Those who know me, know that I am tolerant, open-minded, occasionally very silly, passionate, devoted, committed, hungry (for food and life), youthful, caring, funny and Jewish. People know where I stand politically, they know my views on Israel and Palestine. I try hard not to judge others, though that has been a life long lesson for me and I’d always have dialogue and not war. Ultimately I want a peaceful life with my wife, family and close friends and anything else, as I have said 101 times, is a bonus.
This morning, while I was in my M&S Pjs, half way through changing the cat litter, asking myself questions about a main character in a TV treatment I’ve been working on, while upstairs my mobile was ringing to the tune of Bewitched, the doorbell rang. I shouted Jesus Christ and went to open the door. It was a delivery man with a parcel for me. I asked if he needed a signature, yes, he said, and told me to hold on a minute. While he waited for his technical gadget signing thing to start up he looked at me and said, ‘You’re a Jew.’ Yes, I said, and asked him how he knew. He had remembered that the last time he had delivered he’d asked what the mezuzah was, on the side of the door frame. For those who don’t know, this is what it is – thanks to Wikipedia for this extract. ‘A mezuzah (Hebrew: מְזוּזָה “doorpost”; plural: מְזוּזוֹת mezuzot) is a piece of parchment (often contained in a decorative case) inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21). These verses comprise the Jewish prayer “Shema Yisrael”, beginning with the phrase: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One” A mezuzah is affixed to the door frame in Jewish homes to fulfill the mitzvah (Biblical commandment).’ That’s basically it. We’ve always had them at my parents’ house and Stella didn’t have a problem with them in our house. Anyway, back to the delivery man. After confirming that yes, I was indeed a Jew, I also said that a Jew and a Buddhist live in the house. He looked at me, and said, ‘Jews killed Jesus.’ No, I said, the Romans did. ‘Really?’ he said. Yes. Really.
What followed was a brief conversation about Jesus, I explained that Jews accept that Jesus did exist, but not in the way the Christians believe. I reminded him that Jesus was a Jew, he seemed to have forgotten that. I asked him what faith he was, if any, I never like to assume. ‘Christian,’ he said. I told him I wasn’t an orthodox Jew and that I believed in Love Thy Neighbour, I was tolerant etc etc. He asked me if I could give him something to read next time he delivered, I said I would think about it. And off he went. At first I wasn’t that bothered, but when the cat litter had settled and I picked up the message on my mobile, I felt hurt and upset, possibly because no one has ever said that to my face in such an accusatory way, like I was personally responsible for the death of Jesus. I have no doubt many Christians still believe it. I know there are lots of different sects in Christianity with different views, but it’s the first time since I have lived is SE24 (16 years), that I have felt alone in terms of my religion/culture/tradition/belief. In our part of SE London we are surrounded by Muslims and an assortment of Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of the Celestial Christ. It’s never bothered me, why should it? We used to have amazing conversations with our Muslim dry cleaner about Islam and Judaism and being gay and humanity, we exchanged the Torah and the Koran, we talked. People are people, and I like living in such a multi cultural, multi ethnic part of London, not least because north Londoners generally diss south London and, as I have lived most of my life in north London, I wanted to love all of London, and I do. I have always wanted to break down ghettos so people live, as I do, among others who do it differently, because I believe it makes for a more understanding and tolerant world. If we only live with those who are like us, what chance is there for anything but animosity and a deep ignorance and lack of understanding?
The incident this morning has made me think about who I am and what I believe in, and I know it was one man saying one thing, but I’d love to know which church or organisation he belongs to, a place where its believers are still being told that Jews killed Jesus. I don’t usually defend my religion with such vigour, as there are many of aspects of Judaism that I really don’t like or approve of, it’s the cultural side which I enjoy, the festivals and the food. The actual religious practice has little place in my life, though I do keep passover, (because I like to) and I do fast at Yom Kippur (though I admit to drinking water, not to, is harmful to my already shrinking brain). I love spending Rosh Hashanna (Jewish New Year) with my entire family, Passover too. I look forward to Friday night dinner with my parents and at least one of my sister’s children, there is always delicious food and hilarity from my parents, though since my darling sister died, there is a deep absence in that house and in that dining room.
I belong to an organisation, Diversity Role Models, who regularly goes into schools and talks to students about being gay. My nephew’s girlfriend works for 3FF, Three Faiths Forum (actually they do more than three faiths), who go into schools to talk faith in the way I (and many others) have been into schools to talk sexuality. But I wonder if it’s not just the schools that we should be concerned about, I wonder if we need to go into religious institutions, have proper dialogue with each other, ask questions and try and answer them, have a cross section of the religious in one room together, the liberal and the reform alongside the orthodox, because we are all different. The one time I went into a school to discuss my sexuality, I witnessed fifteen year olds rethink sexuality in a matter of hours, and that is world-changing. Imagine having the conversation I had this morning with an entire congregation? Imagine.
8 thoughts on “Jew ish”
Thanks for sharing this, Shelley. First, I’d like you to know that I’m sorry that someone hurt you in this way, and on your own doorstep, and I love your account of how you handled this man’s hostility, even if, perhaps, he didn’t realise how he’d made you feel. How gracious of you not to point that out to him. It’s likely (isn’t it?) that his view “Jews killed Jesus” is just that, HIS view, and not one taught or shared by his church, whichever one that is. It’s likely that there WILL be others in his church who share his, misguided, view, or some part of it, but it is unlikely that everyone in his church thinks the same way. But I think you’re right, talking, sharing, comparing, anecdoting are all important ways for us humans to understand each other, or try to understand each other. Blogging is another platform of sharing and another way to reach people not in schools and churches; also a way of reaching people who belong to a school or church that wouldn’t invite you or your nephew’s girlfriend in but who would, still, like to hear you. Love, J xx
Thanks Jo, much appreciated, as ever. xxx
Thank you for a very thought provoking blog – is ignorance enough of an excuse? I work in education and it worries me how narrow the curriculum has become but this is not just about schools as a society we have a responsibility to ensure that ignorance can never be an excuse.
Thanks Jackie, agreed.
He’s just a stupid man. The hurt is out of all proportion, but that’s just the way we are.
I haven’t heard the ‘Jews killed Jesus’ comment in a while (outside of really radical statements). I doubt the postman has actually had that preached at him, but it’s a meme that burrows its way in and just stays.
I believe (I don’t attend church) that the teaching is ‘Jesus died for us’, which you can turn round to say ‘we all killed him’.
I don’t think the hurt is out of all proportion, it’s not as if I was crying in a heap, but it was upsetting. He wasn’t a postman, but a delivery man!
So glad you wrote about this. As another Jew ish Londoner I don’t hear half of the anti-Semitic crap I used to hear growing up about jews being mean/stingy etc. But occasionally I still get caught short by a stinging comment. Sometimes from people I know quite well, which feels so much worse.
I also hadn’t heard of the Three Faiths Forum before, which sounds just what we need. So thanks for that too. All I can say is that while we allow further segregation of faiths in the UK particularly with the further rise of faith schools, this kind of dangerous ignorance will continue. It’s time we embraced our multiculturalism and celebrated it. Anyway, enjoyed reading this so much. Thank you 🙂
thanks so much for this, the more dialogue we have the better world we leave for those who come next.