Your blogs

  • Crossing the Channel

    Le Blog Français
    Apr 20, 2016

    The views of a group of French Jews who are now living in London

    There is nothing traumatic in crossing the English Channel. You just have to sit comfortably in your car, or in a Eurostar carriage, and wait for the journey to be completed. For some French Jews, however, crossing the Channel looked like crossing the Sea of Reeds, as some of us made this journey to flee from a situation they thought unbearable.

    It very much depends on your on personal experience, as Jewish life in France is rich, thriving, exciting, but some of my fellow Jews felt threatened after the Paris attacks last year. Is it a reality, or is it more a general feeling that something is changing in France? I cannot tell.

  • Oxford’s Labour Club is just the tip of the iceberg

    Student Views
    Apr 19, 2016

    Ever since the widely reported resignation of Alex Chalmers from Oxford University’s Labour Club, the media has shone a spotlight on antisemitism within the Labour Party at large. The litany of abuses are shocking but, regrettably, becoming less surprising under a Labour leader who cannot see Jew hatred before his very eyes.

    In my experience, the overwhelming majority of Oxford teachers and students are intelligent, tolerant and thoroughly decent. Oxford Jewish life is flourishing – with a thriving JSoc and Chabad society, excellent inter-faith relations and a buzzing social scene of both Jews and non-Jews. Most Oxford students resolutely abhor antisemitism, racism and other forms of prejudice. It’s in their DNA.

    Before coming to Oxford, I desperately wanted to affirm my Jewishness in this positive vein. I didn’t want my Judaism to be defined by antisemites. Unfortunately, for me and many other Jewish students, that has not always been possible. Four years there have shown me that antisemitism feeds off prejudices that build up incrementally over a long period. Like a plague, it is carried by sometimes unconscious hosts, until it spreads to the point at which it seems unstoppable. Four years have shown me that antisemitic prejudice is far from uncommon at one of the world’s greatest universities. Nor is it consigned to the Labour Club or the radical Left.

  • The entire culture surrounding Pesach is broken

    The JC Blog
    Apr 19, 2016

    Analysis and views from the JC reporters

    While writing last week's front-page feature on Pesach prices and the way religious folk are being priced out of celebrating their own festival, I heard a lot of blame being thrown around.

    From the KLBD to the shops, to the rabbis, to peer pressure, to general poverty, to anyone else you can throw an afikomen at, practically no-one was spared.

  • Is segregation the price Jewish teenagers must pay for a less stressful social life?

    Student Views
    Apr 12, 2016

    When I was seventeen, I used to beg to go out on Friday nights. My friends would congregate at one house every week after school, and they’d stay until late, drinking cheap wine bought from the wilfully ignorant man in the corner shop who’d decided they were all eighteen and didn’t ask any more questions. It was an institution for the group.

    Unfortunately for my parents, I fell in with this crowd rather than the no-Friday-nights group with whom I’d gone on Israel tour. I can imagine that it would have been easier for them, and for me, if my friends had all been more like me – the rows over the Shabbos table would have been less frequent, I wouldn’t have had to work so hard to stay included, and I could have continued enjoying Friday nights at home with my parents and frustratingly undemanding younger brother.

    Then again, perhaps it was healthy to have something to rebel against. My very liberal, tolerant parents never put an unholy amount of pressure on me about anything (except for the morning of my Physics GCSE, when my mother sat in the car outside the exam hall with me and plutzed about the fact that I could not remember a single one of the necessary equations or rules). They bought me nice clothes, fed me good food and took me on fun holidays. With my parents, I never really had much to complain about. And they were sympathetic when I (regularly) hated teachers; when girls at school were horrible; when (Jewish) boys didn’t fancy me. They looked after me and were supportive in all manners. So it was only natural that at some point we’d come to an impasse, and that’s probably a good thing, otherwise I might have developed those neuroses for kids who are never told ‘no’.

  • Are we doing enough for Jewish students in our universities?

    Imogen Wilson
    Apr 6, 2016

    Last week my Students’ Association voted to support the Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign, with 249 votes for and 153 against. I spoke passionately against the motion, on the grounds that antisemitism is a growing problem in student politics, and that it would be foolish to subscribe to a movement that could divide our campus even further.

    I’ve been an elected sabbatical officer at Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) or almost a year now, and my first experience of BDS was at a National Union of Students’ Conference in Bolton last summer. There was an awards dinner event that was sponsored by Coca Cola, a company that is on some BDS lists for having a franchise in the West Bank. NUS have had a BDS policy since 2014, and when some NUS officers found out about the sponsorship there was a complete uproar.

