A complex identity. My tradition, which shapes the way I see the world, my duties and values as a human being and my relations with other Jews as well as non-Jews. I am quite observant and very religious but do not see the world in terms prescribed by Orthodox Judaism.
Being Jewish is something that I wear on my sleeve and that I am very proud to be. We need to be very aware of our history and heritage and of sharing that with the next generation. We need to stand tall and proud in the wider community and to share our values and to respect and understand the values of others.
It’s a part of who I am, coded into my heritage, culture and of course faith. It helps set default values to live by — some may call that guilt, but I think it’s also conscience — an acceptance that my responsibility stretches beyond the selfish to my community and to wider society.
Being British and Jewish; a life of symbolism, purpose and echoes; feeling that, somehow, I ought to make a difference; knowing that every week brings Jewish events of pleasure and resonance into my home; feeling pride in this tiny people who continue to have global consequence.
It’s about much-loved traditions of extended family, of celebrating festivals and Friday nights, of sharing the full life cycle. As a wife and a mother it is about continuing these traditions and helping our sons to love and look forward to them as much as I did.
Being Jewish is about family and community, hard work and tzedakah (charity); it is about compassion and ethical behaviour as part of everyday life. It is about values and shared traditions for over 3,500 years; it’s about culture and chicken soup and above all, it’s about being a mensch.
Being Jewish means a sense of family and community. It means giving and caring. It means subscribing to a religion that is over 5,000 years old. It means that all over the world wherever I travel, I will nine times out of ten find a fellow Jew with a common heritage. Being Jewish means discipline in the way I run my life. Being Jewish has its risks, but also rewards.
To me, being Jewish means carrying the burden of 5,000 years. Sometimes the burden is as light as honeycomb. Sometimes it is filled with stones and stacked-up paper. People either envy me my airy backpack or regard my stones with incomprehension or bored indifference. My job is to acknowledge both precious burdens as one, to talk about it to my children and to shoulder it with pride.
Close family and community ties, supporting and caring for others. It also means having the self-discipline to say: ‘no, I mustn’t do that.’ And the most wonderful element is Shabbat. A day for resting with friends and family, without the normal work stress. I couldn’t survive without it!
Nothing is ever simple. It means always buying an extra round so that nobody will call you mean, endlessly hoping Israel will do the right thing so you won’t have to defend it at dinner parties, and praying for girls so you don’t have to talk about circumcision.
To propagate with pride values rooted in our ancient history, and breathe life into them through deeds vested in the system of social justice we brought to this world. To relive but overcome the fears of our traumatised past, learn from the writings of our sages and teach my children the derech (path) of a Jew.
For me, the attachment to the Jewish people and the state of Israel reflects the feeling of belonging to a family, a tribal feeling of unerring loyalty. My lifelong Zionist activity and the privilege of having served Israel’s first president underscore my commitment to the Jewish state and its prosperity, security and survival.
Grandma’s chopped liver, Mum’s kneidlach, ageing relatives smoking and playing kalooki, being humiliated as a teenager by being forced to wear hideous velvet jackets and flares at weddings, a love of books, learning, justice and the Arsenal.
My answer to this question is clear and simple, although I know that Orthodox Judaism has a different definition: for me being Jewish means considering oneself Jewish, identifying oneself with the Jewish people.
To add two lines to the great Jewish song: one acknowledging the gift of my forebears, looking back at the long journey travelled; and one returning home to Israel after 2000 years, inviting a response from those yet to come.
My conventional upbringing kept me well within the community until I went into public life. Being outside, looking in, made me realise the tremendous contribution the Jewish community has made to the United Kingdom in the arts, science, medicine, business, philanthropy, law and government and that fills me with quiet pride.
Being part of a community that believes in tikkun olam. Rejoicing in family and community, serving God and humanity, celebrating good things without embarrassment, and comforting the unhappy, for loss is part of life. And pride — in our history, our destiny, our values.
My relationship with my Jewishness is complex but the duty I feel to remember, understand and discuss my family history grows over time. Although my wife, Justine, is not Jewish, when we got married, we broke a glass. My parents were not religious, but they brought me up with the sense that the world could be a better, fairer and different place.