Alex Kasriel

Making drama out of a crisis

By Alex Kasriel, November 5, 2009

In a backroom at north London’s Tricycle Theatre, eight people are rehearsing a piece of theatre called The Committee. The writing playfully looks at what happens in an imaginary student union when representatives from different religious societies organise a multicultural day.

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Could exercising really make you fat?

By Alex Kasriel, October 29, 2009

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.

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Interview: Judy Batalion

By Alex Kasriel, October 28, 2009

If you thought we had a lot in common with our Jewish North American counterparts, think again. One Canadian comedian found her experience of moving to London so difficult, she was compelled to write a stand-up show on the subject.

The Only Jew in The Village is, as its author Judy Batalion puts it, “part stand-up, part story telling, part confessional, part rant performance” about her experience of moving to a flat in the Muslim area of Whitechapel in the East End and studying for a PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art before embarking on a career in comedy.

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When celebs get stage fright

By Alex Kasriel, October 22, 2009

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.

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Lost your job? It could just make you happier

By Alex Kasriel, October 22, 2009

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.

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X Factor maverick Clive Davis

By Alex Kasriel, October 19, 2009

When Whitney Houston made her glittering appearance on X Factor this weekend, she came with her record producer Clive Davis.

You can just imagine the phone calls shooting across the Atlantic between ITV researchers and Whitney's people. "Er, we don't think it would be appropriate for her to give a masterclass to these people, in a hotel room, on her own," they would have said through gritted teeth. "She'll need a chaperone. She wants record producer Clive to be there with her."

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Fitness regimes you won’t want to skip

By Alex Kasriel, October 15, 2009

You are determined to get fit, but you are tired of the treadmill and aching for something more exciting than the municipal pool. Well, there has been an explosion of new fitness regimes at gyms around the country. We asked exercise coach Victoria Herman to rate the hottest new trends.

Piloxing

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Bob Dylan does schmaltz

By Alex Kasriel, October 14, 2009

Bob Dylan has just released a Christmas album which features cutesy American songs like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Winter Wonderland and traditional carols like Oh Come, All Ye Faithful and Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem.

Aside from the fact that the icon of 60s rebellion was born Robert Allen Zimmerman to Abram and Betty Zimmerman into a small Jewish suburb of Minnesota, this has to be the weirdest and most incongruous thing since Michael Jackson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach became BFFs back in the 90s.

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Lovely Stacey

By Alex Kasriel, October 12, 2009

Watching this week's X Factor I was struck how similar Stacey Solomon is to the fictional character of Poppy in Mike Leigh's film Happy Go Lucky.

The looks and the mannerisms are spot on. Anyone else agree?

Maybe Leigh was inspired on a visit to Havering College (where she studies Performing Arts).

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Rikki Lake: 'Birth is the most amazing thing'

By Alex Kasriel, October 9, 2009

Most women would describe giving birth as one of the most painful things they could do. But American actress and chatshow host Ricki Lake says her home birth was the most “miraculous, amazing time” of her life.

She even showed footage of her water birth during her documentary film The Business of Being Born.

“It should be celebrated,” said the natural birth advocate of labour while in London to speak at the Doula of the Year Awards. “I couldn’t wait until my waters broke. You release natural endorphins like oxytocin. You become a superwoman.”

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Givers happily take the bait

By Alex Kasriel, October 8, 2009

Although Jews are supposed to give at least one-tenth of their income to charity, Institute of Jewish Policy Research figures suggest that 20-to-30-somethings are less likely to do so than their parents.

To counteract this, the Charities Advisory Trust, headed by Dame Hilary Blume, ran an event in Mayfair to inspire young professionals to become philanthropists.

Called Happy Givers — because giving promotes a sense of well-being — it featured representatives of four charities who tried to persuade the 40-strong crowd to part with their cash.

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Interview: Matisyahu

By Alex Kasriel, October 8, 2009

Critics might have initially dismissed him as a novelty act, but five years after Chasidic pop star Matisyahu emerged on the scene, he has proved he is not just grabbing attention because of his peyot and black hat.

Popular with the music press, he has picked up thousands of devoted fans across the world, making huge sales and regularly topping the Billboard charts in the United States. This success cannot be just because he does not conform with the usual swaggering rock and reggae stars that normally grace the stage and MTV screen.

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Stacey Solomon to win!

By Alex Kasriel, October 4, 2009

I can't remember the last time we had a Jewish singer as one of the 12 finalists on X Factor. Was Steve Brookstein a Jew? I don't think so.

So I was chuffed to see Stacey Solomon, 20, go through to the next stage of the show on Sunday night.

She did a great job singing in front of Kylie and Dannii Minogue in this week's 'judge's homes' show, so it is no surprise.

The lovable/dithery single mum from Dagenham, Essex, (who reminds me of a character froma Mike Leigh film) says she wants to make her son proud by doing well on the ITV1 show.

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It's true. Men are vainer than ever

By Alex Kasriel, October 2, 2009

What we have suspected for quite some time now has just been proved unequivocally. Men love themselves more than women.

The country's new best selling magazine is Men's Health whose circulation increased to 250,247, according to new figures for the first six months of 2009. The magazine, which advises men on how to get the perfect set of abs and achieve the 'body beautiful', and its rival Men's Fitness, were the only paid-for titles in the men's lifestyle sector to increase circulation year on year.

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Fasting in the family way

By Alex Kasriel, September 29, 2009

As a woman who is seven months pregnant everyone told me I was exempt from fasting this Yom Kippur. But fasting is what YK is all about. Being in a room of starving people is an incredible leveller. As my brother reminded us this year, it doesn't matter whether your shul compatriots drive a Porsche or a bicycle, 20 hours in to the fast and we all feel the same. Ruddy starving. And I didn't want to 'miss out' on, I guess, missing out.

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Klezmer for the 21st century

By Alex Kasriel, September 24, 2009

Klezmer band Oi Va Voi have a strikingly different lead singer. She is the child of immigrants to Britain, although Bridgette Amofah’s parents are from Ghana rather than Lithuania, and she was brought up as a good Catholic girl.

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Organic chicken

By Alex Kasriel, September 22, 2009

The Wholefoods supermarket chain is at last stocking kosher chicken in most of its branches.

According to its website, the new products are provided by Kosher Valley™, a new certified kosher brand, and are certified by Rabbi Yechiel Babad and the Orthodox Union.

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Shana Tova, Muppet style

By Alex Kasriel, September 21, 2009

The Muppets wish you a Happy New Year.

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Treyc Cohen

By Alex Kasriel, September 21, 2009

Maurice Siegel, 76, from Southend was an embarrassment at the X Factor auditions which I saw on Catch Up (obviously) over the weekend. But Treyc Cohen wowed the judges with her rendition of I'm Every Woman. She's black but there must be some Jewishness in her, with that surname.

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We scoured the world for Dr Death

By Alex Kasriel, September 17, 2009

Dov Freedman is sitting in a car parked in a tree-lined suburban street when he is convinced he spots Dr Death.

From the safety of the vehicle, he sees a tall old man hobble into a large house. He is sure the man is Aribert Heim, one of the world’s most wanted Nazis war criminals, aka Dr Death.

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