Queen Mother isn’t favourite. We’ve got our own su­per granny

The Jewish Chronicle - - Features -

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.

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