Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • New York after the storm

    Jennifer Lipman
    Nov 16, 2012

    I filled the My Week slot this week with a piece recalling my trip to Manhattan after the hurricane hit, and during election week. All told, an interesting time to be there.

    ● I'm on holiday in Manhattan and Sunday starts with a time-honoured New York tradition - a leisurely brunch with friends. We have booked at a place in the Village, and despite being without electricity for days thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the restaurant is up and running by the weekend.

    ● Walking in downtown Manhattan, although not as far as the flooded areas, it is clear the storm has had a serious effect. The streets are eerily quiet, with the papers filled with stories of misery and miracle, people charging phones at pop-up sites in parks, and bars advertising post-Sandy reopening dates. Dismayed runners from various countries are jogging all over the city, the annual city marathon having been cancelled at the 11th hour. A friend who helped clean up the worst hit areas reports over Shabbat lunch how gefilte fish was handed out to the needy by Orthodox Jews. We try to imagine how desperate we'd have to be to feast on what was once a staple heimishe delicacy.

  • Racism on the terraces - the shame of Beitar Jerusalem

    Marcus Dysch
    Nov 14, 2012
    A fascinating new short documentary looks at the vile racist abuse regularly displayed by the “fans” of Israeli football club Beitar Jerusalem.

    American sports journalist Jeremy Schaap investigates the history of Beitar’s “La Familia” ultras who hound Arab players throughout the Israeli leagues.

    The ESPN film also features footage of the sickening attack carried out by Beitar followers at a shopping centre in the Israeli capital earlier this year.

    Club chairman Itzik Kornfein explains how the fans’ militancy has led to Beitar never buying Arab or Muslim players. Beitar is the only club in Israel’s top division never to have had an Arab player.

    Schaap interviews Arabs and Muslims from Israeli Premier League sides including Bnei Saknin and hears of the racist abuse and violence directed at them.

    Salim Tuama – who played 13 times for Israel and has made hundreds of appearances for Hapoel Tel Aviv – explains how even his feats for the national side could not protect him from the Islamaphobic bile spouted from the terraces at Beitar.

    Schaap also looks at the Israeli Football Association’s lacklustre attempts to punish Beitar for their fans’ actions.
  • We have an archbishop, but not a chief rabbi

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 8, 2012

    The new Archbishop of Canterbury will be formally named tomorrow - who is expected to be the Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby.

    It took the Anglican Church eight months to choose their next head after Rowan Williams announced he was stepping down in March.

    It was almost two years ago - December 2010 - that Lord Sacks announced his retirement as chief rabbi and his successor has still not been found.

  • A chink of light

    Orlando Radice
    Oct 26, 2012

    Here’s another crazy dream: Israel gets a stable two-party system. Now that Bibi and Lieberman have joined forces, we need the secular centrists to get their act together and form a coalition with the strength to make headway on issues such as the peace process and the separation of synagogue and state. Shelly Yachimovich has suggested it – and it’s a pleasing fantasy. Knowing how volatile Israeli politics is, however, it'll probably remain a fantasy.

  • My election misery

    Orlando Radice
    Oct 12, 2012

    For election-watchers, a cursory glance at the candidates likely to be battling it out in Israel next January is enough to make you roll over and go to sleep. But it’s not because Ehud Olmert (as yet undeclared), Shaul Mofaz, Avigdor Lieberman (if he survives his criminal indictment) or Shelly Yachimovich are especially monochrome political characters.

    It’s just that, at the moment, the outcome looks entirely predictable. Assuming the candidates mentioned above run, none look like coming close to budging Benjamin Netanyahu.

    While his opponents have spectacularly failed to capitalise on widespread anger about wealth distribution and lack of progress towards peace, Mr Netanyahu has been busy picking up votes in all areas of the political spectrum and on other issues. The Israeli religious right admire the way he has stood up to the secular, especially over the pared-down legislation to force Charedim to join the army, and his hard line on Iran has won him backing across the board. There is also considerable admiration for the respect he commands from the diaspora and beyond: it was reported this week that 97 per cent of his electoral campaign cash comes from foreign donors.

  • Making the case for the Bible

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 11, 2012

    It’s back to Bereshit this week as the Torah reading cycle begins anew. While the stories may be familiar, what has kept them fresh is the belief that there are always new insights to be gleaned.

    And as a source of new thinking, Israeli author Yoram Hazony’s book The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture comes highly recommended. “A paradigm-shifting work of immense significance,” says Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks.

    Hazony argues that the Tanach has been wrongly omitted from the Western philosophical tradition of inquiry into ethics and understanding the human condition.

  • Claire Danes and the boycotter's dilemma

    Jennifer Lipman
    Sep 25, 2012

    I'm 90 per cent of the way through the first series of Homeland, and I'm as hooked as everyone said I would be (nb: do not tell me what happens, I'll get there eventually). Its almighty awards grab at the Emmy awards on Sunday has confirmed it not only as the programme of choice for the masses, but the top pick of the critics too.

    Must be tough for the Israel boycotters out there, of course, that the hit show of the year started life as an Israeli series about Israeli soldiers captured in war while fighting for the survival of the Jewish state.

    Inconvenient, perhaps, that Homeland's writer, Gideon Raff, is an Israeli, and that episodes of the eagerly awaited second series have again been filmed in Israel.

  • YomKipTopTips - Top tips for the fast from the JC

    Anna Sheinman
    Sep 25, 2012

    The fast is never easy. To make it that bit more bearable, I’ve asked those bastions of Jewish knowledge – the JC staff – to share their top tips on how to make it through. Here’s what they came up with.

    Jennifer Lipman, comment editor @JenLipman:
    “Never wear a watch. All you’ll do is sit there looking at the time, it won’t help the 25 hours go faster!”

    Gerald Jacobs, literary editor:
    “Take a break, go home, get out a good book and read horizontally. It’s important that you’re horizontal.”

    Cathy Forman, community editor:
    “Never sit next to a hypochondriac in shul.”
    “Also, we know a couple who sleep in and go to synagogue for 2pm, so they’ve only got 6 hours left.”

    Simon Round, features writer (and former food editor) @simon_round:
    “I’d recommend food with a low glycaemic index like barley, lentils and oats, for slow release energy, as well as protein to stop you feeling hungry. A chicken and lentil dahl with brown rice would be a perfect meal to start the fast. Eat as much as possible.”

    Sharron Livingstone, travel editor:
    “You’ve got to get into the spirit of the day. Think about what you’re doing, and meditate on where you are and where you want to be this time next year.”

  • You can run but you can't hide

    Jennifer Lipman
    Sep 21, 2012

    As I have written before, if there is one area involving women and Judaism that seems stuck in a ghastly status quo it is divorce, and the requirement for a man to grant his former wife a get to free her from the chains of a failed marriage.

    One case that has attracted a fair bit of media attention in recent months is that of Tamar Friedman, a chained wife whose husband (a senior aide to a congressman) has been targeted in a high-profile social media campaign.

    Showing an admirable "you can run but you can't hide" approach, the latest move of her supporters (the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot) has been to place an advert on the Washington DC transport system.