Thursday, May 12, 2016

UK: Scenes in the life of a liberal Jew

Eva Wiseman @ The Guardian (h/t glykosymoritis):
Afternoon, July Your parents are leaving your flat, having come to visit your week-old child, her eyes just opening, her 6lb body more story than flesh. They call you from the car. Bit odd. Do you know the man who runs the café downstairs? As they were crossing the road, the men at the tables started chanting: “We hate Jews.” You say: I’m calling the police. Please don’t, say your parents. Let’s not make a fuss. Your mum was irritated with herself. She wished that, instead of getting into the car she had told them about her new grandchild, and looked them in the eye and asked about their families, too.

Morning, Passover A non-Jewish friend on the way to your family’s seder remarks to a colleague that she didn’t realise Peckham’s Morrisons didn’t have a kosher section. He replies: “Of course not, they all live in north London.” And later she tells you this, her eyebrows knotted, because she’s realised how many times she hears this “they”, this strange otherness discussed in throwaway euphemisms. Jokes about bagels. A friend’s recurring screech: “I’m Jewish!” upon receipt of the bill at dinner, despite it being a distant bloodline, and despite them being blonde. And while you quietly maintain a fraction of your elderly relatives’ paranoia, you realise you live within clingfilm, protected enough that you don’t have to debate your right to exist, or to hide. Occasionally the seal breaks.

The internet, May You are wearily learning about how you are supposed to feel about antisemitism from a series of clever men whose foreskins, it’s clear, have no bearing on their authority speaking on a subject which 0.5% of the UK navigate daily. You are seeing your experience used as a political grenade. And the worst thing about it, you think as you walk through the glittering of Britain in blossom season, is that your opinions (even yours, the opinions of a pork-eating God-sceptic, of a person only Jew-ish) are already assumed. When yours are firmly wobbly. It’s not possible for you to support Israel uncritically, as your elderly relatives might. But it’s uncomfortable to hear a non-Jew criticise it, in part because that criticism feels stained – with Yid chants, with the trick-or-treater’s joke about Goldilocks and the big nose, with the swastika sprayed on your fence at night. You don’t want to be forced to have an opinion. Because there is no room for nuance when you’re pressed against the wall.
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