Your blogs

  • Can't wait to start university? Actually, I'm petrified

    Naomi Bloomer
    Sep 10, 2009

    So, what seems like a lifetime after A-level results, this Jewish girl from Watford is now looking forward to going to university later this month.

    Looking forward? No, that’s not the right phrase. Perhaps petrified is more appropriate.

    I completed my accommodation form incorrectly and ended up in catered halls instead of self-catered. It will just have to be a repeat of the past seven years at a secular comprehensive: I’ll have to be very careful, always asking twice about canteen food and never eating anything I’m not sure about.

  • What was that you said?

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 24, 2009

    Academia does not necessarily (some would say, at all) breed commonsense. But even Bar Ilan's Ephraim Inbar should have known better, on the eve of his Prime Minister's visit to the UK, than to tell the Today programme in essence that Britain was no longer a power that really mattered in the Middle East and was just carried along in the American slipstream. Professor Inbar was introduced as an advisor to Mr Netanyahu. I hope he has not advised him what to say when he meets Gordon Brown this week.

  • Sheryl and Bernie: An American Tale

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 21, 2009

    New York's Jewish establishment is panting in anticipation of publication next week of a tell-all memoir of her 20-year affair with fraudster Bernie Madoff by former top Jewish civil servant Sheryl Weinstein. One astonishing fact which emerged pre-publication from inside the covers is that, during her association with Madoff, the unsuspecting Weinstein was chief financial officer of Hadassah, the American arm of the Women's International Zionist organisation, Wizo. As such, she was party to investment decisions by the Wizo board which poured many millions into Madoff's schemes. Her own husband (who did not know of her affair) is also said to have invested with Madoff. Weinstein's book, "Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie and Me," is reported by New York newspapers to disclose rather more than most readers might want to know about Madoff's phsyical attributes, or lack of them. Weinstein was one of those who gave evidence at Madoff's trial. She said the day she met him was "the unluckiest day of my life." There are no comments from her husband.

  • Don't look now...

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 4, 2009

    New neighbours are moving in. Their goods and chattels have arrived aboard a huge pantechnicon. It has travelled all the way from the Czech Republic. The name of the moving company, written in large letters, is GOLEM. The company can be reached at a website in the Czech Republic which begins “www.Golem...” Should we be worried?

  • How clever?

    Geoffrey Paul
    Aug 3, 2009

    I have read and tried to work my way through the history and legal argument about the properties in East Jerusalem from which, this week, Arab families have been forcibly evicted and into which Jewish settlers have been allowed to move. I must confess that I still do not know who was right. What I do know is that, in terms of public relations, Israel has shot herself in the leg again by sending in the police to enforce its rights. How many points does it win her in the court of public opinion to be seen ousting people who - apparently, and I have no proof - have lived under the same roof for 50 years? What does it say about Israel's ability to live in peace not just with her neighbours but with her own Arab citizens? Sometimes, I must confess, I just shake my head in disbelief at the miscalculations of successive Israeli governments. Who was it ever said anything about “clever Jews”?

  • Jewish cossacks

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jul 21, 2009

    Time and again in accounts of Cossack raids on their Jewish or Polish neighbours, we read of men on horseback, wielding fiery touches, setting fire to fields and crops and terrifying the local populace. I recalled these accounts with a prickle of horror when I read today's Israeli press reports of between 1,500 and 2,000 Arab olive trees being set on fire by horseback riding settlers from the ever-troublesome West Bank Jewish settlement of Yitzhar. It is from this place, you may recall, that Israel paratroopers were withdrawn a few years ago after clashes with settlers. What gives this ugly story an even uglier twist is that the settlers say their attacks are not aimed specifically at local Arabs but at the Israeli Government as a warning of what will happen if they continue to demolish illegal structures on West Bank settlements. If and when the Israel Government moves against the settlements themselves, I fear we will see battles of Jew against Jew as have not been experienced in modern history. It is a terrible prospect, made worse by the fact that one side believes it is acting in the name and with the blessing of God.

  • Auschwitz 'corrective'

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jul 15, 2009

    It is not very often you read a “corrective” about the Holocaust that makes you sit up and say, Yes, that's right. I hadn't seen it that way. But I have just had such an experience with the July 16 issue of the New York Review of Books. There, Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale and specialist in Eastern Europe, claims that by 1943 and 1944, when most of the killing of West European Jews took place, “the Holocaust was in considerable measure complete . Two thirds of the Jews who would be killed during the war were already dead by the end of 1942. The main victims, the Polish and Soviet Jews, had been killed by bullets fired over death pits or by carbon monoxide from internal combustion engines pumped into gas chambers at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor in occupied Poland.”

