Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • 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.

  • Gove’s Philistines

    Simon Rocker
    Feb 14, 2013

    The Department for Education’s decision to ignore Jewish protests and refuse to recognise Hebrew as an official language for primary school teaching can only be described as an act of philistinism.

    It makes absolutely no sense to include Latin and ancient Greek (along with French, Spanish, Italian, German and Spanish) on the list of seven – but not Hebrew.

    Hebrew has long been considered one of the foundation languages of Western civilisation; as long as ago as the sixteenth century, Henry VIII instituted Regius chairs in Hebrew at Oxford and Cambridge.

  • Rabbi David Hartman

    Simon Rocker
    Feb 12, 2013

    The death of Rabbi David Hartman in Israel on Sunday has deprived the Jewish world of one of its most forward-looking thinkers.

    The Shalom Hartman Institute he founded endeavoured to find bridges between rabbinic tradition and the pluralism of contemporary Jewish life.

    Rabbi Hartman was one of the speakers at Traditional Alternatives, the symposium of Orthodox thought in London staged in 1989 shortly before Jonathan Sacks was appointed Chief Rabbi.

  • Inquiring minds

    Jenni Frazer
    Jan 29, 2013

    Let us unpick the events of the week so far. On Sunday, it was Holocaust Memorial Day: a yearly event initiated by the British government to mark, in line with many other countries, the attempted complete annihilation of a people. It is right and proper that HMD is used as an educational tool to mark other genocides. It is not right and proper to make a moral equivalence between what happened to the Jews between 1933 and 1945, and what is happening today in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

    On Holocaust Memorial Day the editors at the Sunday Times chose to publish two curiosities: a peculiar magazine story about David Irving, the Holocaust denier, and the tours he is running in concentration camps; and the by-now bizarre cartoon from Gerald Scarfe, featuring a bloodthirsty Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall and using murdered Palestinians for its cement.

    Scarfe himself has said he very much regretted the timing of the publication, claiming he did not know that it was HMD. But even if it had not been the anniversary, the cartoon was not just offensive - but missed the point in its comment on the Israeli elections. Netanyahu did not win an overwhelming victory and nor did the anti-peace camp forces in Israel.

  • Nothing like a good argument

    Simon Rocker
    Jan 24, 2013

    The British-born Israeli Talmud scholar Daniel Sperber – who is speaking at South Hampstead Synagogue on Sunday night – is one of the most eminent Orthodox academics.

    But Orthodoxy and academia haven’t always sat easily together. The relationship and tensions between Orthodox thinking and university research will be the focus of a new programme in London, “Arguments for Heaven's Sake”, of which Rabbi Sperber will be giving the inaugural lecture. It is sponsored by the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the Friends of Louis Jacobs.

    Over the next few months Oxford will also be hosting a number of international scholars for a related programme exploring questions raised by the work of Rabbi Louis Jacobs, who tried to reconcile academic scholarship and traditional Judaism, though, of course, not in a way which always met the approval of the Orthodox establishment.