Between a shul and a hard place
My December 24 horoscope, as foretold by Claire Petulengro in the Brighton Argus, read as follows: "Make sure you're mixing with the right crowds this Christmas Eve or you are going to end up getting yourself a reputation. Could it be that you're looking to get a reaction? It would appear so."
Ha, a bit late to start worrying about that now, I smirked to myself as I fastened my snood around my hair with my Zionist
Federation pin and nipped out to celebrate the lighting of the menorah in Palmeira Square, Hove.
As I walked with my Jewish best friend, my Jewish goddaughter and my half-Jewish son towards the modest menorah, the huge, opulent Christmas tree on the other side of the square seemed to mock my very un-Jewishness. "Come on, darlin' - get over here and get drunk!" it seemed to twinkle evilly. "It's not really you, is it - standing about stone cold sober, singing songs in a language you don't understand, with a bunch of people so respectable they literally couldn't get arrested if they tried…"
As metaphors go, the place where I live would get laughed out of town if I stuck it in a novel. I live between a synagogue and a church, in more ways than one. I left my church when a 10-year-old child - not just a random passer-by, but a regular attendant - identified the cross as "a space rocket" and everyone laughed.
I left my synagogue when the liberal rabbi's insistence that all religions were equally worthy of respect began to sound increasingly hollow in the face of the increasing intolerance and bigotry of Islamism.
It isn't the culture I like - I detest Woody Allen
And now I exist in suspension between the two faiths. It doesn't bother me too much; I get to have a lie-in on both Saturday and Sunday mornings. But it does interest me, especially at this time of year.
Unlike many gentiles who are attracted to Judaism, it isn't the "culture" I like. I detest bagels and Woody Allen. I loathe "Jewish humour". I don't think family is the most important thing in life. For me, it was always about two things; Israel, and Judaism, the religion. (Conversely - or perversely - all my Israeli friends are non-believers.)
The sheer ridiculousness of the notion that God would have a child struck me as being laughable when I was very young, and as a rebellious teenager the twee nature of the Nativity seemed to sum up the ability of gentile culture to suck the fun, awe and glory out of everything. Later, I would come to see the tragedy and drama of the Jesus scenario - but I still don't buy the basic premise.
"Why are you doing this - siding with the Jews all the time?" Charles Saatchi asked me once. "Do you need to go looking for trouble?" I suppose the point is that I consider the Jews to be the cleverest people in the world - 22 per cent of Nobel Prize-winners from only 0.2 per cent of the population - so how would they be wrong on something as important as religion?
Jews do not seek to convert, unlike Christianity and Islam, both of which will take all comers no matter how violent or half-witted; the jails are full of Born Again Christians and Muslims, and of course there is the dreadful example of the cretinous Lauren Booth, who announced her conversion last year. I find this preference for quality over quantity reassuring.
I still can't read my Torah, and I got burned by my menorah. The sober, wholesome families gathered in Palmeira Square were far from being my natural constituency. But maybe that's the point. Whatever; I'm going to be sticking around. L'hitraot!