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Thursday, 18 August 2016

Ageing Crocs In Denial!

Deborah.LipstadtThis week, as we await the release of the film about US historian Deborah E. Lipstadt's courtroom battle with Holocaust denier, David Irving we have also discovered that 105-year-old Brunhilde Pomsel, once P.A. to Nazi chief  propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, still pleads total ignorance of the Final Solution!

“‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’”, she told The Guardian newspaper during an interview about A German Life, a documentary compiled from 30 hours of conversation with her that was recently released at the Munich Film Festival.

Now I’ve discovered – equally bizarrely – that following the U.K. vote to leave the E.U.,  “hundreds” of British Jews with German ancestry are applying for German citizenship.

Indeed, The Telegraph reports: “Thomas Harding, the Jewish writer whose latest work The House by the Lake tells the story of his ancestral summer home outside Berlin that was vacated after his family fled the Nazis in the 1930s, was among the first to stake his claim.

“’I heard about Brexit around 6am and by 9am I had emailed the German embassy in London asking how I could go about requesting citizenship,’ he said.”

I’ve opined elsewhere that Harding and others like him are very silly as – all differences considered – they’re thinking  - acting - like Pomsel, like Irving -and flying in the face of grounded common sense.

Even as I write, both despite and because of German Chancellor Angela Merkel ‘s open-door refgee policies, there are countless reports about attacks committed both by refugees on German citizens and vice versa.

Further, in January Mrs Merkel  openly admitted that antisemitism was more widespread than previously thought and she agreed that  ‘intensive action’ was needed to combat the phenomenon, particularly in cultures in which hatred of Jews was rampant.

In any event, I can’t understand any Jew, be he or she of German or of Iberian ancestry, wishing to return to places where their forebears were variously intimidated, imprisoned, beaten, tortured and murdered simply for being Jewish.  I fully appreciate and support claims for material restitution. But to reclaim citizenship? To return to live in countries of origin?  I can’t believe that any sentient person would give the idea a moment’s consideration.

All of which brings me first, to a really unpleasant feature in the online Jewish News site whose anonymous ‘modern Orthodox’ author describes how she felt forced to leave Stamford Hill, London  after 20 years because of the influx of  ultra Orthodox Chassidic residents who make her feel like a non-Jew.  This story, like so many others involving any sort of racism, is in essence about the politics of contempt.

This is precisely how Jewry’s enemies have treated us down the ages and it features strongly in a play based on a Sholem Aleichem story that has been staged in Tzfat this week as part of the city’s annual three-day Klezmer Festival.

Digital Camera

‘Sholem Aleichem’ was the humorous pen name of  the uiversally loved Yiddish writer, Shalom Rabinovitz, whose stories about Tevye der Milkhiker (Tevye the Dairyman) much later became the basis for the stage and film musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

To begin, I must commend the hard work and enthusiasm of The Tzfat Community Theatre Group, whose members evoked the famous storyteller’s world with easy-mannered charm, using only minimal props and little change of costume on the small stage at The Khan of the White Donkey.

However, while I’ve read neither the original story, Gymnasia nor The High School, the stage adaptation by Arnold Perl,  I was left feeling distinctly uneasy.

Why was the character of the school student changed from a boy to a girl? Why was she given a boy’s cap to wear, instead of a  girl’s kerchief and why did her father refer to her studying Talmud at cheder (rabbinic law at Jewish elementary school) when until relatively recently it was considered unnecessary, even improper for Jewish girls to be taught Torah?

My suggestion is that in a bid to be ‘politically correct’,  first Perl in the early 1950s, and now director, Shelly Bernstein in the curent production altered the  original story’s real intent: It is surely not about social reform but the importance of retaining personal integrity.

While I am not the greatest fan of Sholem Aleichem’s cloyingly sweet  shtetl (rural hamlet) melodramas, I feel the version of The High School staged this week somehow betrays the author’s original intention, not only for political reasons but  for this particular troupe’s personal convenience.

© Natalie Wood (18 August 2016)



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