Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Kosher Mistress?

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 19, 2012

    Israel Hayom reports: “The Chief Judge of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel, has ruled that in cases where a man has not fathered any children, and his wife cannot or does not want to bear children, the man may take a concubine.”
    Click to read more

  • I remember Jack

    Jenni Frazer
    Jul 16, 2012

    Jack Yaffe died last week, aged a staggering 103. He made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being Britain's oldest shopkeeper, the owner of the eponymous Yaffe's hardware store in Prestwich, north Manchester.

    Given that he was 103 it's hardly surprising that I say I can't remember a time without Jack Yaffe - or Mr Yaffe as I was trained to call him. The shop, facing the Holy Law Synagogue on Bury Old Road, was a stock-taker's version of hell and a small child's idea of very heaven. Yaffe's was, and, I daresay remains, a kind of anti-shop. It had just masses and masses of STUFF, much of it almost nothing to do with hardware as we have come to know it.

    Every day, Mr Yaffe, summer and winter wearing a neatly buttoned up dark cardigan, would put out on the pavement outside the shop the latest gloriously gaudy offers, frequently with eclectic cardboard signs. The shop was plainly bursting, from floor to ceiling, from front to back. Hula hoops spilled out onto the pavement. Children's high chairs with wipe-clean folding tables. Highly coloured rugs. A net of beachballs. The mood was a market stall with an identity crisis.

  • Why rabbis should get on their bikes

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 16, 2012

    The first Rabbis Relay Ride which ended recently appears to have been a great success, raising £30,000 for charity.

    More than 20 rabbis took the saddle at various stages along the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

    What was significant is that the participants embraced representatives from across the board, Orthodox, Reform, Liberal and Masorti.

  • The Chief Rabbi on gay marriage: silence not an option

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 6, 2012

    The Chief Rabbi has come under fire for his opposition to civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples (see our front-page story this week).

    Since there is no question of the government forcing religious groups to carry out same-sex weddings, his critics say that Chief Rabbi simply should have kept shtum rather than plunge into a contentious and divisive issue.

    However, they overlook an important point. It is true that the commandments of the Torah are binding only on Jews. However, according to Orthodox theology, there are basic standards of morality which apply to all humanity known as the Seven Noahide Laws.

  • “The Left, the Jews and Israel”

    Winston Pickett
    Jun 25, 2012

    This is the subtitle of a new book by historian Robert Wistrich (University of Nebraska Press). As a stand-alone, its apparent neutrality gives little away, reminding me of T.S. Elliot’s Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. The topic appears cool and analytical, ‘like a patient, etherised upon a table.'

    Until, that is, you look at the full title: From Ambivalence to Betrayal.

    When talking about the Left, this pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?

  • Asma al Assad's new business venture?

    Jessica Elgot
    Jun 22, 2012

    Syria's first lady Asma al-Assad has a new business to propose to you. Look what dropped into my inbox this afternoon.

    From: Mrs. Asma al-Assad []
    Sent: 20 June 2012 07:37
    To: undisclosed-recipients
    Subject: Your Trust/ Interest


  • Should the Chief Rabbi stay on?

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 19, 2012

    An online petition has been started calling for the Chief Rabbi to stay on beyond his scheduled retirement date. Lord Sacks is planning to move on after 21 years in office in September 2013, six months after his 65th birthday.

    The prospect of him postponing his departure seems unlikely. His close associates had long indicated he was minded to step down at 65. If he had wanted to remain for a couple of years or, like his predecessor Lord Jakobovits, until he was 70, the United Synagogue would surely not have turned down the offer.

    He will be able to continue doing what he does best, writing, speaking and broadcasting, regardless of whether he holds the title of Chief Rabbi or not: there seems no reason, for instance, why he would have to give up his Thought for the Day slot when he leaves office. His seat in the Lords will also guarantee him a national platform. In demand as a speaker internationally, he will be free to pursue engagements abroad without having to worry about ceremonial appearances or functional duties back home.

  • Antisemitism & Its Antidotes (5)

    Winston Pickett
    Jun 14, 2012

    How do you define a problem with antisemitism that seems to reside in the hazy domain of intellectual subtlety, inferred meaning and suppositions of ill will – so much so that engaging with it threatens to tie even the most experienced brains into knots?

    Welcome to the “Great GSCE Religion Question Controversy of 2012.”

    For those who may be tuning in for the first time (this includes readers of the NY-based Algemeiner, where this blog is also carried), a few preliminary remarks are necessary.

  • Antisemitism & Its Antidotes (4)

    Winston Pickett
    Jun 8, 2012

    If talking about antisemitism – and by that I mean discussing or engaging with it as a subject in verbal or written form – poses challenges all its own, certainly one of them is conceptual.

    Let’s face it. Antisemitism is a lousy word. Essays, prefaces, monographs and footnotes have all but exhausted themselves trying to explain what is, was or could be meant by the term. It has been parsed, dissected, etymologised and psychoanalysed probably more than any other ‘-ism’ in the dictionary. All of which, begs a strictly neutral question: If a word has been so ardently debated, what does that tell us about its precision?

    Aren’t terms – especially ones that are meant to describe a world-view or thought structure – supposed to be clear and unambiguous? If they’re not, does this render them less effective – or at least more problematic?

  • Bat Mitzvah nose jobs - according to the Daily Mail

    Jessica Elgot
    Jun 8, 2012

    Apparently my nose is newsworthy this morning. As a woman with a natural "Jewish" nose, I am pleased to report, I am part of a new phenomenon.

    The headline of the article by Victoria Wellman was "Young, Jewish and beautiful: Nose jobs decline as rhinoplasty's biggest fans no longer fear their defining feature". Apparently, we Jewish women who have longed dreamed of the cute button nose are learning to embrace our hook-nosed honks. Or something to that effect.

    The line comes from a cosmetic surgeon, once the darling of "young, affluent Jewish girls", who was quoted in a Tablet magazine article.