Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Wet, wet, wet

    Jenni Frazer
    Jul 17, 2009

    To everybody's favourite reading, Fort Lauderdale's South Florida Sun-Sentinel, which reports that an "ordained Jewish cantor," Debbie Ballard, is training at a Florida scuba shop in order to perform Jewish weddings under water.
    Apparently they get round the glass-smashing by getting the groom to smash a lightbulb with his flipper, while later the couple "sip wine out of a sippy cup", whatever that may be.
    The paper has gone as far as consulting local rabbis for an expert opinion.
    "As long as certain traditions are kept, the ocean wedding could be legal according to Jewish law, said Reform Rabbi Barry Silver, of L'Dor Va-Dor congregation in Boynton Beach, Fla.
    "Rabbi Richard Polirer, of congregation Beth Hillel in Margate, Fla., said the idea could grow on him.
    "But he said he doesn't know if couples should do it just for the sake of it.
    'Just because you can doesn't mean you should,' he said."
    Like they say: only in America.

  • Too soon to tell...

    Stephen Pollard
    Jul 17, 2009

    Gideon Rachman has a nice post on apocryphal phrases:

    I was amused to read this column by one of President Carter’s former speech-writers,
    pointing out that Carter never used the word “malaise” in the famous
    speech in 1979 that became known as the “malaise speech”. A shame since
    both the speech and the phrase have come to define the Carter era as
    one of gloom and defeatism.

    The anecdote supports a personal theory of mine that a great many
    era-defining sayings are apocryphal. James Callaghan, Britain’s prime
    minister in the late 1970s, was lambasted for saying “Crisis, what
    crisis” when he returned from an overseas trip to a strike-torn
    Britain. Except he never said it. It was a newspaper headline
    purporting to summarise his comments.

  • Gerald Ronson. Feng Shui. Really?

    Candice Krieger
    Jul 17, 2009

    Property entrepreneur Gerald Ronson doesn’t strike me as the feng shui type. But it appears he has become quite au fait with the ancient Chinese concept. At a ceremony laying a time capsule in the foundations of Heron Tower – to be London’s tallest office building – Mr Ronson, wearing a hard hat and fluorescent yellow jacket, explained how the capsule included an ethically-sourced tortoiseshell, which he assured died of natural causes.

    He said: “In case you are wondering why a tortoiseshell, it is because, in feng shui theory, the tortoise, dragon, phoenix and tiger form four kinds of energy that surround a building.  The tortoise represents a strong back, protection and security.  For this reason, a tortoiseshell is commonly placed into the foundations of a building that incorporates feng shui principles.  It is believed to help keep it safe and is considered an auspicious symbol in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore and parts of China.” (the dragon, phoenix and tiger are commonly ignored, no doubt because they are more difficult to source).

    Got it. Feng shui is good for business. That sounds a bit more like Ronson.


    Also in the capsule were: signed drawings of Heron Tower by the architect, Leo Polisano; planning permission for the Heron Tower, a copy of the Evening Standard dated 18 June 2008 containing an interview with Gerald Ronson entitled ‘My London tower is the only one that’ll be built’; a copy of the Financial Times dated 16 July 2009; a  DVD of the artist’s impression of the site on completion; an ordinance survey map of the Bishopsgate area for 2009 photographs of the site prior to demolition. No JC? Poor show Mr Ronson.

  • Competition good... part II

    Jan Shure
    Jul 16, 2009

    As I have observed previously in writing about the cost of Israel hotel rooms and flights, competition is always a good thing. Now, with El Al operating three flights daily, up against BA’s two daily flights and bmi’s daily duo tailored for businessmen – plus, of course, the prospect of easyJet flights from £102 return hovering on the horizon – there are more bargains to be had.

  • Now we must go for broke

    Danny Caro
    Jul 16, 2009

    Going into the Open football competition, so much was expected from a talented squad but they appear to be playing well within themselves and with the handbrake on. It appears that something is not right.

    Now we are in dire straits and knowing that desperate times call for desperate measures, I urge the management to pull out all the stops and play their strongest possible starting XI.

    It is a given that the players have forked out thousands to be in Israel but I believe that the entire squad will be slated if they return empty-handed and without a win.

  • A Lordly Chief and a Deafening Silence

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 15, 2009

    The - some would say, long-overdue - elevation of the Chief Rabbi to the House of Lords has brought across-the-board congratulations from the Charedi Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations to Masorti.

    Almost across the board, that is. Invitations from the JC to comment have so far elicited no response from the Reform or Liberal movements.

    A sign of smouldering anger over the JFS affair, perhaps?

  • 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

  • More Miller disappointment

    Stephen Pollard
    Jul 15, 2009

    So this time Major Miller looked as if he would win again. He was leading by four lengths, cantering and it was a matter of how far he would win by. And then he clobbered the rail by the penultimate hurdle, and that was that. He downed tools and virtually stopped.