Accentuate the positive

Accentuate the positive

Column Jewish News by Jenni Frazer February 10 2017

It would be understandable — and almost forgivable — if much of the Jewish community were to take to its bed with a large duvet and a hot water bottle, with a note pinned on the cover: “Please don’t disturb me until this madness is over”.

I don’t know about you, but most mornings I approach the news as though it were a rabid dog, about to bite in all the wrong places. For months on end the innate wish of the Jewish community to be off the radar, and on no-one’s agenda, has not been granted.

It can be Trump’s White House insanity over the Holocaust statement which didn’t mention Jews, or it can be the near-certain knowledge that this week’s May-Netanyahu mini-summit is not going to go that well for Israel, bound to get rapped over the knuckles for its settlement announcements.

It can be the seemingly endless hardscrabble arguments with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party over its refusal to deal definitively with antisemitism, or the utter crassness of Baroness Tonge (who else?) in blaming the latest CST antisemitism statistics on Jewish unwillingness to condemn the aforementioned settlements.

Apropos of which, I have often thought that Lady Tonge lived on another planet, but she confirmed her pseudo-alien status with this latest stunt. Does she truly imagine that the lowlifes who get their jollies from scrawling swastikas on Jewish communal buildings, or chucking gas canisters at blameless Jewish passers-by, would behave more beautifully if British Jews spoke out against Netanyahu more forcefully?

I mean, I don’t care for many of Bibi’s policies and have frequently aired this opinion in this space, but I haven’t noticed a diminution in lunatic antisemitism as a result.

Where was I? Oh, yes, the depressing relentlessness of news about Jews.

But not everything needs to be depressing and there are some reasons to be cheerful, even if international events suggest Donald James Trump would benefit from a swift lobotomy.

Top of my cheerful agenda is the sculptor Anish Kapoor, who, citing Jewish consciousness, is donating his $1 million Genesis prize to help refugees. Sir Anish said: “Jewish identity and history have witnessed recurring conditions of indifference, persecution and Holocaust. Repeatedly, we have had to repossess ourselves and re-identify our communities.

“As inheritors and carriers of Jewish values it is unseemly, therefore, for us to ignore the plight of people who are persecuted, who have lost everything and had to flee as refugees in mortal danger.”

Hooray for Sir Anish, a literal example of someone putting his money where his mouth is.

Let us also acknowledge, as reported elsewhere this week, the fantastic achievement of Chaim Chesler, one-time leader of Israel’s Soviet Jewry campaign, who has built an extraordinary success story in Limmud FSU, the umbrella group for Jews of Russia and the former Soviet Union. As Chesler himself admits, “For years we worked under the assumption that there was no future for Jews in the Communist Soviet Union; that they could not live there as free people nor bring up their children with a proud Jewish identity.”

And yet Limmud FSU thrives and young Russian-speaking Jews are exploring their identity.

Which leads me to conclude that it is time to come out from under the duvet, and embrace the positive.

  • 7 February, 2017