Is our Big So­ci­ety

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE -

rise, called me at the iso­lated Span­ish villa where my fam­ily had been spend­ing the sum­mer.

Up popped Emma, a new friend and col­league who, within sec­onds of a des­per­ate text from me, pulled in a favour (and spent a for­tune) to fly me home on the busiest day of the tourist cal­en­dar, af­ter I’d been told no seat was avail­able. And Lisa, my school­mate’s wife whose con­stant stream of hot food, can­dles, prayer books and ad­vice helped my fa­ther, brother and I con­cen­trate on other things. There was the rabbi I barely know who in­ter­rupted her hol­i­day to be a ther­a­pist and the rabbi we’ve come to know who guided us through a be­wil­der­ing maze of re­li­gios­ity. Neigh­bours who I’d never met com­ing to of­fer sus­te­nance, peo­ple I’d not seen in dec- ades whose wis­dom I know I’ll need as the weeks and months un­furl.

And Leonard, a joc­u­lar, grey­haired ball of energy and a vol­un­teer from our lo­cal syn­a­gogue who, I later learned, was roused from his bed on that fate­ful night by a doc­tor who saw that my fa­ther needed help. Dev­as­tated, con­fused and sud­denly to­tally alone af­ter 50-odd years of de­voted com­pan­ion­ship, it was Leonard who held Dad’s hand. Forms were filled in, state­ments given and all the de­press­ing for­mal­i­ties ad­hered to be­fore ev­ery­one, my mother in­cluded, could be ‘‘re­leased’’. But it was a to­tal stranger whose gen­eros­ity of spirit made it hap­pen.

All these cogs and more in the Jewish ‘‘sys­tem’’ — repli­cas of which ex­ist in all re­li­gions — sud­denly clicked seam­lessly. The ma­chine took over. A vac­uum was filled in­stantly. Peo­ple helped for no other rea­son than want­ing to. They weren’t en­cour­aged, or told to, or en­ticed to by the prom­ise of con­grat­u­la­tory pats on the back, baubles and er­mine.

They were not ‘‘big’’ ges­tures but small ones — of­ten tiny, mo­men­tary ones. It was not the kind of be­hav­iour that de­fines ‘‘so­ci­ety’’ but in­stead de­fines us as peo­ple, con­nects us in­ti­mately to one another.

Not un­der a vast, well-funded um­brella or in front of a grand can­vas con­structed by gov­ern­ment agen­cies but sim­ple, quiet, pro­found con­nec­tions that may last a minute or a life­time.

In fact the whole ex­periece was so un-Cameronesque as to make Scarred: David and Sa­man­tha Cameron see the Big So­ci­ety through the prism of their own loss


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