All aboard the Harry Styles bandwagon


By Marcus Dysch
January 7, 2014
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One Direction's Harry Styles (Photo: Eva Rinaldi)

One Direction's Harry Styles (Photo: Eva Rinaldi)

As a supposedly hard-nosed hack I tend to stick to reporting on events of a political and criminal nature rather than delve into the murky world of "showbiz".

But sometimes my mask slips, and I munch on the same diet of One Direction, Lea Michele and Miley Cyrus gossip as your average teenager.

The apparent phenomenon over Harry Styles' Jewish credentials has regularly pricked my attention.

Throughout 2013 my colleagues ran a steady stream of stories about his increasing love of all things yiddishe.

They included reports of him dining in kosher restaurants, posting Yiddish-laden tweets, marking Purim, Yom Kippur and other festivals, and ultimately wearing a Magen David at an awards ceremony.

It was at that point, last August, that we ran our JC profile of Styles, taking a look at just how Jewish he could possibly be (answer: er, not at all).

That article was, I believe, the first time we had raised the likelihood that Harry's philosemitism was down to the influence of his friend, film-maker Ben Winston.

That Ben (who, incidentally, was once-upon-a-time my Leeds JSoc president) and his Jewish partners at film company Fulwell 73 have had such an effect on Styles should come as no real surprise.

They have spent a huge amount of time working together and have subsequently developed a genuine friendship.

That the Fulwell guys' love of yiddishkeit should rub off on the Cheshire-born singer is no more unexpected than it might be for anyone who introduced a friend to their own way of life. Admittedly, the fervour with which he has leapt on Judaism is maybe a little unexpected.

Anyway, the appetite for One Direction-related "insight" is so substantial that churning out details such as these - in many cases weeks and months after they are first revealed - is the done thing and now constitutes "news".

Hence a fortnight after our profile, London freesheet the Jewish News ran their own interview with Ben, during the course of which he explained that Styles had indeed taken an interest in the Winston family's Jewish way of life.

Fair enough. I thought little more of it.

Imagine my surprise then to receive a message from my mother (who knew she was a 1D fan?) at 8.30am on Monday morning informing me that young Chaimy, sorry Harry, was to take up Hebrew lessons. My news editor received the same message from his wife.

Their messages - and the hundreds of thousands of tweets on the same matter - seemed to stem from a piece in the Daily Star that was regurgitated, almost word-for-word, by the Mail Online. The Jewish News and many others followed suit with news of the alleged Hebrew classes.

Never mind that the tabloid's initial story was based on an unnamed "pal" of Styles. Well the first Monday of the new year was always going to be a quiet news day I guess...

Indeed, within hours Ben had tweeted that the stories were based on "quotes I never said, taken from interviews over a year ago!". Fancy that.

Anyway, by lunchtime today, my editor was rushing to the news desk to enquire whether we too would be telling our readers of the singer's supposed language-learning plans.

And so here we are again.

Jumping on the Harry bandwagon has become - as he and his bandmates would sing - the story of my life...

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