The American West was built by settlers carving a life in the New World. Over a century later, that pioneering spirit survives in the form of 39-year-old Daniel Ramos. But rather than pushing open a new frontier, Ramos is blazing a trail back to a very old world, reconnecting with his identity as Anusim, one of the lost Jews of Texas.
It is Friday night and more than 100 people are crammed around three long trestle-tables singing grace after meals. A Shabbat meal of soup, challah, hummus and roast chicken has just been eaten, and the atmosphere is jovial as the rabbi delivers the after-dinner speech. But this is no ordinary Friday night at your local community centre. This group of Jews is eclectic — young and old, Orthodox and Reform, and hailing from many different countries. These are the Jews of Beijing.
Both the lollypop lady and the baker on his delivery round saw it from the street — visible through a bedroom window was an 11-year-old girl, floating, it seemed, in mid-air. The story of the Enfield Poltergeist has continued to intrigue ghost-hunters since the first reports some 30 years ago of a single mother and her children being afflicted by apparently unexplained phenomena in their north London council house.
On 1 September 1939, as His Majesty’s armed forces made their final preparations for war, another section of the population was also getting ready to mobilise. Under a government scheme, a 735,000-strong army of schoolchildren was to be sent from the soon-to-be-bombed cities, industrial towns and ports to the safety of the British countryside.
One of London’s leading literary agents recently suggested that, “intelligent, well-written fiction is in a state of crisis”. The big publishing conglomerates are not interested so much in the state of the culture as in what they perceive to be the state of the market. And what they perceive is that “pulp” sells and “literary fiction” — in which emotions and ideas are imaginatively conveyed in well-constructed sentences — does not.
Next year is the football World Cup and we all know what is going to happen should England qualify. They will struggle through the group phase before losing (almost certainly on penalties) in the quarter finals. The nation will, as usual, be disappointed — but, according to football writer Simon Kuper, we should not be.
In a new book, Why England Lose and Other Curious Phenomena Explained, Kuper and co-author Stefan Szymanski apply economics, statistics and psychology to football topics and come up some surprising conclusions.
Ruth, aged 30, and Daniel, 27, met at a party and clicked immediately. It was no surprise, then, that they decided to meet up again. But it was more than six months before they could find a convenient date for that first evening out.
Dr Ehud Reiter was watching his two-year-old son Moshe play with a child six months younger when he realised that something was not quite right.
“The other boy, Sidney, was talking much more than Moshe. Up till then, Moshe had always been ahead of him. So we knew there was something really wrong.”
Reiter sighs and pauses as he recalls that terrible moment in 2000. It was a year later that he and his wife Ann finally received the dreadful news that Moshe had full-blown autism and would need care for the rest of his life.
It is early July 2009 and I am sitting in the staff room of King David Primary School on Beauclair Drive in Liverpool. The sound of children singing God Save the Queen rings from the assembly hall up the corridor. Then silence falls.
I look out to the playground which has not changed since I was a pupil here in the 1960s. I remember games of marbles, juggling balls and “Israeli skipping” with a large loop of elastic.
Although, until a year or so ago, my hands-on experience of babies could be neatly summarised as “very little”, I figured I had them sussed. Sleep, poo, cry, food, gurgle, sleep, poo and so on and so forth.
Some time later, there is the odd smile, a bit of cooing and an occasional “mama” or “dada”. And after that I admit to being a bit hazy until the bit where they go trotting off to the infants’ class, tripping over their uniform (“room to grow”) and lugging a satchel that is bigger than they are.