A British Lord Returns to His Humble Jewish Roots, and Praises Jewish Solidarity

Sept. 12 2019

In a serialized memoir, the British political theorist and member of the House of Lords Maurice Glasman recalls his Jewish education, the Sabbaths and Passovers of his youth, his extended family of East European immigrants, and his recent visit to the remote Ukrainian shtetl of Vinkivtsy, where his grandfather (“my Zaida”) was born—among much else. He sums up the values of his upbringing thus:

I was brought up to love Yiddishkayt [Jewishness]. I was brought up to love all those who have ever spoken Yiddish and their descendants. All of them. It’s true that I have mixed feelings about Litvaks but I try to put them to one side. The thing I love most is being a yid, with everything that means. All yidn. Always.

In just my Mum’s family we still have Communists, Zionists, Ḥasidim and Misnagdim [the religious opponents of Ḥasidism]; we have assimilationists, Bundists, capitalists and socialists, monarchists and anarchists. I love them all and I can’t deny that my head is a cacophony of ancestral argument and I can be any one of those things in the course of a single day.

My ability to hold, with great conviction and sincerity, several entirely contradictory opinions at the same time explains my calling as a politician. It comes very naturally to me.

During his journey to Ukraine, Glasman notes that “my Zaida left . . . as a pauper but I was returning as a Lord. I couldn’t have done it without him.” He concludes by imagining himself buried in the Jewish cemetery in Vinkivtsy, with the name of his favorite soccer team engraved in large letters on his tombstone:

In a smaller italic script, written beneath that, in the form of a biblical quote, would be the words, “The thing I love most is being a yid.” (That is also the single-line insertion I would want in the Jewish Chronicle with my name and the years of my life.) It would be my way of showing solidarity with all the yidn who were massacred there, the ones who were slaughtered and the ones who fought. It would have a lit navy-blue Jewish star shining on the top to show that however brokenhearted we may be, the star of exile can never be extinguished; that those who are loved never really die.

I could rest in peace with koved and honor. “Lord Moishe Glasman, son of Coleman Glasman, the Levite” would be set in stone forever in Hebrew, English, and Russian.

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More about: British Jewry, East European Jewry, Judaism, Ukraine


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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics