Queen Mother isn’t favourite. We’ve got our own super granny
THERE WAS so much talk a few weeks ago about the Queen Mother. When the official biography of King George VI’s consort was published, one commentator described her as “everyone’s favourite grandmother”.
Well, I have to say it — and don’t anyone accuse me of lese-majesty — with the best will in the world and all due respect, she wasn’t my favourite grandmother.
My grandma had no competition in my eyes. She was never a “boobah” — or as the family term for my greatgrandmother had it, a “bobba”. She was an extraordinarily intelligent, beautiful, loving and insightful woman whom I adored.
But I think I know what the writer was getting at, because there is a lady living in an elegant bungalow in a north London suburb on whom it is worth conferring the title of the favourite grandmother of the British Jewish community. She has another title, but to anyone who knows her — apart from her uncountable number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren — she is simply “Amelie”.
Unbelievably now in her 80s, the Lady Jakobovits, widow of Immanuel Jakobovits, who added a lustre to the post of Chief Rabbi not known before, remains a jewel in the community’s crown. Not that she is the only lady of a certain age still looking beautiful and still sounding at least 40 years younger — I have a lovely aunt, Doris, who could give most a run for their money — but Amelie is unique in the way she ignores age and suggestions that maybe the time has come for retirement. As if anyone would dare. No, Lady J — the title that British Jews have taken to their hearts — seems to regard service as a heavenly command.
We are all the beneficiaries of that. Growing old gracefully, people like to say. I’m not sure it has happened to her yet.
She was not just a wife to the Chief Rabbi, who proposed to her on top of the Eiffel Tower. She was as much an adviser as she was the one to whom government ministers, archbishops, ambassadors et al came to pay court — at the same time as enjoying her chicken soup. (Presumably, somewhere in a safe at her home there is a royal warrant, appointing her as purveyor of kneidlach to Her Majesty.)
When that Chief Rabbi announced on his appointment that he was going to appoint a public relations officer, he failed to make one point clear — he was actually already married to her.
She was always at his side, to help in dealing with the more sticky problems that inevitably arose. Not that he wasn’t his own man. This was a Chief Rabbi who made decisions when they had to be made and stood by them. But sometimes, a gentle, feminine touch was necessary. And she provided it.
More than that, she got to know the community they both served. Not just by holding the requisite positions that went with her role, but also by finding out who was celebrating a happy event — and, more importantly, who needed comfort when those events were not so happy.
These were ordinary members of the community, not just the rich and the powerful. More than once, she spent whole days and nights with bereaved families. For all I know, she’s still doing so.
Amelie likes it to be known that she is “a French girl”. Certainly, her style of dressing proclaims her continental origins. But there’s something more — a certain joie de vivre, for which the French, often unjustly, like to take credit.
Talk about everyone’s favourite grandmother? Look no further than that bungalow not a few miles away from Golders Green.