Monday 12 January 2009

God Might Save the Queen, but what about Anglo-Jewish women?

It was God Save the Queen that made me giggle. It was Hatikvah that made me glow. But actually, in those few moments between the two national anthems, sung by thousands of Jews at the conclusion of the rally for peace in London's Trafalgar Square, I realized the magic and the madness of Anglo-Jewry. Older British Jews just love being British and they proudly identify with it's pomp and circumstance. Singing the anthem was of course, the right thing to do, expressing our civic duty to show gratitude and appreciation for the fact that Jews have, on the whole, prospered throughout the United Kingdom.
More telling however, was the fact that most of the teenagers standing around me, did not actually know the words to God Save the Queen. Younger Jewish people have a more ambivalent relationship with their British identity - in such a multi-cultural, multi-opportunity land, being British is just one of the many 'Windows' that are open while surfing the net for something else.
When the crowd moved onto Hatikvah, the same teenagers articulated each word loudly and clearly. I smiled to myself - unashamed to declare their Jewish identity, unafraid to sing Hatikvah in London's most public space, these young people are the future of the community. Perhaps they will be able to transfer the unity demonstrated at Trafalgar Square to the breakfast tables of communal organizations, facilitating much more dialogue and understanding between different parts of the community.
So, while the rally ended with a tribute to the dual loyalties felt by British Jews, it started with an announcement that any lost children should be taken to a special meeting place. Such a Jewish rally - all that was missing was another announcement that food was to be available throughout the speeches.
Come to think of it - all that was missing throughout the speeches was a woman. The cast of characters was predictable - leaders of communal bodies, government representatives, religious leaders of other faiths - and not one woman. Is there not one woman in Anglo-Jewry able to represent the community at such an event? It is a shocking indictment of the community and does not bode well for young women who are currently involved in the community as they are more likely to forego any future communal activities if they cannot see any role models.
This was not a religious event, so not even halacha could be hijacked to excuse the absence of women. So the question remains - is there not one woman in Anglo-Jewry considered worthy enough by her male peers to be asked to speak on behalf of the community? Perhaps some women had been asked, but modestly declined, so excuse me if have been unfair. However, next time, if you hear they are looking for a woman speaker, send them my details - I would be not be too modest to accept.

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