Never the twain shall meet

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Sandy Rashty

THIS WEEK, I went where few mod­ern Jewish girls have gone be­fore — to east Lon­don on a Tues­day night. I gave up my pre-planned Net­flix-filled evening to hang with gig-go­ers in Shored­itch. This was not a typ­i­cal gig with cheap beer or a long queue. It was a pri­vate mu­sic love-in at mem­bers club Shored­itch House, where din­ers eat be­side a rooftop swim­ming pool and celebri­ties warmly em­brace their ta­ble hosts.

In­trigued and se­cretly ex­cited by the trendy, I hap­pily ac­cepted the last-minute in­vite.

But faced with the prospect of ven­tur­ing away from my usual north-west or even west Lon­don haunts, I pan­icked. I had noth­ing suit­able to wear. I don’t own plaid or denim-on­denim and I like to wear socks with my shoes. Nev­er­the­less, un­suit­ably dressed-up in black, I picked up my Cana­dian cousin and made the 30-minute drive east.

We ar­rived in time for a quick din­ner at the rooftop restau­rant and were warmly greeted by one “in” friend at the eight-per­son ta­ble. The other din­ers had al­ready or­dered and I parked my­self op­po­site a Su­danese girl chomp­ing on a quinoa salad. It looked ap­petis­ing, so I or­dered the same.

She was in­ter­est­ing — so dif­fer­ent to the pre­dictable group of teach­ers, bankers and lawyers I know. She had bounced from a ca­reer in jour­nal­ism to one of po­lit­i­cal protest in the fash­ion in­dus­try. “The West im­poses their stan­dards in fash­ion on us, es­pe­cially coun­tries in the Mid­dle East — don’t you think?” she said, slam­ming her hand on the ta­ble in be­tween bites.

Con­fused, I thought it best to sim­ply nod and smile. She went on to say that she has now moved to Dubai be­cause she is po­lit­i­cally op­posed to pay­ing UK taxes.

She paused to ask about my back­ground. She was sur­prised to learn that I was Jewish and even more sur­prised to learn that I’m of Iraqi Jewish de­scent. “So wait, are you an Arab or a Jew?” she pushed, per­plexed. “Both?” I sug­gested. “Well, then you must have a se­ri­ous prob­lem with what the Is­raelis are do­ing in Gaza right now. It’s a prison there.” Oy.

More as­sim­i­lated friends have of­ten crit­i­cised the “Jewish bub­ble”. They claim that branch­ing out brings ac­cess to a world away from Jewish iden­tity and Mid­dle East­ern pol­i­tics. But in my ex­pe­ri­ence, the op­po­site is true. I am re­luc­tant to dis­close my Jewish back­ground for fear of hav­ing to ex­plain and de­fend the Jewish state for the next 40 min­utes. Some­times it’s too heavy, es­pe­cially on a rooftop pool-side restau­rant in Shored­itch. All I wanted was a night out, or off.

I en­ter­tained this girl for an­other five min- utes be­fore dis­tract­ing her with my rather ter­ri­fied cousin’s salad. I wasn’t in­ter­ested in de­bate and so turned to the sweet English boy next to me, who had po­litely ig­nored the heated con­ver­sa­tion go­ing on be­side him.

We all headed down to the pri­vate gig room on the floor be­low. Just as I was en­tranced by the celebrity singer, I was also cap­ti­vated by the non-Jewish people sur­round­ing me. Un­til now, I had not rubbed shoul­ders with a Chi­nese boy wear­ing large-rimmed glasses with­out lenses, or a Ja­maican man in a cow­boy hat, or an Ir­ish boy with dread­locks, or a girl from New York with a high-top pony­tail dyed blue.

I tried to wel­come the world away from north-west Lon­don but my cousin pushed back her afro-Jewish hair and dis­missed this world of cul­ti­vated ec­cen­tric­ity as a com­plete “bulls*** fest”.

I got my hug off the singer Delilah — who is of English, Cuban, Nige­rian and Syr­ian-Jewish de­scent — and headed back home.

I put on my py­ja­mas and turned on my Net­flix show.

This weekend, I will meet some of my Jewish friends: teach­ers, bankers and lawyers. We will snack on sushi at a favourite, and won­der­fully apo­lit­i­cal, north-west Lon­don haunt, where I will not have to de­fend, ex­plain or de­fine my cul­tural iden­tity over din­ner — and I could not be more se­cretly ex­cited.

I could not be more ex­cited by sushi

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.