British Jewry’s Golden Age
By Gilad Atzmon
“Britain's Jews fall in number but grow in self-confidence” stated yesterday’s Observer headline. Ned Temko ex-editor of the rabid Zionist Jewish Chronicle reviewed the state of the Jews in the Kingdom amid the opening of a new 50 million pounds Jewish cultural centre in West Hampstead.
According to the Observer we are awaiting a “new departure for the Jews of Britain”. But don’t worry folks, this time it isn’t a new global war promoted by CFI (Conservative Friends of Israel) or advocated by Hasbara writer David Aaronovitch. This time it’s just the opening of the JW3 – the London Jewish Community Centre – a spectacular exhibition of British Jews and their gift. “Its initial menu of nearly 1,000 events features well-known figures including Kevin Spacey, Nicholas Hytner, Zoë Wanamaker and Ruby Wax, as well as the former editor of the Times, James Harding, who is now head of BBC news.”
Just a few days ago, in spite of relentless pressure by the Jewish Lobby, the English speaking empire just managed to escape a new immoral interventionist war in Syria. By the weekend, the Observer was kind enough to remind us how influential Jews in this country are. “Despite their major impact in areas such as the professions, science, culture and the arts, the Jews of Britain now comprise a grand total of some 260,000 souls – less than 0.5% of the population. Outwardly, they are more self-confident, especially younger Jews who have grown up in an increasingly multicultural Britain.”
Notwithstanding all those ‘progressive’ voices who insist that Jews are drifting away from Israel and Zionism, The Observer article suggests the complete opposite. “Whatever their own views on Israeli policies, for many Jews on British campuses, ‘anti-Israel’ invective has sometimes come to feel not a lot different from antisemitism.” Jews in general and secular Jews in particular, do identify with Israel and for obvious reasons - It is that image of empowerment which they draw from the state that defines itself as ‘their State’. Consequently, they regard criticism of Israeli politics as an assault against their own existence and ‘right to be’. Similarly, the so-called Jewish anti- Zionist Jews, fall into the exact same trap. They also regard criticism of their vague political agenda as a racially motivated assault and an attempt to rob them of their elementary rights.
Stephen Miller, an emeritus professor of social research at City University throws some light on the matter when he repeats the line I myself presented in my latest book The Wandering Who. "They (the Jews)”, says Miller, may identify ethnically, culturally, socially or through an engagement with Israel; they may describe themselves as 'secular Jews'. But the research shows their sense of belonging and pride in their Jewishness are, on average, not very different from their more observant counterparts.” I guess Miller’s observation won’ surprise my readers. And the next question to ask is obviously what this ‘Jewishness’ is all about?
Mixed salad is the answer offered by JW3’s programme. “a rich mixture of Torah and Talmud sessions, debates on Israel and other communal staples. But there will also be comedy nights, jazz sessions, dance and fitness classes, even a taxidermy workshop – after which there will be time for socialising in a kosher restaurant run by proteges of the celebrated Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottolenghi.” Once again we are confronted with the true meaning of contemporary Jewish culture - a chicken soup peppered with a bit of political discussion and smooth jazz in the background. Very impressive.
Raymond Simonson who runs the massive Jewish centre, hopes to bring in, not only the widest range of affiliated Jews, but others. "People who aren't going to synagogue. People who may have married non-Jewish partners. People who haven't been involved in anything Jewish since they were teenagers." People who have stayed away because, in his words, they may have feared "they would be judged".
Being one of the very few people who, ideologically and theoretically, confronts Jewish power I wonder: should I wait for JW3 to invite me to discuss the topic at their liberal Jewish centre? Perhaps I’d better not hold my breath. After all, I’m not a Jew anymore.