Archive for March, 2013

Rabbi Neumann’s Hesitation

Posted: March 30, 2013 in Chat
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That morning the elder of the synagogue

turned, appalled from the night’s work

a line of swastikas in red

along the side wall.


Already the children were collecting for tuition.

Outside the window, as he phoned over

he heard laughter. Laughter?

And the bump, bump of a football.


Why does this day differ? At the door he observed them

at ease in the light: one a footballer,

one who asked him, “What are these marks, Rabbi?”

the other ones, happy in the sun.


And he hesitated. Remember the slavery in Egypt,

the history of torment…. But on the red brick

bright sun was bleaching the paint out. Next year,

– is it possible – a year of the innocent?


The English contingent

Posted: March 23, 2013 in Chat


A new Pope. What’s more an Argentinian Pope, a Latin American Pope. A first in many ways; and the one no pundit ever expected.

He was revealed to the crowd that evening in St Peter’s Square. Great cheering anyway for The New Pope, any Pope – and then, when his identity was revealed and his chosen name much cheering from the Latin Americans: vuvuzelas, whoops and noise!

The ubiquitous camera crews and journalists were all there to record it. The English tv news went around the crowds recording responses: all were happy, in some cases ecstatic. And then they came to the English Roman Catholic contingent: Oh, we are all pleased. Though I don’t think many here have ever heard of him.

All around them uproar, happy faces, unmistakable vuvezelas from Latin Americans. And the typical English dash of cold water on it all: typical English small-mindedness; typical English schmucks. They just could not put aside for a moment their arrogance and assumed superiority, their coldness; they could not be as international as their religion: all had to be small and parochial.

It is as though the English consider themselves to be always on show, always setting an example: nothing undignified like happiness must ever be allowed expression. Over time that has been taken deep inside so that even one’s normal instincts are monitored, constrained. This coldness I mentioned is very much a part of this. What was once the ‘English reserve’ becomes over time stasis; it was only ever a temporal state, it was never meant to be a permanent facet of a nation’s personality.

The flip side of this, and there is always a flip side, is that in reaction one must Let Go, to use the parlance of the time: where one generation would value the capacity to ‘take one’s drink’ as a virtue, another sees the loss of control as equally expressive. Occasionally there is a medium way, but not often. It is not a generational thing either – oh, no, that’s far too simple – these trends are mixed in the same time-scales, similar temperaments. One person can as easily splurge on drink, drugs, sex etc and yet be tight-laced in other areas, for example be sexist, misogynistic, and discriminatory towards the disabled. Age does not reflect much differentiation, either. Older people subconsciously copy younger trends; and the younger react against, as if mirroring, what they perceive to be adult ways. Nothing new in that – nothing new in any of this.

And so we had a display like Diana’s funeral – that took a great many people by surprise, me included. I watched and watched amazed as English people wept openly on the street. A thing unknown a few years’ before. Was this another insular volte face? Or had the example of continental travel and other customs of open grief had their influence as well? Unfortunately it is now almost our daily diet to see other country’s grieving methods for their dead. Has there been a covert internationalism going on? Have the unbuttoned ways of ‘warmer’ climates offered alternatives that were felt to be needed?

Are people… enjoying themselves at last? Well, not really; it starts off that way, but… is it the chosen medium of enjoyment that ruins it all? Drink and drugs… anything in excess over time ruins it all. No, enjoyment has become more like a duty, now. Pity the guy who doesn’t want to join in; pity the girl who has something else to do. Because… One Must, or suffer on social media.