- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 15, 2010
Have you been reading Ben Macintyre in The Times re-telling, with fascinating new detail, the amazing wartime story of the successful British bluff which duped the Nazis into thinking the Allies were going to invade Greece and the Western Mediterranean rather than Sicily ? Immortalised in book and film with the title "The Man who Never Was," the story highlighted the role of then naval officer, Ewen Montagu, in preparing the corpse of a vagrant to be dropped off the coast of Gibraltar with all sorts of "clues" intended to mislead the Germans. Which it did. Not featured in The Times's account, and why should it, is that Ewen Montagu went on to become - wait for it - the President of the United Synagogue!
Ewen Montagu, who probably never ate a kosher meal in his life if he had the choice was, if I recall correctly, a nephew of Sir Robert Waley Cohen who was himself an unlikely President of the United Synagogue during the period when the Chief Rabbi was Dr Joseph Herman Hertz, celebrated as the man who never resolved a dispute peaceably if there was another way. Hertz was a small man physically, Waley Cohen something of a bear by comparison. The story is told that, on one occasion when Waley Cohen approached Hertz to embrace him, the overwhelmed chief rabbi shouted for all to hear: "Don't squeeze me!"
The unJewish Jew Montagu became, in essence, the prime spokesman for traditional United Synagogue Jewry, a role in which, with his upper class manners and mannerisms, he often seemed out of place. The still greatly missed Chaim Bermant properly described him as the last of the Cousinhood which led Anglo-Jewry from the Victorian into the new Elizabethan age. When Montagu died 25 years ago, Bermant wrote that his demise marked the "passing of a class, indeed of class, in the leadership of the community." Montagu was succeeded in the US presidency by Sir Isaac Wolfson.
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 13, 2010
Does something still linger in our genes of the biblical prohibition against making graven images? I must confess to being confused by - on the one hand - portraits of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, which are ubiquitous in the homes and meeting places of his followers, and those frequent, alien, media shots (Brooklyn, Mea Shearim, New Square) of chasidim, hands to faces, trying to avoid the image-making ability of the camera lens. And all the wedding pics, and barmitzvahs, etc etc and mug shots of rabbis which accompany their contributions to this and other newspapers. What gives? And why do I ask the question?
Because, while we deny our philistinism and point with rosy cheeks to Jewish Book Week and the great crowds it musters, and even to our turnout for the Israel Phil (more social outing than musical appreciation?), we do not display any great enthusiasm for Jewish art. Ah, you may ask. Jewish art? Well, I think the Financial Times' wonderfully sensitive and percipient art critic, Jackie Wullschlager, said it all in her column in the weekend edition of that newspaper. She had been to see the great exhibition of Ben Uri - Jewish Art Museum gems, now at rhe Osborne Samuel gallery in Bruton Street, London, which includes the recent challenging Chagall discovery, Apocalypse in Lilac, Capriccio (1945), which earned so much attention in the national Press.
But let me quote Wullschlager: "....this show raises the whole vexed question of whether there is such a thing as Jewish art, and , in turn, whether a Jewish Museum of Art has a role in a multicultural society. For, while some of the masterpieces at Osborne Samuel...are pertinent to Jewish history...most are not obviously so,..
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 11, 2010
My old friend and colleague Gary Rosenblatt, who is editor and publisher of undoubtedly the best Jewish newspaper in the US, the New York Jewish Week, has struck a number of chords with his recall that a 60-year old report into Jewish defence agencies - like the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee - recommended a number of mergers for reasons of communal sense and communal economy. As Gary notes, nothing came of the extensive study, and it has remained a footnote of 20th-century American Jewish life. But, as he also observes, even after all this time, there is much in the report that is eerily relevant, from the charges of excessive duplication and waste, to the insistence by each of the national organisations that its work is unique and cannot be consolidated or shared, and that fundraising cannot be pooled. At this time of financial stress, does this ring any bells for you? I am not going to point the finger but, if you can get access to a current Jewish Year Book, have a little fun noting where there could be mergers which would benefit the community both organisationally and financially. And, if you wish, tell me what you find and I may return to this topic with your suggestions.
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 9, 2010
It is so bleak and miserable out there so let me share a good smile sent to me by my much-revered and endearing rabbi:
Did you hear about the dyslexic invited to a toga party who went dressed as a goat.....
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 6, 2010
If you have been following The Times' correspondence this week on Pope Pius XII and the Jews, you will have seen references to Pinchas Lapide, who is cited without exception in every Catholic defence of Pius's wartime attitude towards the Jews and their Nazi persecutors. Lapide is the sole source for claims that Pius saved at least 700,000 Jews from the Nazis, a claim for which there has never been any proof and which is even an embarrassment to some of those Catholics who claimed Pius was a defender of the Jews.
Lapide is variously described as an "Orthodox Jewish rabbi and historian" (in one reference as "an eminent Orthodox rabbi") or "a leading Israeli scholar who was Israel Consul in Milan." The diplomatic posting is a fact. So was Lapide's employment as a lecturer at Bar-Ilan. I first met him in the Israel Government Press Office in Jerusalem in the mid-'60s where he occupied a small office whose door seemed perpetually closed, except to admit Christian clergymen who usually arrived muffled up so as not to show their collars or crosses.
