Monday, August 24, 2009

A lonely British journalist outs herself as a friend to the Jews

Julie Burchill, watch out. There is a rival for your title of 'Most Philosemitic British Journalist' (actually, until a couple of days ago I thought her title was 'Only Philosemitic British Journalist', but read on).

In the Saturday Times, Anna Blundy revealed that she has "often fantasised that I will discover some obscure piece of Jewish ancestry and, miraculously, will officially belong".

I couldn’t seem more shiksa if I tried — which means, of course, that Jewish men love me. I had another glowing moment when, at a casual Friday-night dinner, someone half-accidentally, but with a smile, addressed the woman’s prayer to me. I add to my goyish allure by sometimes wearing a sapphire and diamond crucifix.

Anyway, I have just spent the week in a ski resort in the French Alps where my children were doing a music course. It is a strange place in summer, chairlifts creaking idly in the wind over meadows, the wide pistes a dull brown. Surreally, Alpe d’Huez is an Orthodox Jewish summer resort, almost entirely populated by the seriously religious — women in wigs and floor-length skirts, men in the full regalia with ringlets and beards, strings round their waists. I caught some of the dangerously rebellious teenagers taking their hats off and smoking down by the go-karting track. They chatted to me in English and stroked my dog, arguing with the go-kart man that their little brother was old enough to drive too (he wasn’t).

By sheer coincidence I had been asked to be mildly kosher (no pork or shellfish) for the week. The lady who runs the children’s strings course had let us stay in her flat and I scoured the supermarket for items I might usually buy but that might secretly contain forbidden ingredients. I loved doing it — partly because it plays to my being-Jewish fantasy and partly because we have so much pork in Italy that I’ve eaten a lifetime’s worth. I don’t mean to sound flippant. I do understand that being Jewish has marked downsides, even apart from the obvious. My dearest ex-boyfriend was telling a story recently about someone writing “Yiddo” next to his name on an exam results list at prep school. He couldn’t rub it out so wrote “Yiddo” next to the names of the other Jews in his class.

When I took my ache of Holocaust grief to a rabbi in St John’s Wood he told me to cope with it by making the people close to me happy and safe. I took this seriously.

But, quietly, I had hoped he might try to convert me, even though I know that feeling like an outsider does not, sadly, mean that I can belong with other outsiders. It would be nice to stick together with someone, but an only child knows deep down that groups and camaraderie are not for her. So I walked the dog under the clanging lifts and smiled at the families who seemed to look at me and wonder what it must be like to be so alone.

The thing is, Anna, once you've outed yourself as a friend of the Jews, you are never going to be alone again - ever. Our friends are so few and far between nowdays that, converted or not, you are now one of us. Prepare for an onslaught of invitations from Jewish women's groups and Zionist organisations, and letters from grateful Jewish pensioners. Your High-Holy Day synagogue tickets are probably already in the mail.

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