Rosa Doherty

The Queen is our Jewish grandmother

My grandma was also regal

May 20, 2022 10:52

"When you learn good table manners, I'll take you to the Ritz" was the promise my Hampstead Garden Suburb granny made to me and my sister year after year throughout our childhood.

Every weekend (post-family shopping trip to Brent Cross) was punctuated by tea with the Queen of our family. It would come served in the best China, alongside a delicious assortment of smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches and homemade cheese cake.

We'd sit around the table practicing holding our China tea cup with our little finger extended, “like the Queen does”, desperate to convince our Jewish grandmother we had what it takes to dine out in style.

Festivals came and went where we learnt to work our way through the silverware from the outside in, and were reminded Pesach was the only time of year that elbows on the table would fly.

She is no longer with us, but I can still hear the way she answered the house phone in her received pronunciation. "Hello, 2567" she would say, identifying herself and phone number to each caller in that way those of her generation often did.

Hearing the Queen speak has always reminded me of her. I always thought her fashion style was much like the Queen's. Like many Jewish grandmothers I've met over the years, the outfits were regal and well styled.

Smart twin suits, hair freshly cut and blow dried in a Golders Green salon, paired with a low and practical heel, matching handbag clutched by a hand accessorised in fine jewellery.

Visit Jewish Care on any given day and you will not be able to move five yards without bumping into an array of similarly well-turned-out women in their 90s.

As my colleague Keren David says: "Imagine the Queen as Bessie Goldenberg, formidable matriarch, pillar of her local shul ladies’ guild, local WIZO chairwoman, owner of many hats for shul and tireless macher on countless committees."

My Jewish grandmother is why I have always found myself drawn affectionately to our Queen - that and the Jewish tradition of toasting the Royal Family at every given occasion.

While some bemoan the pointless and parasitic nature of a Royal Family, with the Queen at its head I can't help but defend it, because something about her screams Jewish grandmother.

Perhaps it is the dedication in her final years of life to style and fashion, or her keep calm and carry on attitude in the face of family broyges.

Or her affectionate love for her grandchildren - and the foreboding sense of dread about doing something that might disappoint her (that kept most of my behaviour as a young person in check).

As the head of the family, we clung to our grandmother’s every word, followed her every rule and social plan.

And much like Phillip, our grandpa would do as he was told and attend synagogue services when required.

Most weekends he'd sit quietly in the corner doing his crossword unless he was being cheeky and showing the grandchildren how to perform the latest magic trick he had learnt, or re telling a story of his time in the War.

My granny's promise of tea at The Ritz was something that lasted 18 years until finally on my milestone birthday she realised she could hold out no longer. “I'm taking you for afternoon tea for your birthday”, she announced.However, there was a catch. According to her, me and my sister were not yet quite ready for the finery the Ritz required so she had settled on the Landmark Hotel as an introduction.

The ultimate Queen-like quality - refusing to give in to your grandchild's wants and demands.

May 20, 2022 10:52

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