    Many of the students there, including myself, were new to wider student politics circles and issues. Therefore, our first impression of BDS, and NUS, was a protest outside the dinner that was supposed to be celebrating student achievements from across the UK. I remember thinking how alarming this must have been for Jewish and Israeli student representatives, who on top of being surprised by a protest, may have felt that it was somehow targeted at them.

  • The top ten Jewish women in history? The list is endless...

    Today is International Woman’s Day. The theme for this year is gender parity, but as in previous years, IWD celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements and contributions of women around the world and throughout history.

    When I think of great, inspirational Jewish women, my list is varied. A quick straw poll of my female editorial colleagues resulted in this list, including a prime minister, an author, a singer and cook.

    Who would you add to our list of the top ten Jewish women in history?

  • There is antisemitism and anti-Zionism on campus - but we need to ensure we make the distinction

    Recent events at Oxford have brought to light tensions between left-leaning political movements and the Jewish community. These all revolve around one issue: Israel. On the one hand, many Jews, especially strongly pro-Israel Jews, take any criticism of Israel as antisemitism. On the other, it is convenient for antisemites to dress up their prejudice as anti-Zionism. This is, for example, similar to the Islamophobic discourse that hijacks otherwise justified criticism of human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. There are elements of both of these taking place - and the combination is dangerous.

    Antisemitism is indeed present in parts of the anti-Israel movement, as evidenced by the defacing of Holocaust Memorial Day posters in London. However, a knee-jerk reaction to criticism of Israel makes it harder to call this hateful prejudice out. It is unproductive for victims of violence in the Middle East, and for victims of antisemitism worldwide, not to acknowledge that much criticism of Israel is legitimate and not grounded in antisemitism. But clearly not all claims of antisemitism in these contexts are illegitimate.

    Problems arise when left-leaning groups close their ears to Jewish members who say that anti-Israel discussion is starting to sound antisemitic. Dismissing these concerns as uncritical defence of Israel aimed at shutting down debate damages accountable discourse. It encourages an environment where antisemitism can develop and thrive unchecked, even if it wasn't truly present to begin with. It also alienates Jewish members. The exclusion, from university or other groups, of Jews who want to participate in the criticism of Israeli policies means that such groups lose access to some of the most relevant voices on the topic.

  • How we turned Israel Apartheid Week into a celebration on London campuses

    Devora Khafi
    Feb 26, 2016

    It all started one night in Slice, a group of four strong-willed Zionists digging in to a pizza and discussing the fates of Jewish students across campuses the following week. The much anticipated Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) was around the corner and this strangling feeling of doom was growing inside of me. Sam Alfassy, Saul Yardley, Joseph Stoll and I just came back from a Stand With Us conference in Glasgow, and within seconds of this reunion, we decided something needed to be done to combat the lies and hatred IAW is known for.

    The pizza tray was pushed to the side and we cracked down on planning our own week: Israel Party Week. Charmingly coined by Saul, our aim was to focus on Israel’s positive qualities; the aspects of her that the general public rarely gets exposed to. We promoted peace, coexistence, and dialogue. We stood up for what the country stands for, and what it stands up to.

    On Sunday we gathered a big group of Jewish students to come to Hillel house so that a consensus was built up. Everyone was on board and we could not have been more proud.

  • My Jewish Transgender Journey

    Isabella Segal
    Dec 24, 2015

    My name is Isabella Segal. I am 59 years old and live in North West London. I am a chartered accountant and a partner in a 17-partner firm where I head up the forensic accounting department.

    But that’s not all there is to me.

    From early childhood, I have struggled with issues surrounding my gender identity. I grew up in North West London in a lovely, warm secular Jewish family with my late Dad, my Mum (Ruth) and my younger sister.

  • When it comes to domestic abuse we need to act and make a change - I should know

    Esther Marshall
    Dec 7, 2015

    Eight years ago I thought I had found someone who loved me. Sometimes he did seem to love me, but at other times, after the drug taking and the drinking, he became a different person. I was scared of him. What happened shook me and shattered my self-confidence to rock bottom. I would sit in the bathroom crying and in pain. But I never told anyone any specific details - because I was afraid; afraid of people thinking I was weak.

    Then last year I went to a conference called One Young World. One Young World is a conference for young leaders around the world, bringing together 1,300 young leaders from 196 countries - only the Olympic Games involves more countries.

    I sat and listened to all these young people talking about the amazing ways in which they were helping to make the world a better place. I couldn’t stop thinking that other people had done such wonderful things and inspired so many, and that all I had done was hide from the issues. I had written down my feelings but not shared them. I decided that I had to do something. I went back to my room each night and started to draw up a plan of what I’m most passionate about: Safety. Safety for women and girls.