John Sergeant and I have two things in common. Both of us are journalists, and both of us — how can I put this? — have known tsouris on the dance floor. Sergeant is just one of the many celebrities to attract criticism for their performances on the BBC’s reality show Strictly Come Dancing — famously he was dubbed a “dancing pig in Cuban heels” by judge Arlene Phillips.
I have never, ever been likened to a dancing pig, but at a recent simchah I did think I caught the words “three left feet” as I skipped off the floor after a waltz.
Rush hour in Rehovot, Israel. Stopped in traffic, a driver leans out and calls: “Where’s the Laromme Hall?” Responds the driver alongside: “Hey, we must be cousins, that’s where we’re going. Follow me!”
By plane, car, bus, mini-van and even on foot, over 200 members of the same family converged in a once-in-a-lifetime gathering, many meeting their relatives for the first time.
To the outside world, Sarah and her family were a typical middle-class Jewish family. But after his business started to fail, Sarah’s husband began to control and humiliate her. He stopped her contacting friends and colleagues, tried to dictate what she wore and forced her into a purely domestic role. He became aggressive with their two children. Eventually she sought help through the charity Jewish Women’s Aid and won a restraining order against him.
My friends and family think I’m bonkers. Despite being eight months’ pregnant, I’m still doing regular exercise classes at the gym. For one thing, I don’t want to let myself go. My stomach’s circumference might rival that of one of those new planets they have just discovered, but I still want to show off toned arms and legs next to my cumbersome torso. And I spent too much of my youth being out of shape to want to scupper all my good work now.
So throughout pregnancy I have been attending aerobics and Body Pump classes at my local Virgin Active gym in Holloway, north London.
If you have spent the past decade or so slogging it out in the gym, putting yourself through your paces on the tennis court or diligently doing lengths in the municipal swimming pool in the hope of getting rid of those excess pounds — you may be wasting your time, according to some experts.
Any visitor to the remote town of Jedwabne, in north-east Poland, is going to know something about its horrifying past.
On the outskirts there is a memorial that marks the site where hundreds of Jedwabne’s Jews were burned alive in a barn in July 1941. It is the only reason to visit this colourless place.
Today, the memorial no longer attributes the massacre to the Nazis. It was changed in 2000 after it was revealed that it was not the occupying Germans who wiped out the Jewish half of the town, but the Jewish victims’ gentile neighbours.
Dan Patterson, TV comedy producer, was barmitzvah in 1973 in Oxford: “Because Oxford Synagogue was being rebuilt I had the ceremony in St Aloysius Church. The lunch was at St Cross College and the dinner was at St Giles House, so it was probably the most saint-invoked barmitzvah of all time.
Peter Marks ran his family bakery business in north London for 22 years. But the combined competition from internet shopping and a new Tesco Metro forced him to sell up in June 2008. He continued to manage the store but earlier this year, it closed for good and the 51-year-old became jobless for the first time in his working life.
Marks is not alone. Jewish workers have been victims of “operations streamlining” or “office downsizing” since the recession hit, just like everyone else.
Would you entrust your children to the care of an au pair you had met, interviewed and hired over the internet?
When a friend first suggested the idea, I was horrified. How could I leave my kids with a stranger I had never laid eyes upon? A businesswoman and herself a mother of three, she assured me the web offered good, affordable childcare and that she had recruited several reliable au pairs this way.