Emotional Bercow sings community's praises


John Bercow was close to tears this week as he recalled the antisemitic abuse he suffered in his childhood.

Reflecting on the rise of Jew-hate incidents in Britain this year and attacks aimed at Jewish MPs, the House of Commons Speaker said he had been the victim of offensive comments from classmates in the 1970s.

Following his barmitzvah at Finchley Reform Synagogue, he was left "quite shaken" when "a pupil, who knew that my mother was not born Jewish, said to me 'of course, you're not really Jewish'. I was very upset about this.

"My father said: 'Just remember, you are quite Jewish enough for the Nazis'. His one request to me was be proud of what you are, and stand up for it. That is what the British Jewish community has done," Mr Bercow said.

In an emotional speech at the Board of Deputies' Chanucah reception on Tuesday, he said the pride in his roots that his taxi-driver father had encouraged had been borne out by the qualities displayed by Anglo-Jewry.

"The Jewish community is magnificent in terms of talent, inventiveness, togetherness, spirit and, may I say, its sheer generosity on so many levels. It has enriched our country and will go on enriching it for a long time to come," Mr Bercow said.

He had been "shocked and terrified" by the antisemitic comments aimed at Labour MP Luciana Berger on social media in October.

"I'm not on Twitter, but she showed me some of the postings. It does remind us that there are still people out there in our country who entertain and hold fast to views and prejudices so vile as almost to defy belief."

He said an ongoing fight must be waged against "bigotry, neo-Nazism and twisted fascism".

Mr Bercow told the gathering of MPs, peers, rabbis, charity workers and school pupils that it was a dangerous time for British Jews. He said: "There are some pretty ugly forces out there, on the fringes of the debate about immigration, nationality and identity, and others with imported agendas."

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