Lapide wrote a string of books, in German and published in Germany, examining in detail, with extensive references from medieval Jewish scholars, "the Jewishness of Jesus" of which he was a fervent proponent. Curiously, for one described as an Orthodox Jewish rabbi, Lapide proclaimed his belief that, while not the Messiah, Jesus was indeed resurrected from the dead by God. He was a not unsurprising defender of the Vatican's wartime record. Lapide died about 13 years ago. His widow, Ruth Lapide, has been widely honoured in Germany, where she lives, for her own writings on the Jewish roots of Christianity.
- Geoffrey Paul
Jan 5, 2010
The end of December is not the time for a Jew to go in search of church architecture (some would day it is never the time), but, having heard much of Sherbourne Abbey's fan vaulted roof - a really splendid creation of man - and being nearby, I dropped in to have a look. But, in the end, it was not the vaulting which engaged me, but something much closer to the ground: a nativity sccene such as can be seen in many venues at this time of the year. But this one was different. Down the centre was a stark, wooden divider. But let the accompanying church notice explain:
"The walled nativity set, made by Palestinian wood-workers in the town where Jesus was born, is a reminder of the 230-mile, six-metre high wall topped with barbed wire and lined with guard towers, that encircles Palestinian land, including Bethlehem. It demonstrates that this Christmas the shepherds and the Wise Men would not have made it to the stable.
O sad and troubled Bethlehem
We hear your longing cry
For peace and justice to be born
And cruel oppression die."
- Naomi Bloomer
Dec 9, 2009
Hi. It’s been a while. Missed me?
Some haven’t. At all. You know what? I’m okay with that. I’m controversial. But I’m one person, in a very big world. If you can’t handle what I say, what chance have you got when you go out into the big wide world?
One of my very best friends here at university is a most amazing person. She’s kind, she’s beautiful. She’s compassionate and puts everybody else’s feelings above her own. But that’s her problem – she doesn’t want to concentrate on herself. She takes such an emotional investment in everything and everyone around her that it piles up on her, and I think that coming to university to do such a demanding course was a bit of a stretch too far on an already strained heart. What can she do? If she can’t indeed handle these “little” things at university, what’s it going to be like in the big wide world? Well, that’s the thing: Nothing is little. Nothing is too little. Your feelings are never, ever, EVER, insignificant or silly. If you feel it, it’s important. It’s your life. And yes, your friends will force you to talk about how you feel. Your friends will force you to talk to your personal tutor and be honest – it’s getting a little much, sometimes. You won’t want to talk about it, at all – you’re too kind-hearted and want to look after others, you feel less important or less valid or even silly for feeling sad sometimes. But you’re not silly. Of course not. You’re who you are and I love you no matter what. Feeling sad is okay. It’s normal to feel sad. The only thing that matters is that you feel happy more often than you feel sad. And I’ll be there for you, forever, until that happens, and forever after.
- Michael Sophocles
Nov 12, 2009
Having come from a reality television background, I am fully aware of being exposed to a nation thirsty for blood.
Of course, as candidates on The Apprentice we knew what we were getting ourselves into, but being cautious is not a quality one exhibts when facing a 'life changing’ opportunity.
The X Factor of course is a very different animal to a business show. Despite both shows being labeled under the genre of 'reality television', the nature of X Factor makes me feel altogether frustrated and even a little uneasy.
- Naomi Bloomer
Oct 30, 2009
What on earth is going on? What happened to “JewCL”? The only Jewish Society things that are going on, as far as I can see from the sparse emails (the first of which was only to say “give us money”), are actually Hillel events. That’s no kind of Jewish Society at a university where a very high proportion of the students are Jewish.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve met the JSoc leaders and they are absolutely lovely. They made a great impression on me at the Freshers’ Fayre (where all societies try to attract you to joining, with sparkly freebies including pens and badges). I was so excited to start life at a university where the JSoc seemed so interested in me, in looking after Jewish students.
But there has got to be something going wrong when I’ve got more emails coming in about something happening in Golders Green when UCL is in Camden! It’s been a month now, JSoc, get your act together and start some UCL stuff up! And not just pub crawls please, as when you don’t drink or you don’t like schlepping around from bar to bar when you’re clearly too inebriated to stand, let alone walk, is… well, it’s just not cricket.
- Naomi Bloomer
Oct 23, 2009
In stark contrast to last week, this week I am quite a happy bunny.
I am now a proper full-on real-life grown-up student! I handed in my first essay. It was awful, and makes me want to cry thinking about it, but I did footnotes and EVERYTHING. A bibliography!
Having only done bibliographies for AS and A2 English coursework, and never having done footnotes, I discovered that doing them properly is my ‘Nam. The most horrendous experience. Worse than the essay itself. In fact, I think most of it was footnotes… I remember very little about the actual essay. The topic was a comparison between the biblical Flood story and the Babylonian Flood stories.