Aren’t all celebrities Yiddishe
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