A Christmas carol? What the Dickens

By David Robson, December 16, 2011

The Chief Rabbi has said he enjoys Christmas carol concerts and finds them uplifting. Needless to say there has been a Scrooge or two (Menachem and Moishe Scrooge) who have said "bah humbug". I have no problem with the Chief Rabbi's taste; I agree with him. Christmas is a time for reciprocity - it is more blessed to give than to receive, or so said Someone and so did the John Lewis seasonal advert. But I have waited in vain for the Archbishop of Canterbury to do his bit. I have yet to hear him say: "Silent Night is very nice as far as it goes, but for me, nothing beats Maoz Tzur." In all fairness, Maoz Tzur is rarely a major musical event, certainly not in our house where my father took it as his once-a-year opportunity to dig his violin out of the attic.

The Chief Rabbi is wise to come to terms with reality - Christmas is hard to avoid. I was watching videos on the "Old Jews Telling Jokes" website (a perfect way to fend off winter blues) and what did I have to watch before I was allowed my yiddishe laughs? A Christmas ad from Currys - life president, the Chief Rabbi's leading critic, Lord Kalms. Perhaps he and the Lord Sacks could have a season-of-goodwill rapprochement, though there would probably be no need for mistletoe.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended something called the Scratch Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall - 3,700 people singing Handel's music without any rehearsal. It sounded absolutely terrific and the sound of several hundred sopranos in particular was awe-inspiring. The only thing I have found that compares is a 2009 Bobover wedding in New Jersey (you can see it for yourself on YouTube) - thousands of Chasidim giving it their all. The Messiah was more tuneful but those Chasidim sure have rhythm.

Christmas is so commercial, so pervasive that most people cannot blank it out. So, when you light your Chanucah candles, you should regard it as fighting fire with fire, and glamour with glamour. In 2008, the rather middling pop group the Sugababes turned on the Christmas lights in London's Regent Street; the Jewish response was to have Stephen Pollard, then newly appointed as JC editor, raised skywards in a cherrypicker to light the giant menorah in Golders Green. Only one winner there.

I had intended this month to regale you with an account of a lunch at a pop-up kosher restaurant just round the corner from my house - a pop-up restaurant is one that opens for a day then pops off again.

Does the Archbishop like Maoz Tzur?

For two Sundays this month, traditional English Sunday lunch was dispensed with a shomer in attendance.

This is hardly a novelty, though it is in my neck of the woods. I hurried to claim a place in advance at this special event but was firmly told there was no space for me. So I can't tell you if it was any good.

I feel bound to say I thought their response was rather Christmassy. It could have been "sit down, eat, eat." Instead, it was "no room at the inn."

Last updated: 11:05am, December 16 2011