And­now­for­some­good­news

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment & Analysis - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

cur­rent na­tional ob­ses­sion with rights rather than with obli­ga­tions. Re­spon­si­ble par­ent­ing is key to this ur­gent moral re­gen­er­a­tion and it so hap­pens that the re­marks I my­self was go­ing to make on this sub­ject were largely made for me by Michael Freed­land in last week’s JC. But I’m de­lighted that Michael stole my thun­der.

In the days fol­low­ing the ri­ots what I found most sick­en­ing — apart from the video footage of the thugs and mis­cre­ants as they went about their work – were the at­tempts by some within the chat­ter­ing classes to por­tray unadul­ter­ated crim­i­nal­ity as some species of quasi-le­git­i­mate so­cial protest, grounded — we were told — in poverty and un­em­ploy­ment.

I re­minded one jour­nal­ist that my ma­ter­nal grand­fa­ther was un­em­ployed for four years dur­ing the grim 1930s; but it would never have oc­curred to him to loot, or to torch the homes of those amongst whom he lived. This was be­cause his moral com­pass had been se­cured upon the rock of a res­o­lute re­li­gious faith, in which he took un­shake­able pride, handed to him by his par­ents and by him to my mother, and so to me.

On the tomb­stone of my grand­fa­ther’s own fa­ther (an im­mi­grant who en­tered this coun­try vir­tu­ally pen­ni­less and who died, in 1910, not quite pen­ni­less) are listed the Jewish friendly so­ci­eties to which he be­longed. This serves as a re­minder to me that one cen­tral com­po­nent of his re­li­gious faith was the con­vic­tion that Jews had a duty to help each other, es­pe­cially in times of ad­ver­sity. But we also need to re-ex­am­ine what the late Jewish his­to­rian Raphael Sa­muel de­scribed as ‘the de­sacral­iza­tion of marriage’ that has been one of the most de­struc­tive fea­tures of Bri­tish so­ci­ety post-1945.

And so we come to my sec­ond piece of good news, al­beit en­cased within a tragedy.

On 15 Au­gust I re­ceived the re­port that my brother-in-law, a med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner liv­ing in Manch­ester, had sud­denly died. My wife Mar­ion, sis­ter to the de­ceased, was then trav­el­ling to our north-of-Eng­land home, at Sea­ham Har­bour, just south of Sun­der­land. When I was at last able to con­tact her we re­alised that she might well have to ob­serve the ini­tial shiva pe­riod alone in our cot­tage by the sea. So I want to pay trib­ute to Rabbi Jonathan Gut­tentag (of Manch­ester), who ar­ranged for mem­bers of the Gateshead com­mu­nity to visit my wife and es­cort her to be with her griev­ing, wid­owed sis­ter-in-law.

There can surely be no more poignant ex­am­ple of com­mu­nal sol­i­dar­ity and self­less con­cern for oth­ers, which points us to an es­sen­tial bench­mark against which any na­tional re­moral­i­sa­tion must be cal­i­brated. And the third piece of good news? You may re­call that in 2008 I drew at­ten­tion to ‘Ofra’ (not her real name), a young lady of Is­raeli birth who had been re­fused a place at West­min­ster Univer­sity be­cause an ad­mis­sions tu­tor de­clined to ac­cept her grade A in A-Level He­brew, ar­gu­ing that this stel­lar per­for­mance was un­ac­cept­able for en­try pur­poses since He­brew was Ofra’s mother-tongue.

I have to tell you now that fol­low­ing the in­ter­ven­tion of the Qual­ity As­sur­ance Agency the univer­sity did even­tu­ally re­lent, and that last month Ofra ob­tained a First Class Hon­ours de­gree.

I’m sure you will join me in ap­plaud­ing her de­ter­mi­na­tion, and wish­ing her and her par­ents a hearty mazel­tov!

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