Aren’t all celebri­ties Yid­dishe

The Jewish Chronicle - - Features -

JEW-SPOT­TING USED to be so much eas­ier than it is to­day. When I was a boy, the fam­ily would set­tle down in front of the tele­vi­sion af­ter din­ner ev­ery evening and wait, rather as an an­gler set­tles down by a stream and waits. At some point an ac­tor or en­ter­tainer would come onto the screen to be greeted by my par­ents with an un­emo­tional sin­gle word state­ment: “Jewish”.

Nowa­days it’s hard to know who is Jewish and who isn’t. New dis­cov­er­ies are be­ing made in the field all the time, and those dis­cov­er­ies, as of­ten as not, turn out to be false.

In his lat­est stand-up per­for­mance, co­me­dian Dave Gor­man talks about how he is of­ten mis­taken for be­ing Jewish. In­deed, he re­cently reached num­ber 12 in a list of Jewish writers, two places higher than the es­teemed Saul Bel­low.

I re­cently saw the show and, to prove his point, Gor­man con­ducted a straw-poll of the au­di­ence, with the re­sults fall­ing roughly in the pro­por­tions of half think­ing he was from a Chris­tian fam­ily and half think­ing he was Jewish. He need only have made the ef­fort to sur­vey me and Mrs J be­cause our re­sults fell out in ex­actly the same way, 50 per cent of us think­ing he was Chris­tian, the other 50 per cent think­ing he was Jewish.

When I later en­quired of Mrs J why she had thought the en­ter­tainer was Jewish, the shock­ing an­swer came back: “Well, he’s so nice, isn’t he?” Stunned, I probed fur­ther. “How can you say such a thing? Are you se­ri­ously telling me that be­cause you like him he must be Jewish? Are you try­ing to say that the world di­vides be­tween Jewish peo­ple who are nice and ev­ery­one else who is not nice?”

Mr Gor­man is, he as­sured the au­di­ence in the gen­tlest of ways so as not to ap­pear of­fended at the sug­ges­tion while feel­ing obliged to cor­rect the er­ror, an athe­ist from a Chris­tian back­ground. How­ever, I’m not sure that he should dis­play such con­fi­dence in this as­ser­tion. I’m con­vinced that if he were to ap­pear on the BBC pro­gramme, Who Do You Think You Are?, he would learn that his back­ground is, af­ter all, Jewish, since this ap­pears to be the out­come for many of those who sub­ject them­selves to that very pub­lic ex­po­sure of fam­ily her­itage. In­deed, I’d go as far as to say that ev­ery one of those who have been on it have turned out ei­ther to have Jews or crim­i­nals in their fam­ily his­to­ries, al­though, I’m re­lieved to re­port, only one case where the two co­in­cided.

View­ers of the pro­gramme will know, for ex­am­ple, that Nigella Law­son was proved right with her hy­poth­e­sis that some of her an­ces­tors were Jewish. Per­haps it was the Solomon and Gluck­stein fam­i­lies, founders of

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