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Jewish faith and tradition
Last uploaded : Wednesday 21st Oct 2020 at 12:00
Contributed by : Carol Gould


21 October 2020


I will be discussing this topic on Times Radio (digital radio UK or download the free app) this coming Friday 23 October at 1120AM.
Regarding 'faith:' what is interesting about Judaism is that one does not have to keep kosher or pray every day to get a deep joy out of the ancient festivals and observances. How do I explain that even in the most secular homes Friday night family dinner around the table is a centuries-old tradition? When I visited a high-security prison housing 1,000 inmates outside Newcastle at an interfaith conference in 2008 one of the Christian delegates asked why we were meeting the in-house clergy but no rabbi? 'There is no call for one,' said the Senior Chaplain. NOT that there isn't violence in the Jewish community but exponentially it is rare. For every Meyer Lansky, and Jeffrey Epstein there are millions of decent Jewish men like my father and grandfathers who are always there for our families on food-filled Erev Shabbat (Friday night.)

The festivals sustain us: my sister, for example, does not keep kosher but she sure as heck fasts on Yom Kippur, gets rid ('bedek chometz') of bread and only eats matzoh over the seven days of Pasover. Jewish people worldwide love Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah and its wonderful foods like honey cake along with cheesecake on Shavuot, decorating a sukkah (tabernacle) on the truly ancient festival of Sukkoth and dancing around with a torah on Simchat Torah. Who of any faith - certainly in my native USA - can resist prune, fruit or poppy seed hamantaschen cakes on Purim? And so on.

Last of all FOOD is so important to us. Just the other day a Christian friend was ranting at me about how 'revolting' falafel and 'that awful chopped herring I see in Panzers' must be even though he has never tasted it. He is painfully thin - skeletal ! - and I do think a heavy dose of chopped liver and lockshen kugel - sweet noodle pudding - would do him a power of good.

Many years ago I was administrator of the Almost Free Theatre and its Artistic Director ED Berman and I had to battle the leading actor in 'The Irish Hebrew Lesson' by Wolf Mankowitz – he became near-violent because we had provided real gefilte fish for the play. He eventually threw a vicious rant about ‘the fecking Jews’ and interestingly enough ED, after decades here, went back to the USA.

Likewise the manageress of the restaurant at the St John and St Elizabeth Hospital in London’s St John’s Wood told me that in Ireland her people would find is 'disgusting' to put 'New York food' (code for Jewish) soured cream on anything but can you imagine a Pole, Hungarian or Russian keeping soured cream out of the diet? After 44 years here I have got used to the snide remarks about Jewish ' oversized portions' but by golly it has got us through centuries of enforced ghettoisation and pogroms. I will stop there.

The late Rabbi Hugo Gryn, who was beloved of millions who listened to BBC Radio 4's 'The Moral Maze,' recounted a story of his time in concentration camps with his father Geza. In Liberose camp they along with many in his barrack block, including many non-Jews, pulled together their meagre margarine ration to commemorate Chanukah. Hugo, then fifteen, was angry about this but his father reminded him that the festival commemorates the triumph of the spirit over tyranny; someone can survive without food or drink for days but not for three minutes without hope.

We love our ancient traditions and the centuries - old cuisine that goes with it. L’chaim! Long may it survive.
s://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/the-ultimate-ranking-of-hamantaschen-fillings/ .

Carol Gould is a BBC broadcaster, former ITV Drama executive and author of 'Spitfire Girls' and 'Don't tread on me -- anti-Americanism Abroad.'


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