech, but who produced beautiful copy.

    There was an antique Dickensian whose clothes were so old they were dark green with age; he, it was rumoured, had once been Green Flag, a legendary travel editor. Our actual travel editor, when I arrived, was known far and wide as The Captain, a tribute to his near heroic appetite for cruises.

  • Eighth plague hits Egypt

    Jennifer Lipman
    Mar 5, 2013

    Here’s a mad pre-Pesach coincidence for you.

    Reports are emerging of a plague of locusts descending on modern Egypt – a catastrophe that, as you most likely know, marked the eighth stage in the ten biblical plagues visited upon Egypt ahead of the Exodus.

    Time magazine has the story:

  • A new voice in Israel

    Simon Rocker
    Feb 22, 2013

    Diaspora Jews generally pay little attention to what Israeli politicians say in the Knesset.

    But one speech has won the admiration of many in the Jewish world.

    It was the maiden parliamentary address by Ruth Calderon, one of the MK’s for Yair Lapid’s new Yesh Atid party.