Over dinner on a recent Friday night, one of my sons was excited to note that when the National Basketball Association (NBA) season returned to Sky this autumn, among the stars for the Golden State Warriors would be Omri Moshe Casspi, the first Israeli to make it to the big leagues. There was real pride that the scion of a Moroccan-Jewish family had made it all the way to the finest basketball team in the world.
There is a quiet satisfaction on the South Coast that striker Tomer Hemed, who plays for Brighton & Hove Albion, is a regular Friday-night shul-goer. Moreover, he and his Israeli-Arab colleague, defender Berem Kayal, are the best of friends.
And how many times have we heard from the pulpit in shul of the pride take in the number of Israelis/Jews who are Nobel prize winners? The physics and economics awards, dare one say, have been dominated by Jews. Indeed, this year’s physics prize winners included the son of Jewish refugee Rainer Weiss, who along with his fellow winners had spent a lifetime taking forward the work of Einstein.
None of us can be unaware of the tendency in the community to claim those with the very slimmest of Jewish connections (many would not be accepted in a United Synagogue community) as our own. We take enormous pride in the successes of our own people.
The difficulty is that our community, although relatively few, seems to include both the best of people and the worst. Until recent disclosures, the brilliance of Harvey Weinstein as an Oscar-winning producer and mogul will have been a source of pride and very much in keeping with the creative genius of Hollywood. The emergence of sexual harassment allegations, first exposed by The New York Times, which is controlled by a Jewish-family, produces a kind of dread. When will pictures of Weinstein in a kippah or Der Sturmer-style cartoons start to appear?
In an age when anti-Semitism is rife, anything likely to play to gentile prejudices about Jews is a source of concern. This was felt strongly last year during the BHS scandal before Sir Philip Green acted with integrity and made good the hole in the company’s pension fund.
Under scrutiny in the financial press at present are the private families behind Greybull, described by The Sunday Times as ‘the secretive investment firm’ behind collapsed airline Monarch. Aside from the disruption to the lives of Monarch passengers, there are allegations the company stealthily offloaded pension liabilities on to the government’s Pension Protection Fund. It is now being reported that it has loaded up the Scunthorpe steelworks, bought from Tata Steel, with high-interest borrowings.
Little is known of French-born former investment bankers Marc and Nathaniel Meyohas, two of the principal investors behind Greybull. But when I recently spoke to one of the brothers about the mixed record of Greybull as an investor in British assets, he mentioned they came from a Sephardi Jewish family.
The families behind Greybull specialise in rescuing companies coming out of bankruptcy and it is not surprising some of them fall by the wayside on the journey. In the case of Monarch, the 800,000 passengers with lost bookings and other creditors naturally will feel aggrieved.
The short period of Monarch ownership leaves a bad taste and concern that some of this may eventually reflect on the community.
We may revel in the good but also need to acknowledge that the wine goblet does not always runneth over.