Your blogs

  • The Dirt to Come in Israel’s Elections

    Anshel Pfeffer
    Nov 26, 2008

    Sometimes you can just sense that a political campaign is on a losing streak. I got that feeling on Monday, driving in to Tel-Aviv and seeing the new giant Kadima election posters on the Kibbutz Galuyot Road. There's something about Tzipi Livni's glum and unphotogenic face - and the inarticulate slogan: "What is Good for the Country". It sounds just as bad in Hebrew.

    Kadima has the savviest PR team in the business. Eyal Arad and Lior Horev are not only Israel's premier spin-doctors, they are in demand around the world. Legendary ad-man Reuven Adler was the brains behind the transformation of Ariel Sharon from warmonger to cuddly grandpa. If these three can't make Livni look a bit sexier, then she's in trouble.

    My premonition seems to have been confirmed by last night's Channel One poll. After a month in which Kadima was polling almost even with Likud, the governing party is now trailing by ten percent.

  • Nominations have opened for the chair of the Union of Jewish Students

    Simon Friend
    Nov 21, 2008

    Nominations have opened for the chair of the Union of Jewish Students. Campaigning began on November 18 and continues for a week before the candidates' road show arrives in Scotland for the first leg of the annual tour.

    Canvassing around the major campuses over the years has become innovative, with last year's election featuring sophisticated websites, YouTube videos, interviews and podcasts. This year's election, with more locations than ever before, will be no less hotly contested.

    The new road show format has increased participation over the past few years, with more than 700 people voting last year in the election. The 2008 Road Show will visit nine venues over two weeks, culminating in Manchester on December 4.

  • Antisemitism on campus discussed at Nottingham

    Simon Friend
    Nov 21, 2008

    The chair of the All-Parliamentary Committee Against Antisemitism, John Mann MP, with Yair Zivan, campaigns director of the Union of Jewish Students, tackled contemporary antisemitism on campus this week in a panel discussion at Nottingham University.

    Attended by around 65 students, Jewish and non-Jewish, including some prominent members of the Nottingham Palestine Society and the student union executive, the panel offered a challenging discussion over issues of whether anti-Zionism and anti-religious statements should be deemed threatening, alongside boycotts of Israeli goods and prominent Israeli academics.

    Dani Orelowitz, of Nottingham University JSoc, said: "For such a large campus, it was very positive for us to be talking about the issues on our own terms, individual to this university." Mr Zivan said: "UJS is determined to continue to lead the fight against antisemitism on campus, and educating people is a key part of that effort. The message was positive around defining what antisemitism is and how all students can tackle it in their own personal way."

  • Bristol J-Soc's campus-wide variety show

    Simon Friend
    Nov 21, 2008

    What began as a small fundraising event run exclusively for Bristol J-Soc turned into a campus-wide variety show attended by more than 300 students.

    Spotlight Darfur, with the help of the student branch of the Aegis Trust - Britain's leading NGO campaigning against genocide - became the society's most successful function.

    A range of performing arts' societies attached themselves to the event, which showcased acts such as cabaret and pantomime, live jazz and improvised comedy.

  • Healed by Rolo-therapy

    Gideon Schneider
    Nov 20, 2008

    Claire circles the room and hones in on the unfamiliar face. She approaches. "I've put you on the list and will be back when I'm finished with my regulars." I'm attending a chemotherapy session at University College Hospital in London. Claire is there to offer patients complementary therapies while the drugs kick in. For anyone sceptical about the benefits, her warm smile is enough to melt all doubts.

    "Get your feet out," she says to Jenny, the 29-year-old girl seated next to me in the out-patient ward. Jenny slides off her striped socks to reveal metallic pink toenails. The two women chat about how Jenny - who was recently diagnosed with cervical cancer - has been getting on since last week's chemo session. Claire places the patient's feet - pink toenails and all - in her lap and begins to massage them. Reflexology stimulates blood circulation round the body. But, more importantly, it relaxes Jenny as potent drugs are dripped into her veins.

    As I offer Jenny a Rolo, she tells me that the hardest thing about her diagnosis was realising that she won't be able to carry a baby. She delayed addressing her cancer in order to undergo IVF treatment to store her eggs. Her mum, engrossed in the Times crossword puzzle, has been by her side throughout all her hospital visits. Jenny has also been amazed by how supportive her boyfriend of four months has been. She's relieved that the side-effects haven't been as terrifying as she feared.

