Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Where next Avram?

    Craig Silver
    Nov 7, 2008

    It's interesting to hear the comments this week of a man who we rarely hear from these days. I'm speaking of course about Avram Grant, who revealed to the JC that his next management move would be one that "surprised" us.

    Well Mr Grant, I have been looking around at the various managerial vacancies and think to myself, there is no reason you shouldn't grace us with your presence in the dug-out once again.

    I really enjoyed the way Grant dealt with the media, always very blunt and to the point. He was honest, and came across very amusing in some of his interviews. So who wouldn't want a man who came so close to leading Chelsea to glory in the Champions League and the Premier League title?

  • I'll have what he’s having

    Candice Krieger
    Nov 6, 2008

    Hats off to Frank Lowy. Last week, the chairman of Westfield opened the monumental $4 billion London shopping centre Shepherds Bush - in case you hadn't noticed. And at a time when retail industry heavyweights are taking a hit left, right and centre - Sir Stuart Rose's Marks & Spencer reported a 34 per cent fall in half-year profits and warned conditions will remain tough for most of 2009 - Mr Lowy seems to have no such fears. The Australian told Sky News' Sunday Business that it wasn't the first time Westfield had opened a major project in a downturn and laughed off speculation that Westfield will fail to survive the global recession.

    Stupid or savvy?

    Retail has been one of the worst-affected sectors from the downturn as consumer confidence takes a battering and rising unemployment will continue to reduce earnings with falling house prices likely to encourage people to save more.

  • Rabbi David Goldberg and a Question of God

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 5, 2008

    In a typically provocative piece, the emeritus rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St John's Wood, Rabbi David Goldberg, has argued that the traditional concept of God is dead for "non-fundamentalist" Jews.

    Writing in the new edition of the Progressive quarterly Manna, he says that the evocation of God in prayers can only be symbolic - a "catch-all label that we use at all the public rituals and holy days when we affirm our common adherence to ideals of goodness, hope and klal Yisrael [jewish peoplehood], much as pastors invoke God before an American football game."

    He concludes; "Where does this leave Progressive Judaism? In 30 years' time, will we still gather at religious services to proclaim our belief in the great, mighty and awesome God filtered through the vitiated formulations of Forms of Prayer and Siddur Lev Chadash [the Reform and Liberal siddurim]?

  • A Common-sense proposal on conversion?

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 3, 2008

    Earlier this year an Israeli dayan made an extraordinary ruling which threatened retroactively to strip thousands of Israeli converts of their Jewish status. Fortunately, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has not endorsed his decision, so the converts can sleep more easily, even if in the back of their minds, they may still feel a cloud hanging over them.

    Conversion nevertheless remains a contentious issue and the Chief Rabbinate’s own policy towards it is under question. A group of rabbis associated with Tzohar, a national religious organisation, have warned that unless the official rabbinate itself adopts a more pragmatic line, they will take matters into their own hands and set up their own rabbinic courts to deal with converts.

    What concerns these rabbis particularly is the future of around a quarter of million olim from the ex-USSR who came in the great wave of emigration in the 1990s but who are not halachically Jewish. They may be just like other Jewish Israelis of their generation, serving in the army, speaking Hebrew etc, but they are not Jewish in the eyes of the religious authorities.

  • How the Singer’s Siddur went Zionist

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 28, 2008

    The Chief Rabbi's edition of the Singer's Prayer Book was the first to include a specific entry for Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, signalling growing acceptance of it as a religious festival. But the other day I noticed another detail in the siddur which shows the influence of Israel on contemporary Judaism l: in the prayers for Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of Succot, Rabbah is spelt with a final Hebrew heh at the end rather than the Aramaic aleph with which it had been spelt in previous editions.

  • Orthodox and Masorti pool prayers

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 17, 2008

    Amid the fractiousness of religious divisions, it is easy to forget that sometimes Jews do get along with each other. Members of Borehamwood's United Synagogue and the new Masorti group had separately picked the same spot for tashlich, the ceremony of casting one's sins into the water at Rosh Hashanah. They had pre-arranged to go down to the brook at different times: when the day came, there was a muddle and both parties turned up simultaneously. Rather than one group stand on its rights, however, they simply put aside their differences and performed the ritual together.

  • Love and hate in Akko

    Daniella Peled
    Oct 16, 2008

    The ancient port town of Akko has a special place in my family history. That’s where my parents went on their first date (well, strictly speaking their second, which itself was something of a miracle since they didn’t really like each other at first). But on that warm September afternoon they rambled through the souk, they strolled along the soaring Crusader battlements, they ate at the famous Abu Christo fish restaurant – and, reader, six weeks later she married him.

    Yesterday was their 49th wedding anniversary. But relations in the town where they fell in love are hardly as successful. The five days of violence which rocked the mixed Jewish-Arab town have been described as “a pogrom” by both sides. If tensions and resentment are there, bubbling away beneath the surface, then it doesn’t take much for them to erupt. And all it did take, it seems, was an Arab driver entering a Jewish neighbourhood on Yom Kippur - according to some reports, playing loud music and smoking a cigarette.

    Now this is boorish behaviour, perhaps –provocative at worst. But had a Jewish driver done the same thing, the result would not have been five days of secular-religious rioting, dozens of arrests, and scores of cars and businesses wrecked. Neither the government, nor leaders on both sides, have done enough to address the divisions and tensions between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. The issues have been delayed, and fudged, and avoided. But they quite clearly don’t go away.

  • Were succah-builders responsible for a run on cable-ties?

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 16, 2008

    Last week I reproduced online an article about how to make a succah from bamboos bound together by cable ties (devised by my neighbour Edgar Samuel). As Succot approached, I went to the hardware store over the road to buy some plastic cable ties only to find the type I wanted were out of stock - and when the shop assistant checked on his computer, they also seemed in short supply in other branches in travel range. Are there more bamboo-booth builders out there than I imagine?

  • Recession? Who cares?

    Alex Kasriel
    Oct 7, 2008

    While the world mourns the plunging stock exchange, I am secretly loving this so-called recession. No offence to anyone who pays me, but I don’t get much money for what I do…. and now everyone has been brought down to my level.

    Before, I struggled to keep up with my friends who work in the corporate industry buying drinks and handbags and taking taxis. Now it’s OK to seriously hold back your spending justifying it by using the catchy words, ‘credit’ and ‘crunch’.

    If I’m standing in the supermarket choosing between Andrex Super Deluxe Velvet Toilet Roll with extra padding, and Budgens bog standard own-brand paper, I simply sing to myself, ‘credit crunch!’ before shamelessly popping the latter in to my basket. If friends come over for dinner it is quite acceptable now to serve up chicken and chips (rather than lamb steaks with a red wine jus and polenta cakes) and it is also fine to decline a restaurant invitation on the grounds of a shrinking bank balance. But until now, I haven’t had the nerve to be open and proud about my thriftiness.