Your blogs

  • Conversion reforms reach to the heart of Jewish identity

    Katharine Rooney
    Jul 15, 2015

    My father is Jewish, my mother is not. She never converted, probably because my Dad has never been particularly religious – in fact, you could probably count on one hand the number of times he has been to shul since his bar mitzvah.

    I spent my childhood partly in London, where I was born, and partly in Vancouver, Canada, where my Dad is from and where he moved the family when I was eight. I’m the eldest of four, and one of my sisters, who is two and half years younger than me, also converted to make herself “officially” Jewish the same year I did, 2006. Being dual citizens, we have both split our time between Canada and the UK over the years, so while I did the conversion in Canada, my sister did hers here, at West London Synagogue. Interestingly, when my sister reached the Beth Din, she was told that because of her Jewish background, she could be given an “affirmation”, rather than a conversion – a precursor, perhaps, to the Reform movement’s formal announcement this week.

    Growing up, despite the fact that my parents weren’t religious, I always identified as Jewish, because we spent so much time with my father’s family (all Reform). I have vivid memories of Rosh Hashanah dinners at my grandfather Asher’s house and seders at my great-uncle Abel’s house. But even more than that, it just felt like something that was a part of me: I have always gravitated towards Jewish culture, food, humour and music – I love Woody Allen, Jonathan Safran Foer, Matisyahu and of course, bagels. It troubled me greatly that despite feeling this way – despite having a Jewish parent and being, frankly, more than a little neurotic, I wasn’t allowed to claim my Jewishness because I was from the wrong side of the gene pool. I was forever being told – by Jews and non-Jews alike — “oh, your mother isn’t Jewish, so you’re not really Jewish.” It was hurtful, even if they didn’t mean it that way.

  • An Open Letter to those living in the UK

    Liora Resnick
    Jun 25, 2015

    This blog was first shared on Facebook as an open letter from 16 year-old Hasmonean student Liora Resnick

    Like all sixteen year olds my age, irrespective of my race, religion or ethnicity, I worry about normal sixteen-year old things: I worry about whether I have done the right homework and what to wear to the oh-so-important party next Saturday night. I worry about if I can afford those concert tickets that I am desperate to go to, and I worry about if that look that boy gave me that one time meant anything or not.

    But unlike most other sixteen-year old girls, I worry about something that is far bigger than any of those trivial things:

  • London has a duty and responsibility to stand together with its Jewish citizens

    Tulip Siddiq
    Jun 24, 2015

    Last week in Parliament, I felt deeply honoured to give my maiden speech before the House of Commons. I felt honoured to celebrate the rich political history, the tapestry of cultures and the spirit of community that defines my constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn. Crucially, I felt honoured to speak for the values upon which I was elected, particularly the need for collective responsibility in the face of adversity.

    It is in that spirit that I have decided to sponsor an Early Day Motion as my parliamentary response to the anticipated presence of far right groups in Golders Green. The motion calls upon the Government to isolate the politics of hate and division, but also to celebrate the work being done to promote solidarity and celebrate diversity in the local area. Whilst some MPs may dismiss such motions as simple gestures, I would argue that the historic consequences of allowing bigotry to fester unchallenged are too grave to ignore.

    As with several neighbouring constituencies of North London, Hampstead has seen an increase in antisemitic incidents over the past year. Whether it was swastikas being daubed on signs in Hampstead Heath, or concerned parents fearing for their children's safety in school, antisemitism has reared its ugly head and must continue to be met with an uncompromising, zero-tolerance response. My Early Day Motion forms a small part of the necessary efforts, which is why its wording sought to give a platform for the work of local campaigners.

  • The challenge of London student life

    Dina Hochhauser
    Jun 5, 2015

    Having grown up in London, I was initially wary about spending the three years of my degree there.

    I had dismissed several universities based on the lack of Jewish life, but that this would be relevant in London never entered my mind.

    So I was surprised to find that, despite the wealth of Jewish activity in London, there were not a huge number of events that encompassed all Jewish students. Although I had been unsure as to the extent to which I wanted to involve myself in these large-scale JSoc events, it seemed that the choice was no longer mine. The few events held in the first term were diminished affairs compared to those experienced by my friends, attending universities boasting far fewer Jews than in the capital.

  • Should the NUS take a wider political stance, or focus on the issues that directly affect students on campus?

    Jordan Mizrahi
    Apr 28, 2015

    This week I had the privilege of attending my first National Union of Students conference in Liverpool, attended by nearly 700 delegates and dozens of observers, media personnel and campaigners. Representing the University of Bristol as one of its five delegates was also very special for me as it allowed me to speak and vote on behalf of my peers. It is an amazing feeling sitting down and voting on the very first motion in a huge arena; one minute you are sitting among 1,000 or so members of the audience and the next you are addressing them on the issues that you feel most strongly about.

    Not only was I representing Bristol students, but also Jewish students and the Jewish voice on campus. Part of my involvement with Jewish issues at NUS was in the form of the UJS fringe event. UJS ran a great fringe event Faith not Fear, regarding sexual orientation in faith. This event was one of the most popular fringe events of the conference (hopefully not just because of the free food…) and was attended by a diverse and engaged audience.

    However, whilst leafleting for the event I did have an encounter with a delegate that aligned himself with the Socialist Workers Party; he claimed that as a Palestinian supporter he couldn’t come to the Faith not Fear event. After pointing out that this was in fact a Jewish event, I asked him why he wasn’t able to come. The answer that followed reminded me that whilst on the exterior everything so far seemed great, there was a minority that clearly posed a danger to the welfare of Jewish Students on campuses across the country. He told me that the event was some sort of Zionist tactic and he could not endorse that. An event that was about liberation, freedom of expression and the difficulties facing LGBTQ+ that are of a faith was somehow, to this delegate, a Zionist plot.

  • Justin Bieber and Anne Frank: Why the fuss?

    Jennifer Lipman
    Apr 15, 2013

    Dear Kitty (as Anne Frank never wrote),

    "I'm soo sick of being stuck in hiding, because my dad keeps telling me to turn down the volume on my Justin Bieber CD. If only I could get out to go and see him on tour…"

    Clearly, Anne– the teenage diarist forced into hiding by the Nazis, who eventually died at Bergen Belsen – had more serious considerations than the average 21st century western teenager. In her diary, perhaps one of the most well-known examples of Holocaust-era testimony, she wrote of an everyday existence blighted by fear, death and hatred.

  • 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:

  • 150 years of the London Underground

    Jennifer Lipman
    Jan 7, 2013

    This week marks the sesquicentenary – or 150th birthday - of the tube.

    Yes, even though it sometimes seems like the engineering of the Northern Line predates the battle of Hastings, or that bewildered travellers have been trying to circumnavigate the Circle Line since the time of Columbus, the tube is actually only 15 decades old.

    The first journey on what we now know of as London Underground took place on January 9 1863, between Paddington and Farringdon Street on the Metropolitan Line. Historians believe that was the last time there was good service on all London Underground lines.