  • The timing of the US election couldn't have been more perfect...

    Gideon Schneider
    Nov 13, 2008

    The timing of the US election couldn't have been more perfect. As all those reheated Amy Winehouse exposes dried up, my thirst for drama needed quenching. Headlines such as ‘Dizzy Broad Runs For Camden Pub' were replaced by the more compelling ‘Dizzy Broad Runs For White House'. For me, Sarah Palin's achievements as well as those of her victorious nemesis, confirmed the mantra that in America you can achieve anything. The trouble is, when anything is achievable, how do you know when you've achieved enough? My cancer helped me find an answer.

    Growing up in NW London, life's key objective was keeping up with the Jones-ovitzes. Other people's expectations of me reflected this. At twelve it was casually assumed by all that I should give up an hour of every evening, for one whole year, to learning the entire Torah portion for my barmitzvah. Decent grades were anticipated for GCSEs and A-levels; and as for university attendance, in the suburbs that wasn't expected - that was a given.

    Now the expectations feel weightier than ever. There's a list of boxes to tick: marriage, kids, career, car, counselling. For now though, that to-do list remains mostly unticked and my suspicion is, it doesn't even end there. If I do ever have children I'm sure I'll be expected to expect things from them too.

  • British students go to Brussels as delegates of UJS for Kristallnacht commemoration

    Simon Friend
    Nov 13, 2008

    Two British students went to Brussels this week as delegates of UJS for the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Aaron Kienwald, president of London J-Socs; and Aaron Collins, of Bristol University Jewish Society, joined 20 other members of the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS) at a service which filled the Brussels Great Synagogue.

    The two-day introduction to the "Year of Tolerance", an initiative created under the auspices of former Polish Prime Minister Aleksander Kwasniewski, was attended by several hundred political and Jewish leaders from across Europe, members of the European Parliament, diplomats, and other dignitaries, as well as survivors of the Holocaust, and was the first of its kind on a European level.


  • "From Warsaw Ghetto to the Gaza Strip" event held at Goldsmiths

    Simon Friend
    Nov 13, 2008

    An event held this week at Goldsmith's University entitled: "From the Warsaw Ghetto to the Gaza Strip", follows the Palestine twinning campaign's success last year in pairing the university with Al-Quds University in the West Bank. Speaking at the event was Suzanne Weiss, a Holocaust survivor and member of a Toronto-based group, Not in our Name: Jews against Zionism, who claimed that Israel "uses many of the methods of Nazism to oppress the Palestinians".

    Goldsmiths' union campaigns and communications officer, Jennifer Jones, who is one of the administrators of the twinning campaign, hoped that "the few vocal Zionists on campus become involved in a more positive capacity to support those suffering under the occupation".

    But a spokesperson from the Union of Jewish Students said: "The Warsaw Ghetto and the Gaza Strip are incomparable. The event "cheapens the Holocaust for political gain".

  • Rule one: never, ever take a date to a gig

    Paul Lester
    Nov 13, 2008

    I've done some stupid things in my time. Forgetting to switch on the tape recorder during an hour-long interview with Blondie's Debbie Harry is way up there at the top of the list. Getting engaged in my first year at university to a girl from Clapham must merit contention, not because she was from Clapham - although the north-south divide did cause havoc with communication - but because it was, you know, my first year. At university. And I was about 10 (and therefore could barely afford a tube of Rolos, let alone a £20 ring from Zales). And going to meet my rabbi for counselling just after my divorce last year has got to be in the top five ("rabbi" in Hebrew means "teacher", not "expert on inter-personal relations with specific reference to psycho-sexual collapse").

    But one of the dumbest decisions I've ever made was to invite a lady to join me at a performance by the comedian Sarah Silverman.

    Now, I never take anyone, male or female, to gigs. There are good reasons for this. I dread running out of things to say in the car and even keep a list of conversation topics in the glove compartment just in case. During the concert you have to shout in your companion's ear because the music's so loud, and I hate shouting (and don't get me started on ears). Then there's the fear that you're going to bump into someone you've known for years but whose name you can't remember, and you've got the embarrassment of introducing them to each other so you have to turn it into a joke and make out you've forgotten both ("Hi, Thingie!" I usually say. "Meet Wotsit!").