Out Jewing even the noble Lord

By David Robson, February 24, 2013
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On Desert Island Discs last week the castaway rejected the New Testament and asked for just the Torah. Hatikvah was her favourite record. She also took the theme song from the film Exodus. The castaway wasn't a Berkowitz from Stamford Hill but Julie Burchill, Britain's most provocative newspaper columnist, non-Jewish , originally from Bristol.

A delve into the programme's archive turns up many Jewish castaways: politicians, actors, musicians, philosophers, lawyers. How many of them could build a hut? I imagine the great sculptor Sir Anthony Caro could but the Jewish way - getting a man in - is not an option on a desert island.

Rabbi Hugo Gryn, deploying the old joke, said he would spend his time building two shuls - the one he went to and the one one he wouldn't go to. That would have been a kindness to Lord Sacks, who certainly avoided Rabbi Gryn's London synagogue (to his cost). Sacks had been dispatched islandwards three years previously (presumably to a different island).

Shirley Porter, former leader of Westminster Council, was transported before she became submerged in political scandal but perhaps she knew there was trouble ahead - her book was the SAS Survival Manual, her luxury a big Swiss army knife.

One of Jerry Springer's records was the Beatles' Here Comes the Sun; his luxury was a cheeseburger machine. Loyd Grossman's favourite record was Cindy Lauper singing Girls Just Want To Have Fun (he must know that isn't true in real life but, alone on an island, you can dream).

Vidal Sassoon was on twice, 41 years apart. His luxury the first time was a piece of sculpture; the second time he asked for just a dozen bottles of Vidal Sassoon shampoo (maybe he didn't want to run down stocks). The poet and lyricist Fran Landesman took cannabis seeds as her luxury; Mike Leigh took a lavatory and luxury lavatory paper, so did Miriam Margolyes - relief comes in many forms.

Oh yes, there are lots of Jewish islands out there. The very first castaway in 1942 was the comedian Vic Oliver. I stopped counting when I reached a hundred. There were his and hers islands for Maureen Lipman and Jack Rosenthal, father and daughter islands for Nigel and Nigella Lawson.

Eleven castaways included Kol Nidrei in their eight records but only the bandleader Joe Loss chose it as his favourite, even above his own orchestra playing his theme tune In The Mood. But Julie Burchill has out-Jewed them all.

Hatikvah didn't turn up very much though it was among the choices of another non-Jew, the journalist Robert Fisk, one of Israel's sternest critics. He first heard it while watching Israeli veterans attending a memorial day at El Alamein and loved it. But he chose it with these words: "if only the Israeli government could behave with the same dignity and integrity as this piece of music."

    Last updated: 11:45am, February 24 2013