Thursday, January 20, 2005

Jewish Guilthall

In February of 1984 the Jewish Welfare Board welcomed HRH Prince Charles and his then wife Diana as guests of honour at their annual fundraising gala-dinner in Guildhall. Diana was at that time pregnant with her second son Prince Henry Charles Albert David, currently better known in our tabloid press as Dirty Harry. I believe Charles, never a big fan of our race, accepted this dubious honour as a sop to the establishment irritated by his refusal to invite the Chief Rabbi to his wedding. I was a young boy at the time and I remember finding it hilariously funny when it was reported in the press that, of the almost two thousand guests attendant at this Jewish Banquet only one wore a kappel; none other than Charles himself.

Diana, for her part, took her sister-in-law-to-be Fergie, a week before her ill-fated wedding, to Annabel’s where they had some champers while disguised as policewomen. The royal family does seem to have a knack for getting it wrong when they dress up and Harry’s nazi costume is not for me any more sinister. The Board of Deputies disagrees. In fact it seems every organisation in the country with Jewish in its title has had something to say.

I do not think a twenty year old prince, basically a student with a lot of money and a life to enjoy, should have to carry the cross for a group of old men in privileged positions who feel obliged to affirm their Jewishness somehow. As I have said before, the Nazis were but one chapter in a long and bloody history, and it is perfectly acceptable to dress up as Pharaoh, Haman or a Greek soldier. True the Nazis were particularly bad and particularly recent which makes dressing up as them count as pretty bad taste but that is about it as far as I’m concerned.

For British Jewry, that relies on perpetual victimhood for their unifying feature, that worries that people’s involvement in the community will drop off as the security situation in Israel improves, the royal gaffe is indeed a BFD. This is the occasion they have all been put here for. As a man they all stood up and affirmed their Jewishness. From the secretary of the Jewish Ealing-North Triathlon Elites to the Honourary vice-president of the Jewish Elementary Rowing and Kayaking School, all proved their commitment to the World Jewish Community by suggesting appropriate punishments for the offending prince. The national gutter press stood up for the memory of the six million and before long, around the world, the pictures were being displayed alongside the equally tragic pictures from Indonesia and Thailand. I do not think I would let my son dress up as Nazi but I doubt I would have thrown a fit if he had, before this story broke.

I know we should feel really proud the leader of the opposition is Jewish, that so many lords and MPs are. In fact however I also know that the BOD does not really represent me at all, any more than the Jewish Welfare Board does or the leader of the opposition. Now, before the whole establishment jumps down my throat, I am not saying OJs do not get their fair share of help from the Jewish Welfare Board. Nor am I claiming that Michael Howard is not Jewish. What I am saying is there is more than one type of Jew in Great Britain. And those with a whole pile of Mitzvas to keep, find they live in world with completely different set of problems than those faced by Jews with a more liberal interpretation of “thou shalt not…”. I don’t know if Mr Howard suffers for being Jewish but even if he does I’ll bet its nothing to do with having the dustmen take away his chametz before 10:27 erev Pesach.

In the JWB’s world education comes free, matzas come from the 'specials' aisle at Sainbury’s and Yomtov comes round twice a year; Yom Kippur and Tu Bishvat. We, on the other hand, have to pay for our own schooling and bake our own matzes, and our fundraising dinners are not held anywhere near the Guildhall. Also unlike them our lives do not come with a sticker that says Holocaust Survivor Inside.

On the other hand, only last week we were hearing complaints that 70% of people in England had not heard of Auschwitz. The younger Prince, God bless him, has done more to correct that among young people than anybody since the black rap group from Staten Island - the Wu Tang Clan. A conspiracy theorist could easily make the case that the Prince in fact was carrying out a publicity stunt designed to correct that. I think the Collective of All Charitable Kehillas of England should put a statue up to him, with their acronym on the plinth.

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