Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Finally, a positive step for tackling mental health in schools

    Charlotte Oliver
    Jan 14, 2016

    Ten years ago, I was nearing the end of my time at a high-ranking all-girls’ school widely known for two things: its excellent academic results, and its high volume of pupils who suffered from eating disorders.

    The two traits were unavoidable; the former, proclaimed to us at every opportunity – a stern warning, should one of us dare be the sorry soul who let their standards slip. The latter, noticeable in the pallid faces of girls who skipped lunch, spending their free hour instead writing essays in the library or smoking Marlboro Lights down the road.

    Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely loved school. Loved the friends, loved the lessons – a poster girl for teacher’s pet supremo. But I look back at my time there and memories of teachers’ inaction when it came to tackling depression and self-harm slowly come to mind, smashing the nostalgia in its tracks.

  • Next year in Birmingham

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 31, 2015

    An Israeli acquaintance, taking an early morning dip in the Hilton pool at Limmud, remarked that the water was so pleasantly warm that it was like swimming in chicken soup.

    There was always a risk in Limmud moving from a campus to hotel venue. Some wondered whether it might just become like any other Jewish conference and lose some of the communitarian spirit that gave it its characteristic atmosphere.

    But after this year’s experience, I doubt whether Limmud will go back to sparse lecture halls and windswept walkways. The approving voices for the new location with its carpets and chandeliers outweighed those who hankered for the back-to-college environment of Limmuds gone by.

  • From Marxism to Limmud, neither are for me

    Rosa Doherty
    Dec 29, 2015

    I pulled a long black hair out of my watery scrambled eggs and sighed. Welcome to Limmud.

    For those who don’t know, Limmud is a 5-day festival dedicated to Jewish learning in all its variety.

    Held normally on a university campus although this year it is in a hotel, people spend their days running to and from sessions and sharing buffet style dinners together in large halls.

  • Life at Hotel Limmud

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 29, 2015

    By the end of the first day of Limmud, it felt like a simchah without a function. I’d run into a cousin, cousins of my wife and some old acquaintances I had not seen for 20 years or so.

    The compactness of the new hotel venue – where all sessions are being held in a single building – makes it more likely to bump into people you know. That, of course, may not make it an attraction for everyone. In the past, you could spend five days at conference on a more spread-eye campus and not set eyes on people you knew would be there.

    For those less mobile, the move to a new location has been a boon. I know of one nonagenarian with a walker who decided to attend this year because it would be easier to get around.

  • Even Limmudniks need to eat

    Sandy Rashty
    Dec 28, 2015

    It's day two, and Limmudniks are loving life.

    They're meeting and greeting new people from across the globe.

    They're learning new things and laughing along to midrashic jokes.

  • Sorry Santa, there's no room for you here

    Sandy Rashty
    Dec 27, 2015

    Here I am, writing to you from Limmud's annual conference in Birmingham.

    I have been sent to cover the conference for the JC - and it's my first visit to the event set to attract a record 2,700 participants this year.

    First impressions?

  • My Jewish Transgender Journey

    Isabella Segal
    Dec 24, 2015

    My name is Isabella Segal. I am 59 years old and live in North West London. I am a chartered accountant and a partner in a 17-partner firm where I head up the forensic accounting department.

    But that’s not all there is to me.

    From early childhood, I have struggled with issues surrounding my gender identity. I grew up in North West London in a lovely, warm secular Jewish family with my late Dad, my Mum (Ruth) and my younger sister.

  • Get texting - Limmud style

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 24, 2015

    War and peace may shortly be starting on BBC but Limmud has got there first.

    After all the recent debate over military intervention in Syria, there could hardly be more apposite theme for the chavruta - one to one - study programme at Limmud conference than that of war and peace.

    For an hour each day of the conference you can explore the subject with a study partner, looking it at through the prism of classic Jewish texts.

  • Where have all the Israelis gone?

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 17, 2015

    Charedi MK Rabbi Yisroel Eichler of the United Torah Judaism party was in town recently.

    In an interview with the Jewish Tribune, he set out his view why there was "no place" for a yeshivah student to be in the Israeli army.

    Whereas the number of soldiers was important in the past, today technology made it possible for an army to fight with fewer people, he argued.

  • Where have all the (US) rabbis gone?

    Simon Rocker
    Dec 10, 2015

    This is something I imagine I’d not be writing about again.

    But first some figures.

    Number of United Synagogue rabbis listed to speak in the Limmud UK conference programme:
    2013: 10
    2014: 9
    2015: 1