- Gideon Schneider
Oct 10, 2008
Starbucks Caramel Frappaccino in hand, I parked myself on one of the well-worn couches in the Hampstead branch to escape the midday sun. Around me, tables were being used for impromptu business meetings, while old friends chatted over steaming espressos. I was smugly slurping the cream from the top of the cup when it dawned on me that the £3.20 cost of this thick, frozen, altogether harmless-looking beverage had single-handedly eaten up 10% of my weekly income.
That is, my incapacity benefit from the government. The shudder that passed down my spine had nothing to do with the chunk of ice I almost choked on as a consequence of my rude realisation - and everything to do with the shock of my newfound poverty.
£32.50. They certainly make you work for your money; in order to secure this benefit I was sent on a red-tape obstacle course. I spent an hour on the phone answering the initial battery of questions needed to kick-start my application. A few days later a door-stop of an envelope was crammed through my letter box, almost denting the floor on impact. In it was a printed transcript of the questionnaire I had verbally filled in.
The nominees for the annual Guardian Student Media Awards were announced this week. Three of them are Jewish: Daniel Calder of Manchester University, Naomi Stauber of the University of the Arts, London, and Juliette Gerstein of Leeds University.
Juliette, who has just begun an MPhil in international relations at Oxford University, having completed her BA in politics last year, has been nominated for the award of best Student Diversity writer.
She said she was "overwhelmed" by the nomination, which she received in the few hours between her return from Israel and Rosh Hashanah.
Gloucester University Rugby 1st XV's Nazi-themed initiation ceremony was caught on camera this week by a fellow student at the university. The footage, which was sold to the BBC, showed players dressed in SS uniforms parading the newer members through the streets with plastic bags over their heads, followed by vomiting due to their excessive drinking.
A university spokesman said an inquiry was being launched into alleged "bullying and intimidation" during initiation ceremonies. The National Union of Students has called for a ban on initiations. UJS campaigns officer Yair Zivan said: "The use of a Nazi uniform in this initiation was in terrible taste and hugely insensitive. The horrors of the Nazi regime should not be trivialised in this manner."
Mark Gardner, a spokesman for the CST, called this a "pathetic" act, seeing it as "exactly the kind of thing that makes Jewish students - or anybody from an ethnic minority - feel isolated and uncomfortable".
The first University College London general meeting of this academic year, following the heated assembly in March when the union was twinned with two Palestinian universities, was held on Kol Nidre night.
UCL undergraduate Aryeh Lehrer said: "The decision to hold the AGM on the most observed High Holy-day demonstrates a clear lack of consideration for UCL's 800 Jewish students and disenfranchises a large number of otherwise active individuals."
Welfare officer Kate Rowley said: "This error was brought to our attention at short notice. In future, no general meeting will be scheduled against a religious festival."
- Paul Lester
Oct 10, 2008
Sorry to come over all Charles Dickens, but this for me is the best of times, the worst of times. No sooner have I achieved superstar status in the Jewish community following my appearance as a columnist in these pages - with, I'm presuming wildly and optimistically, hundreds of dates with hot Jewish ladies eager to cheer up this poor, miserable divorcee proceeding as a result - than I face a possible ban from driving. And so won't be able to go on any of said dates.
What do you mean, use public transport? Have you ever suggested to a North London Jewish woman - the genus, remember, that invented the notion of "bling" some time after the Second World War - that you take the bus to the cinema or the restaurant? Neither have I and, frankly, I don't intend to, because oddly I have an aversion to ritual castration.
My ex-wife is indirectly responsible for my impending driving ban. I was getting a lot of texts from family and friends congratulating me on my first Suddenly Single column, all with the same nervous enquiry at the end: "What does Selena think of it?"
- Paul Lester
Oct 8, 2008
It finally happened. It came late last night in the form of a text and an ominous bleep on my mobile phone. My very first stark warning, as a result of my Suddenly Single JC column, from a woman with whom I had the briefest of flings over a year ago. "I'd sincerely appreciate it," read the text, with the polite but firm air of a quietly grave teacher, "if you didn't discuss me or anything that went on between us." How strange. And not a little disturbing in its stern formality. I'm surprised she didn't go all the way and start the text, "Vis a via our association" and end it with a nice "yours faithfully". It was enough to send a chill up and down my spine - and I've got quite a long spine. The lady in question even looked a bit like Glenn Close. Actually, that's a fib - she looked more like Glenn Hoddle, but you can see where I'm going with this. Straight to the local pet shop to hand back my bunny.
As Rosh Hashanah fell midweek, J-Soc Freshers' Fair stalls in some universities have had to withdraw from the main union fairs.
Scores of other societies benefit from their presence at these events, which they use as the main function of the year to promote membership. Jewish Societies in both City and Westminster Universities, which both had fairs over the New Year, have arranged for stalls to be set up independently in high-profile spaces on campus, where they can push awareness of their facilities for Jewish students.
Rabbi Gavin Broder, chaplain of the London Region, said: "This is a big advantage since it allows the J-Socs to avoid the noise and disruption often created by other societies. This way, we have a smaller chance of going by unnoticed."
This week sees the launch of Jeneration Students - a range of projects which include the publication of the Ultimate Guide to Student Survival and a scheme that will offer activities on campuses across the UK.
eneration is backed by the Movement for Reform Judaism, but there are community-wide as well as Reform events.
Sheldon Mordsley, the Jeneration student fieldworker, this week began a week-long roadshow to freshers' fairs around the country, distributing survival guides and Jeneration USB sticks to Jewish students. Jeneration is also offering free High Holy-Days tickets to students and 18-30s at Reform
synagogues across the country.
The Coexistence Trust has begun work on a project at the London School of Economics in which it conducts interviews with Jewish students about their relationship with their Islamic peers.
The trust, a branch of Lord Janner's office, will be questioning students on all major campuses, starting at the LSE in light of the controversial motions put forward last year declaring Israel an "apartheid" state.
The interviews will form part of a short film to be shown at an interfaith conference scheduled for early November, to be presided over by four Jewish and Muslim MPs.
- Gideon Schneider
Oct 3, 2008
"Don't hug anyone for the next two days. Especially children", she said as she injected dye into my bloodstream. No, I wasn't in some seedy tattoo parlour in Soho, but a mile north in University College Hospital (UCH) being prepared with a radioactive liquid designed to show up in a PET scan.
"You're going to be toxic," the nurse added casually. I was seized with visions of Chernobyl and my young cousins spawning third eyes at my very touch.
My consultant had arranged a PET/CT scan for me. Until recently cancer patients only received CT scans which showed doctors where lumps are. But the PET scan gives a more accurate picture of the cancer's spread by showing where in the body too much energy is being used up, thereby indicating where cancerous cells exist.