It’s about pride. Pride that my grandparents came to the UK from the Ukraine, Poland and Romania relatively disadvantaged but with great will and determination. Through self-education, sacrifice and hard work, they gave me, my wife and my kids and grandkids, undreamt of opportunities. My picture would be of Terezin, or Theresienstadt.
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!