Andrea Zanardo
The Zionist Rabbi your friends warned you about

The JPR survey. What’s not there

So, the people have spoken, and the results are in. Over the following days, weeks and months, we will all debate, analyse and discuss the results of the National Jewish Identity Survey by the Jewish Policy Research.

Kol haKavod, well done; no doubt they have worked very hard.

Yet, after completing the survey, I cannot but notice that some parts of the Jewish identity are left unexplored. There are areas about which I would like to know more, questions I expected to find in the survey, and I did not, and here they are.

a) “Name five influential British Jewish personalities”.

Come on, aren’t you curious to know how many of us are proud of the academic profile of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l? Or how many of us think Miriam Margolyes is not properly a member of the tribe because of her position about Israel?

On a more serious note, answers to questions like this would help us to understand how proud to be Jewish the British Jews are.

b) In your choice of housing, how important is it to live “in a Jewish area”?

My friend Ruben works in real estate, and he already knows the answer (he thinks). But for those who plan activities for a synagogue or a community centre, these are serious questions. For how many young couples currently struggling to climb the property ladder, is it important to have Jewish neighbours?


c) “How will you react if your son/daughter/relative marries a non-Jewish person (and the spouse does not convert)?”

The answers to such a question may reveal (shocking) how Jewish parents care about the marriage choice of the offspring and help those who work in Jewish education. To be fair, one of the survey’s questions is about the importance of marrying Jewish. But perhaps we believe -like other communities in the UK- in a kind of unspoken hierarchy, like: “I am happy if my daughter marries a Jew, less happy if my son marries a Catholic, furious if she marries a Hindu”. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know whether this is the case for our community?

d) On a related note. Is “Islamophobia in the Jewish community” a real thing? I don’t see it.

On the contrary, in the Jewish circles, I move there’s much sympathy for our Muslim friends and empathy for their concerns about halal meat, circumcision and, yes!, intermarriage. But I may live in a very special bubble. To be extremely blunt: the BBC, reporting on the antisemitic assault in Oxford Street last Chanukah, has fabricated and spread falsehood about “anti-Islamic provocations” by Jewish teenagers. That stimulated the horrified public with the usual “difficult questions” about Jewish children’s education (Caryl Churchill’s play comes to mind).

I am tired of being called an islamophobe only because I am Jewish. If the problem exists, then there is educational work to do. If, on the other hand, it is only a legend, please help us to debunk it. Would a question like “do you feel threatened (and in which order) by Muslims/Hindus/Travellers/French” be difficult to formulate?


e) It is very appropriate to explore the relationship of British Jews with Israel and investigate how many consider themselves Zionists. I look forward to learning how popular Yair Lapid is in our midst (there is a question about that in the survey)

However, I am tired of hearing that “British Jews support the Two States solution” without knowing how many Jews trust the Palestinian Authority (looking at you, Yachad). I would like to know what we think of the Abraham Accords and how many of us believe it is a good idea to concede to the Palestinian refugees that “right of return” (that they never stop demanding), with the consequences we all know.

Following the last round of Israeli elections, we already see Far Left and Far Right on social media shouting that they represent the majority of British Jews. If only we could move to a more serious conversation (with the help of some data).

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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