    So why my skewed perception, which I am sure most other Western Jews share? Explains Snyder, “The very reasons that we know about Auschwitz warp our understanding of the Holocaust: we know about Auschwitz because there were survivors and there were survivors because Auschwitz was a labour camp as well as a death factory. These survivors were largely West European Jews because Auschwitz is where West European Jews were usually sent. After World War II, West European Jewish survivors were free to publish as they liked, whereas East Euopean Jewish survivors, if caught behind the iron curtain could not. In the West, memoirs of the Holocaust could (although very slowly) enter into historical writing and public consciousness.”

    You can read more of Snyder's fascinating views on “The Ignored Reality” at www.nybooks.com/articles/22875

  • Luck of the Irish

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jul 9, 2009

    Perhaps the felon who fought extradition to Ireland because he did not like onions in his food will make do with the multiplicity of cans of Hebrew National soups which have had to be withdrawn because they have unannounced celery, mustard or soya in their content. I myself had a notion of what criminality must feel like when, having trawled through Tesco's fruit and vegetable bargains this morning, I espied a private treat (my wife is a working gal), a tin of Hebrew National barley soup and put it in my trolley for a private, unannounced lunch. You can't have that, said the guy at the checkout desk, it's an “emergency withdrawal.” A what? Not to be sold. Not to you. Not to anyone. But it was on the shelf, together with a host of companions. Were they all to rust alone in some distant landfill? Apparently, yes, because people who couldn't take celery, mustard or soya might have had an allergic reaction and been able, presumably, to sue for thousands. I didn't have a chance, or a thought, to check for onions. But I am sure the Irish can do that.

  • "Best country on earth!"

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jun 29, 2009

     

    For more than sixty years, Jewish and Gentile supporters of Israel organised in the Anglo-Israel Association have been working away quietly in the parliamentary, academic and educational fields to create a better understanding of Israel in the UK and vice versa. On a shoestring budget and relying on a headquarters' staff of one, director Ruth Saunders, backed up by volunteers, the AIA has created a reputation for preferring fact to propaganda and private discussion to public argument. This is what probably helped it to pull off a major coup last week when, in the palatial Locarno Suite in the Foreign Office, former ambassadors of Israel to the Court of St James's and British ambassadors to Israel sat down together for a day-long "Ambassadors' Roundtable" sponsored by the Association.

    The more than 10 hours' of discussions were conducted under "Chatham House" rules  which means participants are free to use information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed. Having said which, it is no secret that, the ambassadors apart, Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Professors Martin Gilbert and Shlomo Avineri took a prominent part in the proceedings which were not without their heat - hardly surprising since the theme for the roundtable was "to address concerns about signs of mounting anti-Israeli sentiment in the UK."
     
    Reports circulating later suggested that a leading Jewish Tory parliamentarian set a snarling cat among the pigeons with a blistering attack on Israeli policies and her foreign minister. But for the rest things seem to have been much more measured. The kind of diplomatic approach adopted by participants was reflected in a brochure produced for the occasion in which former envoys in either country spoke for publication to Katy Ostro. Here, the ambassadors looked back, mainly with warmth, on their time in Britain and Israel. Sir Patrick Moberly (1981-1984} is still in touch with Israeli friends. What he admired most about Israelis was "their constant liveliness, their energy and determination It is these warm-hearted people that make Israel the country it is."
     
    Perhaps the warmest of all is Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles (2001-2003) who went on from Israel to be ambassador to Saudi Arabia and then Afghanistan and who is now the Foreign Secretary's Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, a hot seat if ever there was one. Cowper-Coles told Katy Ostro: "Israel is the most wonderful country on earth. If it could attain peace with the wider region this would be an invaluable asset in every sense. I believe that one of the tragedies for the region is that many Arabs have happy memories of Jewish populations in their midst, such as in Baghdad and Cairo, and that the separation of their communities has distanced the many good things that were held in common. For Israel to survive, this common destiny between Arabs and Jews must be embraced."

  • Don't switch off yet

    Geoffrey Paul
    Jun 19, 2009

    Of course, it had to happen one day. A reform synagogue in Virginia podcasts all its religious services and, reports the rabbi of Temple B'nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, “It's been fantastic for our members, especially the elderly, people with chronic illness and those serving in the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and foreign service assignments.” Why, people even “take services on their vacations and on business trips...our teens listen to the podcasts even when they are not away.” I cannot imagine this will ever catch on with the United Synagogue. Can you imagine, no more deficit shuls or crumbling cathedrals (often the same)? Services will be transmitted from Studio 4B at Marble Arch and from the property sales there would be tons of money for the redundant rabbis' pension fund. Of course, it would spell the end of communal kiddushim and we would have to take kiddush at home alone. No, most definitely not for the United Synagogue. Not in my lifetime...