Religion & Beliefs

Judaism In London Is Like A Bad J-Date

As a native Londoner who has recently returned from a notinsignificant stint living and working in Manhattan, my eyes have beenopened to a whole new level of Jewish experience: Seder nights in EastVillage bars, seasonal charity benefits that attract thousands,publications … Read More

By / January 8, 2008
As a native Londoner who has recently returned from a notinsignificant stint living and working in Manhattan, my eyes have beenopened to a whole new level of Jewish experience: Seder nights in EastVillage bars, seasonal charity benefits that attract thousands,publications from Tikkun through Heeb that are actually on shelves inmainstream stores.
 
The notion of a 4-story poster advertising J-Datein a location such as Piccadilly Circus is, to be honest, inconceivable. Not so in Times Square.
 
When I returned to the heart of North West London’s young professional Jewish bubble, I looked for those things that make me feel excited to be a Jew.
 
Some of London's lay leadership have recently approached me to help them realize their goal for being the place unaffiliated Jews aspire to live. I was asked for my assessment of where the community is now,what they should be aiming for, and the million dollar question, “how on earth do we do that?”
 
There is a straightforward answer, although "straightforward" should not necessarily be equated with easy to achieve. We simply need to become sexy and desirable, a labour which, as every Manhattan girl knows, requires no small amount of time and money.
 
Now I don’t want to state the obvious, but I will point out that every needy organization, like an over-keen date horribly unattractive. Of course, in a way this is totally counterintuitive, because we all claim to like being wanted, being made to feel special, and having our every need anticipated and catered for. However, in my experience, it all hinges upon who or what it is that is being expected of you. If there is something a bit special, a bit difficult to read, and a bit of a challenge, it makes all the difference in the long-run.
 
The question therefore becomes: How do we as a group turn things around to become a community that people are queuing up to join? Well naturally, a big part of it is to actually serve a cultural and/or spiritual purpose and make sure that there is some substance to our Jewish image. That, ultimately, will be why people will sit up and listen. That said,there is also a simple and supremely effective piece of PR to be done. Something to make the community seem a little bit mysterious and elusive, a little bit aloof, perhaps even a little bit intimidating.
 
Now I’m in no way endorsing elitism or snobbery. I think it is critical to have a genuinely warm and welcoming presence but just below the surface, maybe a little glitz and glamour, a little mystery and sophistication.
 
I think we need an injection of buzz, and, says this reluctant Brit, a more than just a cursory nod to Manhattan.