How do we live Jewishly in an ever-more non-Jewish world?

How do we live Jewishly in an ever-more non-Jewish world?

AS THE Christmas adverts close in on television, and one wonders vaguely if John Lewis’ Monty the Penguin might be Jewish, we celebrate Chanukah 2014 in a certain sort of denial – of remaining Jewish in a non-Jewish world.

Every year, I read plucky little articles wherein the writer tries hard to cling on to our essential Chanukah-ness in the face of the gathering tide of Christmas. But this year, when even my paper boy (a Hindu) has sent me prayers to HDH Pramukh Swami on a Christmas card, and Jewish friend after Jewish friend wonders what I might be doing for Christmas (answer: watching TV), I have fallen to thinking how we identify ourselves in Christian Britain.

In the past few months, we have weathered the summer storm of the Gaza war, the inexorable descent of Israel into international pariah status, the endless creeping flood of supposedly acceptable anti-Semitism and the loathsome output of Jew-hating on social media.

This week I read on Twitter (to which I have finally succumbed) that someone believes Tony Blair was elected as Prime Minister with the help of ‘Masonic Zionists’. Now that’s a handy stick with which to beat Blair and the Blair-ites, particularly if you are opposed to the invasion of Iraq; and given the horrific details of the Senate report on the CIA’s treatment of its Guantanamo suspects, is not a step away from blaming the Jews. It doesn’t help, of course, that the CIA’s thin-to-anorexic defence, that it could have obtained valuable details of potential attacks on the US from those it was waterboarding or otherwise torturing, was mindshudderingly close to techniques used by Israel’s own Shin Bet on its political prisoners.

Thank goodness, then, for the release of The Green Prince, the film in which the son of a Hamas leader describes his decision to go over to the enemy and work for Israel, despite – or indeed because of – similar interrogation procedures used against Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

The big event of last week was, of course, not the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to New York nor yet the release of pictures of their admittedly cute 16-monthold son, Prince George.

No, the big event was the much-anticipated clash on the BBC’s Question Time of Goodness- Knows-What-He-is-For “comedian” Russell Brand, and the UKIP leader, Nigel Farage. Mr Farage has had a good year – two departures from the Conservative Party and two Westminster seats for UKIP as a result of the subsequent by-elections. Now he is casting his eye about, looking forward to May’s general election, and his eye has settled on us, the Jews, as a potential pool of natural support.

Two weeks ago, before his party was engulfed in a welter of sex and politically incorrect scandals, Mr Farage chose to disseminate some of his opinions on LBC. Ever the political opportunist, he told listeners that the political elite (a very Farage-ist word) was not doing enough to combat anti-Semitism, or, indeed, to support Israel. In his eagerness to blame Muslims and immigrants for most of Britain’s ills – indeed, he actually blamed immigrants for clogging up motorways so that he arrived late for a meeting in Wales – he is swimming in very muddy waters.

I am curious to know just how credulous Anglo-Jewry is and whether British Jews will buy into Farage’s claims. Last year, at a public meeting at Hasmonean School, he was asked where he believed the capital of Israel was – or where he would say it was – if he became Prime Minister. With his trademark postbox grin, Farage sidestepped this question saying he was nowhere near that stage, but it is a legitimate concern.
What the question showed, I believe, is the overwhelming concern by British Jews, most of us the sons, daughters and grandchildren of immigrants, that our political leaders take account of our passionate involvement with Israel, its hopes and fears, despite the fact that we live here. It is not a question of dual loyalties, merely a realistic expression of what we stand for.

So David Cameron showed himself to be a smart political operator last week with his quietly arranged, last-minute visit to Auschwitz. And Nigel Farage has a long way to go before we send him up to the top of a cherrypicker, lighting the Chanukah lights.

Chanukah sameach.

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  • 18 December, 2014