An overwhelming sense of family, for my relations but also for the loved ones of my children and all I welcome into my home. I hope I have passed this on to my children, who through gatherings, festivals and Friday nights, will duly pass it on to generations to come.
The two prayers said in every British synagogue every week — one for the Royal Family, one for the state of Israel. The prayers repeated over and over for peace. All the arguing. The food. My grandfather from Warsaw. My parents. My wife Celia. And my daughter Rachel.
What does being Jewish mean to me and my work? It means I approach my acting and writing with the ability to hold two truths. That there is comedy in tragedy and tragedy in comedy. That humanity is flawed yet essentially wonderful. That there is strength in being the outsider.
It’s a bit of a blessing. It’s a bit of a burden. For myself, I’ve managed to turn it from a prison cell to a toolkit. Learn what wisdom there is in Judaism. Use what’s useful, disregard the rest. And if nothing is useful, throw it all out without fear.
Rightly or wrongly, all Jews have been treated as responsible for each other: if one does something reprehensible, others may be blamed for it. So we try that bit harder. We try to bring credit to the community and not the reverse. The reward is the sense of community.
Having Jewish friends surrounding me, listening to the stories of Moses, Noah, Abraham and Sarah. Going to synagogue and celebrating all the festivals including Shabbat. Our family lighting the candles on Shabbat and knowing people are doing the exact same all around the world.
Being different at school which makes me feel special. There is only me and my brother Jonathan who are Jewish. And I love fishballs that my Nana brings from London and her chicken soup with lokshen and kneidlach.
Going to a Jewish school makes me feel Jewish, surrounding me with people of my own kind, learning about how badly my ancestors were treated. This makes me thankful that I am a Jew now. I am proud about being Jewish, standing up to the people who are against me.
“Being Jewish to me is about family. My family play a big part in my life and being together at Jewish festivals is a wonderful time for me. We are a close-knit family, which I think is from my grandparents and their parents and our Jewish upbringing.”
“When I get tired, or forget something, I just laugh. There’s not much else you can do. People who have been through adversity learn to laugh at themselves, perhaps that’s why we have so many comedians. My fundraising is about taking the social justice tradition and making it my own.”
“After the war, being Jewish meant I had to help my fellow Jews. I went to Belsen on the weekends to volunteer, to re create a Jewish identity which had been knocked out of people. I feel a strong connection to Israel because it is a country I helped to create.”
“Being Jewish means community, food, family and charity work — in particular, raising money for worthy causes. I have undertaken several sponsored sky dives for charity with the funds from my latest one going to Jewish Blind & Disabled and Marie Curie Cancer Care.”
“I made aliyah at 16 with my family. It was a huge upheaval but then I loved it. When I was ill, the waves of blackness swamp you, you leave everything else behind. Religion took a back seat. Now everything I do is Jewish, my work, social and home life.”
“My mother married a non-Jewish man when I was growing up. I had the best of both worlds — I went to synagogue and church. I could have chosen Christianity but there was always a pull towards a Jewish way of life. At 43, I chose to have an adult batmitzvah.”