When I was at university, I remember very clearly a lecture given on how every action we carry out is political.
I have always applied this to my own actions, from the party I vote for to not dropping litter on the floor; from always giving money to a Big Issue seller and always smiling at the security man on the school gates. Every action has a reaction.
Last Shabbat, our shul had a lunch after the service. Not normally the kind of thing I would go to, but I wanted to see what it was like as I'm becoming increasingly drawn to my community. It was a lovely experience. Forty families sitting together, breaking bread, the children all running around, scoffing falafel, then playing hide-and-seek on the bimah (hey, it's a cool shul, what can I tell you?).
It was like sitting with an enormous extended family. Laughter, gossip, jokes and politics. One young woman sitting next to me said quietly - as the election results were being heatedly debated - "Oh, I never join in with politics, I'm not a very political creature." I looked at her children and husband and the big part her family played in the community and all the kindness she shows to those around her and I thought, "Yes, you are! Keeping your family healthy, whole, and nurtured. Teaching moral values and love and respect to those around you. Showing how two parents can relate to each other is probably the most
political act there is."
You don't believe me? Well, look at the statistics from the Centre for Social Justice (the organisation set up to try and find innovative ways of combating poverty and the social problems arising from poverty).
Iain Duncan Smith once held me rapt at a dinner party at the Chief Rabbi's house while he explained the findings of his think tank: seventy per cent of young offenders are from single-parent families where chaos, addiction and disorder have been the primary childhood experience. Furthermore, the CSJ has observed that the intergenerational transmission of family breakdown shows itself in the way that children who have been neglected or nurtured and so do not feel part of a loving base, in whatever form that comes, are unable to create loving and stable relationships of their own and are often unable to parent their children in a positive way. It makes for a depressing observation that fatherless girls, or girls who have never had a positive adult male relationship, make up the majority of teenage pregnancies.
Jews are good at families. It doesn't matter how that family pans out, whether it is single-parent, grandparent or carer - somehow we have had it ingrained in us that family counts. Loving our children and making them feel safe, secure and morally guided is the biggest mitzvah both for your child and the wider world.
So next time you're plucking your Friday chicken and dreading the visit from the in-laws, or handing over your beloved child to your dreadful ex for the weekend, or just planning a Yomtov visit when exhaustion has rendered you incapable of anything more taxing than sleep, just remember you're being as politically active in creating a better future for society as Emmeline Pankhurst or an anti-Vietnam war demonstrator. You're an activist. Makes you feel good, doesn't it?