My Jewish Moments: Sir Martin Gilbert

September 22, 2009

Sir Martin Gilbert is a historian and biographer of Winston Churchill.

Most significant Jewish moment?

Sitting in the then-Soviet city of Leningrad in the winter of 1982-83 at a clandestine Hebrew class, and realising the extraordinary courage of the Jewish people, and the strength of Jewish unity.

Which biblical character would you like to meet, and why?

Moshe Rabbeinu, who, beset by doubts and weaknesses, had the perseverance to lead and cajole, punish and inspire a fractious people, and keep before them the vision of a God-inspired ethic and peoplehood.

Favourite mitzvah?

Consideration to strangers. “Though shalt neither vex a stranger nor oppress him; for ye were strangers in the Land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).

Israel for me is…

The country I have lived in, taught in, played in, seen my children grow up in — and hold in the highest esteem, for all its faults, which are in my view far outweighed by its virtues.

Last time you went to synagogue?

Last Shabbat. My wife and I try to go every Shabbat, either to Highgate Synagogue or to whatever synagogue we are nearest when we are abroad on my historical researches — in the past few months this has been in Genoa, Berlin, Kovno and Rhodes.

Favourite Jewish book?

Anything by either of the Singer brothers (Joshua and Isaac Bashevis).

Last updated: 2:31pm, September 22 2009