Life & Culture

Is it too dark for the (Jewish) stars to come out?

Where can I wear my Magen David necklaces? More places than I can my T-shirt emblazoned Crack Whore, I guess


Years ago, when I went to see Jerry Springer: The Opera, which I found hysterical, I thought it would be hilarious if I then bought the show’s official T-shirt. I’d had a few gin and tonics by the end of the show and probably hadn’t really thought it through properly. The T-shirt was skimpy, tight and pink, and emblazoned across the chest it read “Crack Whore”.

Once I was back home (and sober) with my new, fun, Crack Whore T-shirt, the obvious question arose: where could I wear it? I couldn’t really go to Kosher Kingdom in it, couldn’t go “out-out” in it, couldn’t wear it to work, obviously couldn’t wear it on the school run (I knew I was already on the headteacher’s “watch list”), and I couldn’t wear it to a seder night at my parents. That, I thought, pretty much just left being able to wear it at home, And I would have gotten away with it too, but then I remembered those pesky kids. My children. Who were inconveniently now learning to read. “Mummy, when will my fish fingers be ready, and can I watch Scooby Doo, and what’s a crack whore?” I never did get to wear that T-shirt.

On my birthday I received two beautiful Magen David necklaces. One from one of my daughters, the other from one of my best friends. One gold and one silver. Perfect. Despite being aware of the huge spike in antisemitism since October 7, I decided I would wear one of my lovely new Magen Davids every day. At around the same time I purchased a “Bring Them Home” ID tag chain. I would wear both! Feeling defiant and adamant I thought there was no way I was going to be cowed into a state of fear. I was starting to go a little crazy with all the anti-Israel noise everywhere and I wanted to make my own little stand. Fortunately, I didn’t go so mad as to go out wrapped in an Israeli flag. Except for when I attended pro-Israel rallies.

My determination would soon waver. It was impossible not to notice the stares when I was out in public. Some looks could perhaps be described as ambiguous but many were decidedly not. There was on several occasions, naked, blatant hostility. I began to feel very vulnerable. Wearing Jewish symbols in London was beginning to feel unnecessarily risky. I was popping my necklaces out in kosher shops, quickly tucking them back in again on public transport. Out they’d come again visiting family, rapidly hidden at any non-kosher restaurant, out again at the Israel demos, fast back in when I alone on the streets. Out again at any Jewish events. I was getting dizzy from the “in, out, in, out” business. It was like some kind of Jewish hokey-cokey (and not a jokey hokey-cokey.) In, out, in, out, shake your Jewishness around, and that’s what it’s all about, Oy!

But who wants to go into a café for a coffee and find the barista has adorned your cappuccino with a chocolate powder swastika instead of a palm leaf? On the bus late at night a few weeks ago I had an unpleasant and scary experience. My friend and I were coming home from a night out at the theatre, Cabaret actually, and again a fair few gins had been imbibed and I’d forgotten to hide my necklace. A man got on and sat directly behind me. He soon became very aggressive and threatening, claiming I’d been filming him and would be very sorry. His rage at me was inexplicable but the penny dropped when I realised what he could see, and what his hate was focused on: my Magen David. It was frightening. His fists were clenching and he clearly wanted to physically attack me. We managed to get away from him but were shaken. From then on, I ruefully realised I had to be a much more careful Jew. Not cowed and timid. Just cautious. After all, I’ve got those pesky kids to think about, no? Even my badass sister who lives in Essex and who has worn her giant gold blingy one openly for many years now says she feels anxious. Sadly, these are times we really do have to carefully consider what we wear. Now, where did I put that Crack Whore T-shirt?

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