Being Jew...ish

Created on 5/4/2008

There is something re-assuring about belonging to a club. It doesn’t much matter how good the club is, we all think, because we each know best, that our club is the best club. Surely it we are in the club, it must be a sure sign of its superiority. This goes for our fitness clubs, our football clubs, our golf clubs, our gentlemen’s club, in fact almost any kind of club except one. It seems as if my club, one of the most exclusive in the world, is not much in demand amongst my own. I refer to the Jewish club.

We Jews number about .001% of the global population, so seeing how snobby we can be, it is more than a bit surprising that so many of our number apparently don’t want to belong to this club. After all we are disproportionately successful in the media, in winning awards be they Pulitzers, Nobel Prizes, Academy Award Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, etc. We also do exceptionally well in academia, in politics, banking, finance, and in Israel we have proven adept at agriculture, technology, engineering, chemistry and matters military.

So, having reached these heights why is there such marked reluctance to belong to our club?

This statement is evidenced by the fact that you hardly ever hear of a prominent Jew who simply states that he or she is, without qualification, prevarication, excuse or some form of mitigation a Jew.

At best you get the Jonathan Miller self-description, that he is “jew…ish”. The list of Jews not making much at all of their Jewishness is seemingly endless. In fact, in the recent past, outside of the gilded pages of the Jewish Chronicle, the only people claiming some link to our gang are the Kabalist Lite brigade, led by her Supreme Madgeness, Madonna (aka Esther) and her gal pal Demi Moore, whose Jewish name I don’t know, but might I suggest Dora, like my late grandmother. If, for no other reason, than for the ironic connection of there never having been two women who were less alike.

The funny thing being that it’s really hard to understand the reluctance of claiming one’s Jewish heritage, lifestyle and culture since it is actually quite admired. Well perhaps it is. If you saw the London or New York presentations of Mel Brooks show, The Producers you would agree with the mainly Gentile audience that the Jewish experience is a funny, warm, appealing and attractive life style. Or perhaps we missed the point. Perhaps the Gentiles in these audiences take Jewish humour and situations in an American context as if they were American lifestyles and situations.

Of course, both statements are true. Jewish humour is American humour. The experience of upwardly mobile children and grand children of immigrants is the common experience in America. The difference here is that we Jews are still the others, the outsiders, the somewhat exotic and different from the norm. Perhaps that remains the reason that so many Jewish people do all they can to become invisible in the United Kingdom. As other minorities are sometimes keen to point out, “well if you’re black or brown there’s no point in pretending you’re not, you simply can’t hide”.

It may seem easier to assimilate and become invisible. I have heard those very close to home tell me how old fashioned I am when I point out that anti Semitism is alive and kicking, that there are still plenty of bogey men out there, and more than at any time I can remember, it doesn’t matter what you think you are when the bad guys think you’re a Jew, you’re a Jew.

What’s so frightening and different now is that we have a who’s who of Jew haters that other than hating us have nothing but extremism in common. We have National Socialists, (Nazis in all but name) the Hard Left, the Anti Israel rejection Front (this includes the Palestinian terror groups such as Hamas) and the Muslim Fundamentalist terror groups. Never before has there been such an array of Jew haters in this country.

These people use any pretext to express their hate, contempt and venom of Jews. One of their prime targets is Israel and everything Israeli. I am not putting forward the view ‘our country right or wrong’, since that’s nonsense. I am putting forward the view that all countries should be treated with equality. Why do these hate groups only single out Israel for such total and utter condemnation? The answer is in the book by Alan Dershowitz, ‘The Case for Israel’ (currently available in all good book shops and highly recommended). There, argued with the precision of one of America’s leading legal professors you find the truth boils down to some old home truths, about anti Semitism, perversion and re-writing of history, international political and media bias.

Perhaps that’s why so many of us are nervous to say ‘yes I’m a Jew and proud of it.’ Perhaps they are just scared, and my belief is that they’re wrong. The big bad man doesn’t go away if you’re scared, he just gets bolder and bigger. Our strength comes from not hiding our light; we are better than that, and we need to again demonstrate that communal will and resolve that has served us so well through all the travails of the past. It starts by us making a simple commitment to ourselves and to our community. We are what we are and we have every right, indeed a duty, to be proud of ourselves. Yes I’m Jewish and I’m happy to be Jewish. You don’t have to be religious, you just have to be happy in your own skin. Try saying it for yourself, I think you’ll like it. For those of you who are not Jewish, what can I say to you, how about, hug a Jewish friend. We need to know you care.