Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Anger management, rabbinical style

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 15, 2009

    Rabbis don’t often talk openly about the problems that they have with congregants.

    But in an article for the latest edition of Common Ground , the magazine of the Council of Christians and Jews, Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer reveals how he coped with “a small but vociferous” element at his previous community (Northwood).

    “It seemed to be that whatever I did, I could not please them and their unfair criticism and machinations put a tremendous strain upon me and my family,” he writes.

  • After Tehran, Cairo - but different

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jun 14, 2009

    Egypt is not exactly a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. Although President Mubarak, now in his fifth term, authorised a multi-party system of presidential elections in 2005, matters were so rigged that almost nobody else had a chance of winning. He would probably win once more if he stood again when his term ends in 2011. But he will then be 83.

    Egypt is key to the maintenance of peace in the Middle East. Although her peace treaty with Israel has never blossomed into the warm and friendly neighbourly relations that so many Israelis hoped for, she has rigorously upheld the legal terms of the treaty and frequently placed a cooling hand on those local and regional hotheads who would like to turn the cold peace into a hot war.

    Who follows Mubarak is important to the continuation of tranquility on Israel's southern border. Nothing is certain in the Middle East, but current signs are that, as has happened in Morocco, Syria and Jordan, a son will follow a father into the seat of power and Husni Mubarak will be succeeded by his 45-year old son, Gamal (known to the “street” in Cairo as “Jimmy”).

  • Miley no longer with Jewish beau? Boo!

    Alex Kasriel
    Jun 12, 2009

    Last week we reported that teen sensation Miley Cyrus was dating a certain Jewish actor, Gregg Sulkin.

    But it looks like the Hannah Montanna star has already found another nubile English star to text, email and Twitter with.

    According to reports British singer Steve Rushton, who appeared as the lead guitarist in Miley's band in the Disney film of Hannah Montana is her new boyfriend.

  • The barmitzvah party behind bars

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 12, 2009

    Five prison officials, including a rabbinical chaplain, have been disciplined after the following incident reported by The Times Online:
    “When the fraudster Tuvia Stern arrived back in New York, he found prison authorities surprisingly accommodating.
    “The former fugitive, jailed for three and a half years in March for fraud, was allowed to throw two parties for his family behind bars, even hiring his own kosher caterers and a prominent Jewish singer.
    "He hosted a lavish barmitzvah for his son and later an engagement party for his daughter. For the barmitzvah, prison officials allowed 60 guests to party for six hours in the jailhouse gym last December in a detention centre grimly known as ‘The Tombs’."
    Only in America...
    More on The Times Online

  • A tale of two Edinburghs

    Marcus Dysch
    Jun 11, 2009

    Same city, same supposed 'problem', different answer.

    The organisers of the Edinburgh International Film Festival should take note of the response from their friends down the road in Leith to pro-Palestinian pressure over sponsorship.

    The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign warned the Leith Festival board that there would be leafleting and boycotting and more moaning due to Veolia's £3,000 grant.

  • Getting the basics right

    Stephen Pollard
    Jun 11, 2009

    I'm in Israel at the moment, on holiday, and am not supposed to be blogging - hence my absence during a tumultuous week in politics. But I have, of course, been following events both on TV and the web.

    What has struck me above all else is how terribly uninformed and inaccurate some - most? - of  the coverage has been. Take this, from the BBC site today. In itself it's trivial, but it shows just how the most basic understanding is often missing:

    Brown didn't trust me, says Flint

  • Definitely not a hot hotel

    Jan Shure
    Jun 10, 2009

    As the JC will report in next week’s travel pages, four Sheraton properties in Israel are to lose the Sheraton brand name that puts them firmly at the heart of the Starwood chain. According to the Israeli press, Starwood cited a need to maintain the standard of the prestige brand. But the report also claimed that franchise and management fees were in arrears. Whether Starwood is, indeed, tightening up standards, or whether they might be less assiduous in spotting flaws if fees were being paid, I have no way of ascertaining. What I do know is that two summers ago I had the misfortune to stay at one of the four – the Sheraton Plaza Jerusalem – and to say that it did not (even then)deserve the name Sheraton is an understatement on the scale of “Mount Everest is a small hill”.

    I have no clear recollection of the room, beyond the fact that it was small, shabby, poorly furnished and equipped with a bathroom which would have been barely adequate by three-star standards.
    I also remember that our room had a delinquent key-card unit that required us to have the card-key reprogrammed or replaced roughly every third time we tried to open our door. There were, of course, no house phones to call reception, so my husband had to descend the 12 floors to the lobby each time, have the key reprogrammed, and then return. And the lift was barely more efficient than the door unit, so the round-trip often took 15 minutes.

    Ah, the lobby! Probably quite grand when the hotel opened in the late 1960s, I doubt it has been seriously refurbished or renovated since. The furnishings were shabby and the coffee shop was third-rate, despite the Arab waiters’ best efforts to be efficient and courteous.
    But the very worst aspect of the hotel was the swimming pool. Access was tucked away down a fire escape – or at least, that is what the arrangement resembled – and I seem to remember signage was bad, so it took 10 minutes to find the route. There were threadbare loungers on scrubby grass, but no pool staff, no towels as I recall (and I was there in July, not December), and no facilities for buying food or a drink beyond, I think, a machine dispensing Coke (or possibly Pepsi).
    Our inclination had been to check out and move elsewhere, but it was (I think I mentioned) July, and there was not much else available. I remember wondering how such a property in the heart of this magnificent city, where truly fabulous hotels abound, could survive, and how Starwood could continue to allow it to function under the Sheraton brand.

  • Don't drink and dance

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 10, 2009

    Here’s a rabbi who thinks simchah dancing has got too rowdy.

    Writing of his experience of a recent wedding, Rabbi Dovid Landesman comments: “Frankly, the movements would have done the ‘bros’ in the ‘hood’ proud.”

    More on Cross Currents