Denise Robertson: We must shout louder about what the Jews have achieved for our country

Journal columnist and TV agony aunt Denise Robertson hopes Britain's Jews will resist Israel's call for them to emigrate

The Jewish community in Bensham Gateshead
The Jewish community in Bensham Gateshead

I hope the Jewish diaspora will resist Binyamin Netanyahu’s invitation to emigrate to Israel.

Jews have run through my life like a silver thread. I never saw our Jewish neighbour without his hat until my father’s funeral cortege was passing. He removed his hat and bowed his head and my mother cried at this token of respect.

At school there were two girls, refugees from Germany, adopted by Jewish families and treated as their own. Every weekend there were Jews, prominent in business and local politics, flooding down the road to synagogue. Their New Year was not to be missed, every lady a Paris fashion plate.

As a young wife I lived next door to extremely orthodox Jews.

I heard the shofar blown and saw a tabernacle built of branches. When my husband’s work took me to a mining area, residents regaled me with tales of long-dead Minsky, the pawnbroker, who seemed more Father Christmas than businessman, giving treats to children and helping anyone whose back was to the wall.

When I wrote Beloved People and its sequels I recreated Mr Minsky as Emmanuel Lansky.

And there were two refugees taken in by the Lanskys as their own. I studied text books on Jewish customs and even learned some Yiddish. I also paid a venerable Jew to check details. He handed all his payments to charity.

Now, that Jewish community which so brightened my childhood, has dwindled to almost nothing and the synagogue is closed.

I read that the number of British Jews emigrating to Israel has increased by 20% in the past year amid a surge in anti-Semitic attacks.

A former Israeli finance minister, has said “European Jewry must understand that there is just one place for Jews, and that is the State of Israel.” But Israel cannot absorb the diaspora without spilling over and causing more conflict.

Nor does every European Jew agree with the actions of the Israeli government.

When I read of requests for Jews to be allowed to carry licensed guns, when Danny Cohen, director of television at the BBC, says he has never felt so uncomfortable as a Jew in the UK “it’s made me it our long-term home?” . . . a sea change is taking place.

Terrorists won’t make Jews flee the lands of their birth. Surveys just might. One in eight surveyed recently said they thought Jews talked about the Holocaust to get sympathy.

One in four believed Jewish people “chase money more than others” while one in six felt Jews thought they were better than other people and had too much power in the media.

One in ten said Jews were not honest in business and one in five questioned their loyalty to Britain due to their connection with Israel.

In a separate survey, more than half of British Jews feared they had no future in the UK and a quarter said they have considered leaving the country.

The response to that survey was heartfelt, with people taking to social media to say they did not share those views. But people who appreciate what Jews have contributed to our national life must shout louder lest we be drowned out by other voices.

That does not mean we cease campaigning for a solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict but it does mean we must stop blaming it on our Jewish neighbours.

I will be devastated if Michael Horowitz really has written his last “Foyle”.

Each series, in war and after it, has been gripping, each Michael Kitchen performance a gem. He can say more with his upper lip than some Oscar nominees can convey in an hour.

Please, Mr. Horowitz, put on your thinking cap. There must be a few more plots underplaying it.

Lib Dem equalities minister Jo Swinson has suggested boys should be encouraged to play with dolls to make them more “nurturing and caring” and more likely to work in the adult care sector when they grow up.

What twaddle!

Some people – of both sexes – are born nurturing and caring.

Others see it in their homes and emulate it or soften or harden because of their life experiences.

Some people come out of the womb tough as nails and stay that way. If Miss Swinson thinks it’s simply a matter of picking the blue section or the pink section at Hamley’s she’s barmy!


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