Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • We don’t do broiges like we used to

    Simon Rocker
    Sep 24, 2008

    For all the tensions that exist between Orthodox and non-Orthodox, we probably manage them more civilly than in the past. Go back to 1853, for example. When the first delegates from the West London Synagogue (the country's first reformist synagogue) came to the Board of Deputies, the debate over whether they should be allowed to take their seats became so heated that the police were called. But when the constable arrived, the wardens of the Great Synagogue, who included Sir Anthony de Rothschild, would not allow him to enter the building.

  • Year of the Lame Duck

    Anshel Pfeffer
    Sep 23, 2008

    Gordon Brown will probably manage to ward off the latest Labour rebellion, for now, and depart from his party's conference for the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Effectively a lame-duck prime minister, just waiting for the moment in which one of his cabinet ministers plucks up courage to wield the knife.

    President Shimon Peres has also left for New York, after calling in Tzipi Livni last night, to entrust her with forming a new government. Ehud Olmert remains caretaker prime minister for at least a few more weeks, as Livni will not likely succeed in scraping a coalition together until the High Holy Days season is over. If she fails, then Israel goes for elections, with Olmert still standing uneasily at the helm.

    Peres and Brown will meet another lame duck in New York, George Bush, who has been reduced to irrelevancy in the White House. Real power will return to Washington only in January with the inauguration of the new president.

  • A deadly ritual

    Daniella Peled
    Sep 23, 2008

    The news of the latest attack in Jerusalem came with a sense of inevitability. A vehicle driven into a crowd of people; the young driver, a resident of East Jerusalem, shot dead by a passing soldier.

  • Who killed the anti-eruv website?

    Simon Rocker
    Sep 23, 2008

    The North-West London eruv has become such an established fixture since the five and a half years since it went live that it is hard to remember the opposition it generated when it was first mooted a decade ago. Some secular Jews talked hysterically of new ghettos, the good folk of Hampstead Garden Suburb complained of treelines being spoiled by alien poles.

    Most of the hostility died down in time, but one source of resistance has lingered on, from the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, whose rabbinate regard aspects of the Shabbat boundary dubious in their opinion on Jewish law.

    At least one dedicated anti-eruvite even launched a website,, where posters traded halachic arguments for and against the poles and wires, along with the odd bit of tittle-tattle about local rabbis. Who was behind the site was never revealed, since he, or they, remained behind a mask of anonymity, as did most of the contributors to the threads. Well, over the summer, the site has vanished from the Judosphere. Did the anti-eruvites find it too expensive to maintain the domain? Or is the disappearance of the site evidence that within the Charedi world opposition to the eruv is melting away?

  • The Credit Crunch and the Jewish Question

    Anshel Pfeffer
    Sep 16, 2008

    The collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers over the weekend prompted an interesting debate in the online forum of the white-racist website Stormfront. Some posters saw the demise of the financial institution, founded by America's grandest German-Jewish banking dynasty 158 years ago, as the ultimate triumph. "Who said Jews were ever good at money? They run a Con Game. Jews can't even manage their own banks," wrote one of them. Others were less jubilant, since "Jews didn't own Lehman Brothers, shareholders did. You me and anyone that has a pension scheme or an insurance policy has lost. The Jews will have known it was coming and moved their investments to a safer place months ago." Still others argued that, despite the bank not being family-owned for decades, this was still a debacle for the Jews as its senior management were hook-nosed.

    Putting these rantings aside, it is still too early to say whether the subprime mortgage crisis is good or bad news for the Jews. Do the stories of Jewish-founded banks such as Lehman and Bear Stearns resonate differently than good ol' American household names like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae? Have internal dog-whistles gone off? It would be encouraging to believe that in the 21st century, outside of the depraved imagination of supremacists, Jews are no longer the prime suspects in international financial disasters, and indeed there are no signs of that happening yet. But ancient stereotypes are double-edged. In today's politically correct environment, saying that Jews are good with money can cost someone their job and reputation. But let's admit the truth: many of our chosen people have done quite well out of that image when trying to attract investors over the centuries.

    When the credit-crunch crisis is finally over, and the Chinese, Japanese and Gulf Arabs are energetically rebuilding the ruins of Wall Street and the City, will we finally be released from one of our oldest stigmas? The goons can always go back to using the blood-libel.

  • Who would win in a fist fight between Tzipi Livni and Sarah Palin?

    Daniella Peled
    Sep 15, 2008

    Who would win in a fist fight between Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin and Kadima leadership candidate Tzipi Livni?

    Thus ran the idle debate in the pub yesterday afternoon, where Mossad-trained Livni was deemed the sharper, swifter opponent, but Palin was ultimately ruled to have the muscular advantage, what with all that moose pie and elk steak she must eat (not to mention the hunting, killing and butchering of it).

    And yet the prospect of these two women actually facing off against each other (diplomatically rather than in a slapping contest) might not be beyond the realms of possibility.

  • Jewish women cooking up a storm for charity

    Jan Shure
    Sep 11, 2008

    One of the attributes that still amazes and impresses me when it comes to the women of Britain's Jewish community is their energy and sheer indomitable enthusiasm when it comes to supporting good causes.

    As, first, woman's page editor of the JC and then, until recently, as Community News editor, I was able to observe what they were doing to support and fundraise for a whole bunch of causes. There were the established groups such as Wizo, Emunah and the League of Jewish Women, as well as those like the 35s (now One to One), Jewish Women's Aid and the Mothers-and-Daughters Committee, most of which began at a kitchen table somewhere in Edgware or Clayhall or Prestwich, and would never have grown to make such an impact - nor to rake in such large sums of money - but for the sheer guts, imagination and determination of the women who set them up and then dragooned their friends to support them.

    One such group of female fundraisers is the Fabulous Food For You committee which supports Hazon Yeshaya, the Israeli soup kitchen founded 10 years ago by Rabbi Abraham Israel which now provides 400,000 meals a day at 60 soup kitchens, distribution centres and schools throughout Israel.

  • Translating the Bible - into Hebrew...

    Miriam Shaviv
    Sep 11, 2008

    In university, my version of Chaucer included a line-by-line translation of the Old English into more palatable modern English. Now, in Israel, someone has the same idea – for the Bible. According to Ha’aretz,

    A move is afoot to publish the Bible in contemporary Hebrew. In other words, to translate the Bible into Hebrew. To rewrite it, in the same language, using different words.

    This is a private commercial endeavor launched by a veteran teacher of the Bible, Avraham Ahuvia, and publisher Rafi Mozes of Reches Educational Projects. The entire text is vocalized, and each verse appears in the original form alongside the translated version.