Sharing your JC is an infection risk — so make sure you buy a fresh one

Save the paper - and yourselves - by getting your own copies

May 06, 2020 11:44

It is a fundamental truth of British journalism that the newspaper with the most eyes per page is, and has always been, the JC

It is read in the following order: by heads of household at Friday breakfast, by most of the family in the bath, by Sabbath visitors ad libitum and by the cleaning lady at her Monday coffee-break. I’ve even seen the bin man give it a once-over on Wednesday.

This widespread scrutiny is not obviously conducive to financial stability since the more people there are who read each paper, the fewer actually buy it. 

I’ve often wondered why this is. On a Sabbath stroll, I dropped by a self-isolated friend in the heights of Hampstead and found that she was still waiting for her copy of the JC to be delivered. Not by the postman, mind. “The people across the road drop their JC off when they’ve finished it,” she confided.

I was momentarily lost for words. “Why, dear lady, in the midst of a life-threatening pandemic when you are prewashing tins of tuna three times to avoid risk of infection, why are you waiting around for a secondhand JC that’s been pre-read and breathed over by another family across the gardens?”

“Force of habit,” she smiled.

So I asked a frum Golders Green relative why he never bought the JC. Apparently, he once read a column that he found offensive to religious people.

“When was that?”


“Who wrote it?”

“Chaim Bermant.”

I was about to enlighten him that Chaim Bermant sadly passed away 22 years ago but refrained for fear he would either (a) express shock and regret for missing the shivah or (b) tell me he’d “heard” that current JC columnists were even more abrasive than the late Chaim, rest his soul. 

He’d heard, you see. Everyone’s heard what’s in the JC without ever admitting to actually reading it. 

So many people have “heard”, you’d think the JC was a talking newspaper for the unsighted. To the thousands of eyes that see the paper each week, we need to add tens of thousands of ears that hear it. No wonder the paper has diced twice with insolvency, and no wonder there are still cool-headed and committed investors in the community who think it’s worth saving. Everyone, from the lads in yeshiva to the ladies who lunch, they’ve all heard what’s in it.

The fallout from last month’s rival bailout bids have now left Anglo-Jewry with not one but two loss-making newspapers. The end-result will be invigorated competition between them and possibly a golden age of journalism about Jews. 

Will that be enough to make Jews bury a JC in their Kosher Kingdom trolley beneath a family pack of holier-than-teeth sweets from Monsey? I hold out no immediate hope of changing custom and practice along Golders Green Road.

Why won’t Jews splash out on a subscription to the JC? I think I know. Ever seen what happens when worshippers open the Kol Nidrei night envelope and consider which hole to thread the string into? They clear their throats and shift in their seats. They look up, or down as the case may be, to see what their spouse is signalling, and then they stare fixedly at the right hand side of the card as if unsure whether to go for the full £5,000 slot or mark “any other amount”. And once they are firmly stuck and the rabbi is halfway through his sermon, they put the card decisively aside with a promise to mark it first thing next morning. Which, in the cold light of repentance, they duly forget.

Now Jews are not Scrooges nor, pace Chaim, Caledonian. Show them a person in need and they’ll turn out their pockets. Tell them it’s for kosher hospital meals and cash will flow. Widows and orphans, waifs and strays, you couldn’t wish for kinder donors. But ask them to pay good money for something with “Jewish” in the title and they turn all weird and wriggly.

There is a reason why the Jewish owners of British Land, British Home Stores, the British Shoe Corporation and other great enterprises put a Union flag on the masthead rather than a mezuzah on the door. Can you imagine investors falling in love with the Jewish Shoe Corporation?

If it’s got the J-word in it, no cheque will follow. That’s the second fundamental truth of British journalism.

So one sleepless night under a Covid cloud I came up with a fresh solution for this unsinkable newspaper. 

As of next Friday’s issue, the title you’ll see on the masthead will be the British Chronicle. It can’t fail. We’ll print 100,000 extra copies. My advice to you, dear readers, is stop sharing. Subscribe now, while stocks last.  


May 06, 2020 11:44

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