Welcome to Spiel, the JC’s blog.

  • Picking the Chief

    Simon Rocker
    Nov 17, 2011

    The United Synagogue has, predictably, decided not to take the radical step of holding a ballot to elect its next Chief Rabbi after Lord Sacks retires in September 2013.

    But it has set up an tripartite structure to make the selection process more representative of the Chief Rabbinate’s constituents and, notably, women will play a greater role than they did in previous years.

    But there are two comments made by US president Stephen Pack, who also chairs the Chief Rabbinate Trust, when he announced how the Chief would be chosen this week which are worth noting.

  • Football - a game where colour should not be an issue

    Danny Caro
    Nov 17, 2011

    The campaign to kick Racism out of football in England has been one of the success stories of the modern game.

    As per the battle against Antisemitism, Islamophobia and Homophobia, it remains an ongoing project, and one that is rarely out of the headlines.

    On the day that Luis Suarez was charged with racially abusing Patrice Evra, the words of FIFA president Sepp Blatter on the topic left the football world open-mouthed. They displayed a lack of understanding of FIFA’s own rules of the game.

  • China, Russia and fearful symmetry

    Orlando Radice
    Nov 15, 2011

    China may be wavering in its support of “Basher” Assad, but Russia is hanging on in there.

    Syria is a crucial stepping stone in Iran’s axis of influence to the west and Iran would view Russian pressure on Assad as a direct affront to its imperial ambitions.

    Russia, for its part, does not want a fallout with a country that, once nuclear-ready, could act as a counterbalance to US geostrategic dominance – or, for that matter, has vast gas and oil reserves that await exploitation with the help of Russian energy firms.

  • The breadmap to Mideast peace?

    Jennifer Lipman
    Nov 4, 2011

    For those who say there will never be peace in the Middle East, here's a "hole" lot of proof that coexistence is possible.

    Reports the New York Daily News:

    The oldest Jewish bialy and bagel shop in New York City is being rescued by two Muslim cab drivers - and they plan to keep it kosher.

  • Name games

    Simon Rocker
    Oct 31, 2011

    In the past couple of weeks, we have read about the Creation and the Flood in the Torah portions of the week. But for all the drama of the stories, both sedarot end on a seemingly anti-climactic note with a list of names detailing the generations from Adam to Noah in the first sidrah, and then from Shem to Abram (he does not become Abraham until this week) in the second.

    It’s easy to find your attention wandering when they are recited but one curiosity is to pick out which names are still in currency today. Understandably, no one is going to call their son Cain; Abel instantly evokes the American Bible Belt. But Seth, the name of Adam’s third son, enjoys greater popularity.

    I can’t think of any Methusalehs, but you’ll still come across Chanoch, the Hebrew for Enoch. Does the name Ada derive from Adah, one of the wives of Lamech? I don’t know. You are unlikely to bump into a Mahalaleel today but Jared (son of Mahalaleel) is still around.

  • Let's Occupy this debate

    Orlando Radice
    Oct 28, 2011

    It was sad to hear that antisemitism found its way into the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York. The odd banner bearing the age-old tropes about Jewish bankers were spotted in the crowds. But the idea that the whole movement should be tarred with the brush of Jew-hatred is absurd: there was a Kol Nidre service near Wall Street on Yom Kippur, which led to the establishment of Occupy Judaism, swiftly followed by Occupy Simchat Torah, both of which have been camped out in and around the heart of the protest site, Zucotti Park. Anyhow, wasn’t the message of the protest something to do with capitalism, or am I straying from the point here?

    Despite the issue of antisemitism being, evidently, a marginal one, prominent US conservatives – notably the Republican National Committee, Rush Limbaugh and columnist William Kristol – have stepped over themselves to condemn the protests as embodying race-hatred. Meanwhile, the NYT reports a reply from Sean Spicer, the communications director of the Republican National Committee, that: “Democrats were quick to single out any instances of perceived extremism among Tea Party supporters, But with Occupy Wall Street, they turn a blind eye.”

    So like everything else in the US, Jews become a political football in an extreme sport where the opposing side must be battered into the pitch with the first tool that comes to hand.

  • Mazel Tov: Royal succession change at last

    Jennifer Lipman
    Oct 28, 2011

    It looks as though, finally, the UK's archaic laws on royal succession are to be scrapped. The 16 Commonwealth heads have agreed to change the law so that male and female heirs to the throne are treated equally.

    David Cameron says he will put it to parliament at the next session, when, one hopes, even the crustiest and most conservative members will accept it.

    The constitutional reform would also remove the ban on the spouse of a Catholic from taking the throne (a ban that was only in place for Catholics). Under the current system, had Kate Middleton been Catholic, Prince William would effectively have had to forfeit his right to the throne in order to marry her.

  • PSC forced to cancel trade union conference

    Marcus Dysch
    Oct 28, 2011

    The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has been forced to cancel a conference with trade unionists which was due to take place tomorrow.

    The event was expected to promote boycott methods and encourage local groups to support BDS measures against Israel. Speakers were to include RMT general secretary Bob Crow.

    In a statement, the PSC said the event would be rescheduled for next year and said the move was being made to avoid disrupting preparations for the day of strike action which unions are planning for November 30.