On the 8th of March I had the opportunity to read a fascinating if gloomy and disturbing item in BBC News Magazine called Living with the J-word .
In essence the article, written by Author and broadcaster Micheal Goldfarb, addresses the problem of both historical and current antisemitism within society, of being hated because of ones Judaic roots, and of how such factors affects the minds of those who are affected by such prejudicial treatment. It is a good article, and I do not deny a word of what has been written, but it also saddened me, for as I read the article I recalled a much happier upbringing as a Christian within a strong Jewish community.
Was such an experience a confirmation of the authors views and experiences,, and do I agree with his outlook and sentiments. The answer is both yes and no, as yes, there was and aI suspect always be a degree of intolerance in such a large community as London, but also no, as our our family experienced a very different kind of reality.
I do not recall my very early childhood, but living in the North London Suburb of Hendon, and with The suburb of Golders Green, very close by, I have always known what it is like to live within a multicultural and multifaith community. As is still the case the area is still a mix of people’s of all faiths and background, but as a family we always believed that individual character rather than race, creed or geographical factor was important, and that community or street spirit was the key to the happiness to all.
Within the street there was wonderful degree of cross faith and cross cultural dialogue, and on the whole a good time was had by all. My Mother, brought up in rural Buckinghamshire, was the street ” Mrs Fixit”, in the sense of
“Go and see Mrs Wilson, she’ll know what to do”
Very often that was a good solution, but such assistance was never one sided. As street dwellers and near neighbours we talked to each other about a huge variety of topics, from religion to the best recipe for potato salad, and from Judaic funeral customs and rites to the joys of a agood, it admittedly illicit, glass of dry sherry. The annual culmination of all this was bonfire night or the 5th November, where everybody came together in our back garden to simply have a bit of fun. There was no awkwardness, there was no religious of cultural infighting, and great care was taken so that all parties, in accordance with their faith, could enjoy the post firework celebration food
Over the years this relationship has deepened ands strengthened, and still is there to this day.
When myself and my wife got married our Jewish friends could not come to the wedding as it was held on their sabbath, so in order to honour their long term friendship, or more like family status, we invited them to come round to my mothers house for a celebratory buffet/meal. To all those who are familiar with Jewish law and custom, I need not say the difficulties which could have arisen through embarking on such a project, but one again the “street spirit” kicked. Upon requesting such information, we were advised how we, as Christians, could successfully host such an evening, and furthermore we were instructed as to Jewish social etiquette as regards who should serve what, how and when, and also over what period of time. The result was a wonderful mix of cultural values and traditions which are still remembered by all of us to this day
The greatest honour bestowed upon os though was the title of being Honorary Jews. Not in the official sense mind you, nor in the sense of support for the state of Israel, (click here for further information), but in the sense that we were an honoured part of their community, and a pleasure to have within their midst. I have been told that few individuals outside of their faith receive such an accolade, but we were honoured to have attended various mitzvah’s and other religious celebrations, and we hope that such warmth, genourosity, friendship, and respect will continue to be enjoyed by all
The final act I remember was on the occasion of my fathers funeral. As the funeral cortege slowly drove down the street, all our neighbours came out stand by the side of the road so as to honour his passing. They did not need to do so, he was not one of thier own, but such actions were so much appreciated by the whole family. There was no fuss, no pretension, just an honouring of a man they had been proud to known and of a family that they regarded as one of their own.
So what relevance has this got to do with the article in question; quite simply everything. We, as people are not faiths. We are not creeds, sticky labels, or geographical land masses and, as individual there is a mix of good and bad in all of us, so rather than concentrating on what is bad within society; however pertinent and relevant, maybe we should rejoice in our differences, and explore them to the full.
Does this mean by the way that I automatically endorse the Judaic way of life, and all that they believe in, or their view of the holocaust and similar crimes? No, not at all. Their belief system is not for me, and I follow a different dietary regime. I have had Iranian and Lebanese friends who opinions and experiences, especially as regards the middle east conflict, I fully understand, and as regards the holocaust, I have, on many occasions reminded my Jewish friends that such a terrible period of history was not purely a Jewish affair
I just think that in the current climate of the IS state and resurgent antisemitism (if it ever really went away), that a more balanced view might be appreciated, so here is a challenge I lay before everyone.
Forget what you think you know about your alternative faith neighbours or local community. Knock on their door, invite them knock on yours, and enjoy what diversity that comes. Will it turn out well, I don’t know, but which is better, to explore and try and learn from each other, or to stand behind some fence and stay silent looking on
I know which I prefer, and as I end this post I can still see the seraphic smile on the face of a young Jewish boy who, after enjoying the fireworks, joyfully bit into a jacket potato whist melted butter ran down his chin. Here’s to community spirit and cultural diversity I say, and here’s to the hope that, one day, and end to all racial and religious bitterness and bigotry may come to an end
שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם shālôm ʻalêḵem, or peace be upon you, whatever you belive in, and wherever or however you chose to live, or dream
I hope you enjoy the video’s below, I think they both carry valuable reminders for us all
Categories: Just a thought