I have my little pet theories.
One of them is that every single big news story has a Jewish angle somewhere. Some you may have to look really hard for and some are obvious, but anything that is making the news involves Jews.
I must admit I was beginning to feel a little shaky about my theory in following the whole Brexit debate. I’m not exactly sure why, but I have found the Brexit thing fascinating, have found myself on YouTube searching for programs on British TV stations talking about, focusing on Brexit. I’ve become quite well versed on the subject, indeed can say I’m almost obsessed with the subject.
I think it’s because I can’t get over how stupid people can be, how foolish a country can be. No, I am not saying all those British people who voted for Brexit are stupid any more than I would say that everyone who voted for Trump was stupid. What I am saying is that human nature is amazing for how people can delude themselves, can act in what is not their best interest, even as they convince themselves it is.
From where I sit, Brexit has got to be one of the most destructive things any country has ever done to itself. I understand a lot of English people have been freaking out about how many immigrants have come to the country, how many Muslim areas there are in the country and so figure they will heal their fear by blaming someone or something and so they blame the European Union.
It’s the kind of thing that sort of makes sense, but when you really think about it makes no sense at all. Yes, perhaps immigration is a problem for Britain, but is the best way to deal with it to cut yourself off from Europe with the devastating economic, diplomatic and security consequences that will bring.
Reminds me, of course, of our own country where we’ve gone nuts on the subject of immigrants, don’t seem to remember that virtually everyone in this country comes from immigrants and that immigrants have done so very much for this country. Indeed, it is not too much to say that immigrants are the United States.
Of course, I admit I might be a bit prejudiced being the child of immigrants. Yes, I am a first generation American, son of a father who came from Hungary and a mother who came from Poland. They came with nothing, no money, no skills, but this country, G-d bless it, took them in, allowed them to work hard and use their talents and build a life and raise a family.
That story is so true of so many, is indeed why the United States is unlike any country Jews have ever lived in. I despise those right wing Jews who try to coerce American Jews into moving to Israel by scaring them, by saying sure, the Jews of Germany thought they had it pretty good and look what happened to them.
America is not Germany. This is a country where pretty much everyone has come from somewhere else and so has an equal claim and an equal stake. No one is more American than anyone else. That’s not true of France or Spain or the other places we’ve lived where we were always guests, not truly French or Spanish. In this country, we are as American as everyone else.
Anyway, I digress. So as I say, while I’ve been marinating in news about Brexit and amazed at the monumental mistake it is, I was wondering where the Jewish angle is.
And then I found it. Without getting too much into the detail, one of the interesting things going on in the Brexit debate is that the Parliament has tried to assert its authority, has for the first time said to the government it wants a real say in the formulation of policy.
And leading that has been the Speaker of the House of Commons, one John Bercow. I love watching this guy in action, him constantly yelling ‘orduh, orduh’ when things get out of hand, how he uses flowery language to put down misbehaving members of Parliament, how he stands there running the show.
And so I was reading an article about him and there it was. “Mr. Bercow is the grandson of Jack Bercowitch, who emigrated from Romania to the East End of London at the age of 16.” Bercowitch, hmm, sounds promising. I kept reading. The story quoted a friend of his saying when they were in university together, “we’d quote Monty Python and he’d quote the 19th-century Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.” Disraeli, Britain’s first and only Jewish prime minister. Go on. “As a young man, he aligned himself with the far-right wing of the Conservative Party … an odd position for the grandson of Jewish immigrants.” Bingo. Let’s bring it home. “In 2009, he became Speaker of the House of Commons — the first Jewish lawmaker ever to hold that post.” And that’s saying something considering the House of Commons has been around for almost 700 years.
The first Jewish Speaker, the Speaker who is at the very heart of the Brexit debate, indeed the person who, in the end, may have more to do with shaping whatever happens than anyone else.
And so even in Brexit there is a Jewish angle. My pet theory lives.
Meanwhile back across the pond, the 2020 presidential race is in full swing with a whole bunch of Democrats already declaring they are going to run. One is Kamala Harris, the senator from California. She is the daughter of a mother from India and a father from Jamaica. Is there a Jewish angle to be found here?
Of course. To quote a story from the Jewish news service JTA, “She met her Jewish husband, Douglas Emhoff, on a blind date in San Francisco, arranged by friends. They married in 2014 — Harris’ sister Maya officiated — and smashed a glass to honor Emhoff’s upbringing.” And wait there’s more. “So having grown up in the Bay Area, I fondly remember those Jewish National Fund boxes that we would use to collect donations to plant trees for Israel,” she has said. “Years later when I visited Israel for the first time, I saw the fruits of that effort and the Israeli ingenuity that has truly made a desert bloom.”
So as a kid she gave tzedakah for Israel in a pushke and as an adult she married a Jewish man. Now I know all those wacky right wingers out there who always jump to find bad news, to shoot things down, are always so eager to prove how pure they are, will say there’s nothing to cheer about in an intermarriage.
Let’s chill. This is not about intermarriage, it’s about a powerful senator, a candidate for president, possibly the next president, who has had ties to Israel and Jews throughout her life. Meaning she understands us, gets us, cares about us. Let’s not get so caught up in the negative and fail to see the positive.
Indeed, here is what Harris said about her visit a few years ago to the Israeli Supreme Court. “The beauty of the architecture and spirit of design left a lasting impression — the straight lines in the building represent the immutable nature of truth, while the curved glass and walls were built to represent the fluid nature of finding justice,” she said. “The Court, like Israel, is a beautiful home to democracy and justice in a region where radicalism and authoritarianism all too often shape government.”
I’m not saying I want Harris to be the Democratic candidate. I‘m not sure yet who I want but I am pleased to see the quality of candidates so far and expect a lot more to jump in. My point is that already we have a Jewish angle to the Democratic nomination story and it’s one we should be happy about.
I was very happy when I heard this year’s Oscar nominations. Of course, every year the Oscars, like all of show biz, is full of Jewish angles. But the one that made me kvell this year is that “RBG,” about the life and impact of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary feature.
I really really hope it wins. I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not just because her son James lives in Chicago but because she is the very epitome of what Jews and Judaism should be about. She is someone who has devoted her whole life to helping others, to seeking justice, she has only and always been a source of pride to her people, has publicly embraced her Judaism, has shown a vitality and spirit that is an inspiration to us all. She has overcome one serious disease after another, continues to work out every day at the age of 86, and continues to serve on the highest court with distinction, bringing honor to the Jewish people.
She has a very Jewish name and acts always in a very Jewish way. She is the best of us, a shining example of what a Jew is and we should cherish her and pray every day for her good health. And that the documentary about her wins an Oscar.
As I’ve said before and will say again and again, how lucky is this generation of Jews. A strong state of Israel, one that continues to be embraced by the world. Just this week, Chad, an African nation, restored diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. A vibrant American Jewish community. Jews all over the world living in freedom and free to live as Jews.
We should count our blessings each and every day that a Jewish Speaker of the British Parliament is at the heart of Brexit, that a woman whose wedding ceremony included the breaking of the glass is running for president of the United States, that an Oscar nomination was given to a film about an elderly Jewish woman named Ruth.
What a great time to be Jewish.