Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Orient, here we come

    Simon Rocker
    Aug 24, 2012

    Next month's strictly Orthodox rally in London on the dangers of the internet has proved so popular that the organisers have had to move it from Alexandra Palace to Leyton Orient's football stadium.

    American Charedim have used sports stadia to stage events in the past but this is the first time I can recall that one has been hired in the UK.

    Perhaps we can have a Chasidim v Mitnagdim soccer match to kick off proceedings.

  • Home free?

    Jenni Frazer
    Jul 27, 2012

    After his deplorable reception of two of the Munich massacre widows on Wednesday night — my colleague Jennifer Lipman reported the two women were devastated and heartbroken at his response — Jacques Rogge may well be feeling pretty pleased with himself.

    To his Israeli and Jewish critics, he is able to spread his arms wide, shrug his shoulders and insist, yes, I did something — his "spontaneous" minute's silence at the Athletes' Village on Monday, during the ironically-titled event, Olympic Truce. Spontaneous my foot — rarely can there have been a man whose every move was so calculated as to its later effect.

    To the Arab representatives on the IOC, who very much did not want Rogge to agree to a minute's silence at the Opening Ceremony, and to the Palestinians who have attacked the idea as "racism" — I even heard a rumour that the Palestinians would only agree to a minute's silence provided it included those members of Black September who died in Munich — Rogge has delivered what they asked.

  • So let me get this straight

    Jenni Frazer
    Jul 23, 2012

    Jacques Rogge is president of the International Olympic Committee.

    Jacques Rogge, in this capacity, has consistently and repeatedly refused to hold a minute's silence in memory of the 11 murdered Israeli athletes. Their deaths, incidentally, took place at the Munich Games at which Rogge himself represented his country as an Olympian.

    As recently as Saturday, Rogge rejected yet again the idea of a minute's silence at the Opening Ceremony.

  • Kosher Mistress?

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 19, 2012

    Israel Hayom reports: “The Chief Judge of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court, Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel, has ruled that in cases where a man has not fathered any children, and his wife cannot or does not want to bear children, the man may take a concubine.”
    Click to read more

  • I remember Jack

    Jenni Frazer
    Jul 16, 2012

    Jack Yaffe died last week, aged a staggering 103. He made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being Britain's oldest shopkeeper, the owner of the eponymous Yaffe's hardware store in Prestwich, north Manchester.

    Given that he was 103 it's hardly surprising that I say I can't remember a time without Jack Yaffe - or Mr Yaffe as I was trained to call him. The shop, facing the Holy Law Synagogue on Bury Old Road, was a stock-taker's version of hell and a small child's idea of very heaven. Yaffe's was, and, I daresay remains, a kind of anti-shop. It had just masses and masses of STUFF, much of it almost nothing to do with hardware as we have come to know it.

    Every day, Mr Yaffe, summer and winter wearing a neatly buttoned up dark cardigan, would put out on the pavement outside the shop the latest gloriously gaudy offers, frequently with eclectic cardboard signs. The shop was plainly bursting, from floor to ceiling, from front to back. Hula hoops spilled out onto the pavement. Children's high chairs with wipe-clean folding tables. Highly coloured rugs. A net of beachballs. The mood was a market stall with an identity crisis.

  • Why rabbis should get on their bikes

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 16, 2012

    The first Rabbis Relay Ride which ended recently appears to have been a great success, raising £30,000 for charity.

    More than 20 rabbis took the saddle at various stages along the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

    What was significant is that the participants embraced representatives from across the board, Orthodox, Reform, Liberal and Masorti.

  • The Levy Committee: what's the real price we pay?

    Hannah Weisfeld
    Jul 13, 2012

    This week, the Levy Committee, set up by Israeli prime-minister Benjamin Netanyahu to examine the legal status of outposts in the West Bank, announced its findings. According to the committee the IV Geneva Convention does not apply to the West Bank and therefore Israel cannot be deemed to be occupying this piece of land. On that basis the ‘illegal outposts’ in the West Bank, built on what Israel recognises as state land, should be made legal, and zoning policies should be amended to make it easier for Jews to build in this area. The finding is indeed a win for the settler bloc within the Israeli political arena and in the face of a defeat over the Ulpana neighbourhood in settlement of Beit-El, hugely important in their eyes. It should be noted that the findings of the committee are not legally binding. However they do inform future debate and can be used as a justification for subsequent political action in the Knesset.

    Interestingly, but perhaps not surprising, lacking from the report is any mention of the status of the people living on the land. Admittedly this was not the brief of the committee - the brief of the committee was to determine the legal status of outposts in the West Bank, but can one ever consider the status of a piece of land without taking into consideration the people that live on the land?

    If, as the Levy committee reports, there is no occupation of the West Bank, and on that basis, the IV Geneva Convention does not apply, then Israel surely must justify its decision to grant full Israeli citizenship to the 500,000 Israelis that live over the green-line (1949 armistice lines) and deny it to the 2.5 million or so Palestinians that live in the area? If the Levy committee had found Israel to be occupying the West Bank then Israel would have had to defend its reasons for maintaining a 45 year occupation, and moving its citizens into the West Bank through the settlement project, which is prohibited in Article 49 of the IV Geneva Convention. The State of Israel and its courts have never reached a foregone conclusion on the status of the territory. When the settlers in Gaza petitioned the high court in 2005 during the evacuation of Gaza, the court ruled that they did in fact have no right to be there as the land of Gaza was occupied and therefore the evacuation was constitutional.

  • The Chief Rabbi on gay marriage: silence not an option

    Simon Rocker
    Jul 6, 2012

    The Chief Rabbi has come under fire for his opposition to civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples (see our front-page story this week).

    Since there is no question of the government forcing religious groups to carry out same-sex weddings, his critics say that Chief Rabbi simply should have kept shtum rather than plunge into a contentious and divisive issue.

    However, they overlook an important point. It is true that the commandments of the Torah are binding only on Jews. However, according to Orthodox theology, there are basic standards of morality which apply to all humanity known as the Seven Noahide Laws.

  • Asma al Assad's new business venture?

    Jessica Elgot
    Jun 22, 2012

    Syria's first lady Asma al-Assad has a new business to propose to you. Look what dropped into my inbox this afternoon.

    From: Mrs. Asma al-Assad []
    Sent: 20 June 2012 07:37
    To: undisclosed-recipients
    Subject: Your Trust/ Interest


  • Should the Chief Rabbi stay on?

    Simon Rocker
    Jun 19, 2012

    An online petition has been started calling for the Chief Rabbi to stay on beyond his scheduled retirement date. Lord Sacks is planning to move on after 21 years in office in September 2013, six months after his 65th birthday.

    The prospect of him postponing his departure seems unlikely. His close associates had long indicated he was minded to step down at 65. If he had wanted to remain for a couple of years or, like his predecessor Lord Jakobovits, until he was 70, the United Synagogue would surely not have turned down the offer.

    He will be able to continue doing what he does best, writing, speaking and broadcasting, regardless of whether he holds the title of Chief Rabbi or not: there seems no reason, for instance, why he would have to give up his Thought for the Day slot when he leaves office. His seat in the Lords will also guarantee him a national platform. In demand as a speaker internationally, he will be free to pursue engagements abroad without having to worry about ceremonial appearances or functional duties back home.