Blogs

Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.


  • Here we are, the Jews again

    Marcus Dysch
    Nov 4, 2015

    “Here we are, the Jews again.”

    That was the infamous welcome Sir Gerald Kaufman offered when his fellow Jewish Labour MP Louise Ellman rose to speak in the Commons in March 2011.

    I wonder though, as we wade through yet another antisemitism row in Westminster, whether it is also becoming a standard reaction in the corridors of power whenever the Jewish community raises its indignation over the latest outrageous antisemitic comments of one of our politicians.

  • Schism and Jews

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 4, 2015

    It is difficult to know how far the conflict over Orthodox women rabbis in America will go but the battle lines were drawn more sharply over the past week.

    The mainstream Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America condemned the ordination of women, whether they go by the title of rabbi or not, while Agudath Israel branded “Open Orthodoxy”, in effect, a heretical movement.

    “Open Orthodoxy” refers to a group of institutions linked to Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale, among them Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, the most modern of modern Orthodox rabbinic schools, and Yeshivat Maharat, the first institution in America to ordain Orthodox women as spiritual leaders.

  • Remembering David Cesarani - my teacher

    Imogen Dalziel
    Oct 28, 2015

    The first time I met David Cesarani was in 2013, when my father and I travelled to Royal Holloway to discuss the MA in Holocaust Studies that he ran. I’d seen him in documentaries, heard him on the radio and read his articles in newspapers and magazines; in short, I knew he was something of a Big Deal.

    So there I found myself, sitting opposite him in his rather cramped office on the university campus, expressing my interest in the Holocaust and learning more about it. He seemed somewhat amused when he asked what academic books I’d read on the subject and I replied that I’d just finished Laurence Rees’ ’Auschwitz’… erm, but I’d been to Auschwitz and Dachau. At the end of the meeting, however, he smiled and said he looked forward to welcoming me in September. My father was extremely proud that I was going to be taught by the Professor David Cesarani, such an eminent historian and someone who would surely lead me to great opportunities in my studies and beyond.

    He was right, on both accounts. During my MA, David taught two of my courses – ‘The History of the Holocaust’ and ‘Faith, Politics and the Jews of Europe, 1848-1918’. He would usually have a page of a few, short notes (although, to his detriment, had sometimes misplaced them, to great cries of, “Oh, damn! They’re in here somewhere!”) but hardly ever referred to them during the two-hour seminars he held. His knowledge of both subjects was vast; he peppered the facts with details, anecdotes and often humorous impressions of everyone from an Orthodox German Jew to Count de Clermont-Tonnerre of France. His recommended reading list for each course, however, certainly said something about his expectations of his students. More than once we all had the fear of God put into us when we couldn’t answer a question such as, “What were the details from the minutes of the meeting in the Berlin Air Ministry on 12th November, 1938?” David was not a teacher that you wanted to disappoint, but trying to match him on his expertise was an impossible task!

  • I'd like to thank my mother for this award...

    Sandy Rashty
    Oct 22, 2015

    We’ve all seen it before.

    People win an award, walk up to the stage, say they never expected such a thing to ever happen – and then proceed to whip out a neat set of pre-prepared ‘thank you ever so much’ notes.

    Last night, I was presented with the Young Journalist of the Year Award at the GG2 annual awards ceremony – an event that recognises the contributions of ethnic minorities to Britain.

  • Jewish mentor scheme taught me vital lessons about the world of work

    Jordan Freud
    Oct 21, 2015

    “Don’t go into journalism for the money; get experience and cuttings if you want a job; making contacts is vital.”

    These are probably the three most often-offered pieces of advice for aspiring journalists.

    From my limited personal experience, I would say that networking and “getting your foot through the door” can be the most difficult in usual circumstances. That is why I joined Jewish education charity Ort-Jump’s mentor scheme.

  • The United Synagogue and free speech

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 20, 2015

    On the Richter Scale of communal controversies, it may have registered low. But you might still catch the tremor if you put your ear closer to the ground.

