My week in writing

In this week’s paper. among other things, I followed up on my Glasgow school piece after speaking to the head  of the school’s Parent Council, and covered the fallout from a travel piece that ran in the Saturday Times and presented an arguably unflattering and inaccurate view of Israel.

In lighter news, I covered an installation at a largely forgotten cemetery in Liverpool; as part of the Liverpool Biennial artist Robyn Woolston placed lights amid the gravestones to give an eerie and mesmerizing perspective on history. As you can see from this photograph, what sounds like an off-the-wall idea actually offers a beautiful and very different way to remember.

Photo: Robyn Woolston /

And on the web, following up on a YouGov poll looking at British views on a cultural boycott of Israel, I experimented with some rudimentary data journalism. The results can be found here and here.

Also this week, I chatted to a scientist involved with Channel 4’s Drugs Live programme and found out why he considers the experiment so valuable, and reported on Samuel L Jackson’s unusual efforts to see President Obama re-elected in November.


My week in writing

In a short week due to the Jewish New Year, I worked on a story about education at Scotland’s only Jewish school; Calderwood Lodge. I also followed up on the results of a survey conducted by YouGov for the Extremis Project, a new group dedicating to highlighting and discussing the causes and consequences of extremism in Europe and beyond. It was interesting to see evidence of “sharp generational differences” in attitudes toward the potential platforms or far-right groups; younger voters expressed hostility to anti-immigrant or anti-Islam groups.

Another story that took up a fair bit of time was a look at The medieval Jewish poet who preceded Chaucer – a chance to delve through a fascinating and oft-forgotten era in British history, including the fact that the first recorded blood libel took place in Norwich.

I also followed a story of a disabled girl facing the possibility of having to leave her school because of a problem with council funding. Thankfully, by the time of going to press and with the help of the intervention of the school’s headmaster, an interim arrangement had been made so that she could continue her studies.

Elsewhere, I reported on an Israeli series that could be the new Homeland if its US remake goes well. In Comment, David Aaronovitch addressed the dangerous blame game in an analysis of the riots over the Mohammed film trailer, while Anne Sebba painted a portrait of heroism and personal achievement in her Essay – a pleasure to feature; not least because it was the first piece for the Jewish Chronicle I’ve ever edited to reference the Mitford sisters.

Away from the JC, my piece on a book compiling letters between a soldier and his wife at home during the Second World War was published in Optima magazine. The book, published by the History Press, is well worth a read for insight into everyday life – and the life of the everyday soldier – during a time of great turmoil.

Gossip Girl’s final season is on its way

I have mixed feelings about the imminent ending of my favourite series about spoilt privileged New Yorkers with perfect hair, ludicrously lavish wardrobes and heavily incestuous love-lives. On the one hand – nooo – the end of an era, no more Josh Schwartz snarkiness lighting up my weekly viewing. On the other, the last season has hardly given viewers much cause to stay with it, not least because the inherent (and fabulous) vindictiveness of Blair Waldorf was neglected for a Queen B who moped, sighed and sported not a single headband.

But still, it’s Gossip Girl – the show that brought us the power frozen yoghurt, a social hierachy based on one’s position on the Met steps, the character who inspired the expression “dumb blonde”, Nate’s dimples and Chuck’s Bassness. So, on balance, I’m sad to see it go. But it’s not over yet. The trailer for the final series reminds us of the good old days; here’s hoping this year will offer a repeat of them.

My week in writing

This week was our Rosh Hashanah issue, a bumper edition for the New Year.

I spent part of the week working on a follow-up to the story broken by my former colleague Jessica Elgot last year, about the historic approach to the burial of stillborn babies by synagogue authorities.

A year on, it was wonderful to find out how attitudes have changed and see first-hand that parents have been able to erect memorials after discovering the truth of where their children were buried. It is still unspeakably heartbreaking to see rows of graves for babies who never got a chance to live, but it is undoubtedly right that the families can mark those they lost in this way.

This week I also wrote about the MPs using the legacy of the Iraq war to draw conclusions about the Iranian threat, a boost to scientific collaboration between Britain and Israel and the decision to honour the founder of the Paralympic Games by naming a medical clinic in the Olympic Village after him. When I interviewed Sir Ludwig Guttmann’s daughter earlier this summer, she told me how proud her father would have been to see his dream realised in the city where it all began. If there is one (non-athletic) legacy of London hosting the Games, it is that the phenomenal story of a refugee who changed so many lives has been widely acknowledged.

I blogged about conspiracy theories, Mossad and the tragic Al-Hilli murder, concluding that “questions are not the same as ancient conspiracy theories, rolled out time and again to point a finger at the Jews”. With rumours swirling this week that the filmmaker behind the film denigrating Mohammed was Sam Bacile, an Israeli Jew – rumours that of course turned out to be nothing but a slur, with the producer identified as a Coptic Christian from California – this is sadly a point that needs reinforcing.

In Comment this week, I expressed my despair over the endless cycle of boycotts and protests that occurs, it seems, whenever an Israeli artist or performer is invited to Britain. I was also pleased to feature an essay by the British ambassador to Israel, Matthew Gould, in which he argued that Israel must fight a battle of hearts and minds for the British centre. Perhaps the most poignant paragraph was when he remarked: “I wish I did not have to address the threats to Israel or reaffirm that Britain believes in Israel’s existence and legitimacy – the British envoy to Sweden never has to say that we support Sweden’s right to exist.” If only the Middle East could get beyond arguments of existence to work for concrete progress and a two-state solution. The costs of failing to do so are only to clear; this week we ran my interview with Marsha Gladstone, whose teenage son was killed by a suicide bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv ten years ago this month.

Last but not least, on Friday I received a lovely thank you letter from Lord Janner, following my interview with him about his work to transform Holocaust education in this country. He’s an inspirational figure and it was a pleasure to speak to him.