    The Chief Rabbi’s recent warning to his rabbis not to host “inappropriate speakers” in their synagogues inevitably raises the question: what does the United Synagogue (US) stand for and what kind of Orthodoxy does it represent.

    The Chief Rabbi did not spell out who he was warning against, only that synagogues should avoid speakers “who represent a hashkafah [outlook] which encourages practices which run contrary to our normative United Synagogue approach”.

  • Mr Ellwood’s in a pickle over Israel

    Marcus Dysch
    Oct 20, 2015

    Today’s foreign affairs session in the Commons was telling – in a number of ways.

    Most immediately noticeable was the fact that questions about Israel and the Palestinians were not reached for half an hour. Sure, the international picture is packed at the moment and the Syrian refugee crisis and other issues were understandably raised first.

    But the shuffling of the Middle East’s most intractable conflict down the pecking order also shows the evident lack of desire on the British political scene to weigh in.

  • Remembrance is not static - it bridges that gap between the past and the now

    Charlotte Oliver
    Oct 20, 2015

    Every night, without fail, the bugles begin.

    Come winter’s chill or summer’s balm, their notes play and echo around the Belgian town of Ypres. A town whose magnificent steeple and quaint, quiet streets of shops and cafes belie a war-torn history.

    It was here, 100 years ago, that allied soldiers made their march towards the front line of battle. It was also here that artillery fire blazed high and wide from every side. By the end of the First World War, the town was almost completely laid to waste and erased from the modern map.

  • My brave mum's fight for herself and others is inspirational

    Maryon Stewart
    Oct 19, 2015

    I took time out from my schedule to be my mum’s personal PR Officer for the last few weeks. She’s 84 and has terminal ovarian cancer. On the day they told her that she’s coming to the end of her life she decided to do a sky dive to raise funds for research so that women with ovarian cancer have a better chance of survival long after she is gone. At first I thought she was joking; but she was deadly serious, because she wanted to give back and felt she had nothing to lose.

    She has been receiving treatment from the Royal Marsden Hospital in Fulham for nearly two years. First she had six sessions of chemo, followed by a huge operation, and then another six sessions of chemo. That controlled the cancer for a few months, but sadly it began growing again and none of the treatments tried since have managed to control it.
    Essentially, she’s been presented with a really difficult challenge, both physically and mentally, and the way she has dealt with it has been completely inspirational.

    In days gone by my mum would have perhaps been anxious and tearful, but instead she transformed into a zen-like Elder and has been an amazing example to us all. In the extra two years her doctor Professor Gore and his team at the Royal Marsden Hospital have given her, she has experienced so much personal joy through her family. She became a great-grandmother for the first time when my daughter Phoebe had baby Marnie. A few months later my eldest son Chesney married a wonderful young woman called Laura, who absolutely adores my mother. Her two grandchildren in Australia Emile and Chessca graduated from university and lastly - but by no means least in my world - I got engaged to a wonderful man.

  • When Twitter really was a community social network

    Jessica Weinstein
    Oct 16, 2015

    Today I helped man the JC’s Twitter takeover with the Chief Rabbi. As media partners of ShabbatUK, the theme of the takeover was Shabbat, and readers and Twitter users were encouraged to take part using the hashtag #weloveshabbat.

    Before he arrived there was a lot of activity in the office – tidying stacks of paper, cleaning desks, setting up food (this is a Jewish office after all). Staff members were debating whether to wear kippot and how to address him. It’s a weird phenomenon that people in the public eye take on an almost other-worldly quality when you meet them – and the fact that the Chief Rabbi came with his own security convoy to scope out the building didn’t help to lessen this!

    After a couple of weeks of our Twitter feed being unfortunately filled with harrowing and frankly scary headlines, it was nice to fill it with – as trite as this might sound – happy thoughts, messages of peace - and cholent recipes.