Tur­bu­lent Times: The British Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty Today

Kei­th Kahn-Har­ris and Ben Gidley
  • Review
By – August 24, 2011
To Amer­i­cans, the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion for Israel-sup­port­ing Jews in Britain rep­re­sents an almost through the look­ing glass” real­i­ty, where even a cen­ter-left fig­ure like Tzipi Livni can’t vis­it for fear of arrest on war crimes charges. In a coun­try that boast­ed a prime min­is­ter of osten­ta­tious­ly Jew­ish roots in the mid-19th cen­tu­ry, and a large well-accept­ed com­mu­ni­ty for some three cen­turies, the present ten­sion calls out for expla­na­tion. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Tur­bu­lent Times does not answer that need.

The authors are a pair of tal­ent­ed men of acad­e­mia and beyond; Kahn-Har­ris even main­tains a seri­ous blog on heavy met­al music. And they have expend­ed a sig­nif­i­cant amount of study on their top­ic, the his­to­ry of British Jew­ish orga­ni­za­tion­al strate­gies over the past three decades. They are fair-mind­ed, seri­ous, and usu­al­ly cau­tious in their assess­ments. They val­ue calm dis­cus­sion and seek to broad­en the dia­logue with Jews of all stripes, whether affil­i­at­ed or not. They pro­file Lim­mud, an excit­ing UK export that has had an impact across the Jew­ish world, fault­ing it only for not putting enough empha­sis on encour­ag­ing inter-stream argu­ment and res­o­lu­tion.

Yet, for all their attempts at fair­ness, it’s pret­ty hard for the authors to not pick their angels and demons in a way that belies their impar­tial­i­ty. Chief Rab­bi Jonathan Sachs comes in for vir­tu­al­ly noth­ing but crit­i­cism. Poet Tom Paulin, who called for the death by shoot­ing of Brook­lyn-born Israeli set­tlers in the Egypt­ian week­ly Al-Ahram, has his state­ments bowd­ler­ized as only alleged­ly anti-Semit­ic.” Neo­con­ser­v­a­tive writer Melanie Philips is unique­ly iden­ti­fied as a Jew­ish” colum­nist. Over­all, there is an embalmed left­ism that deems one of modernity’s great­est chal­lenges to be the alien­at­ing qual­i­ty of cap­i­tal­ist labour.”

In short, the study pro­vides a wealth of infor­ma­tion on an impor­tant top­ic, yet does it in lan­guage that ever calls its even-hand­ed­ness into question.
Jeff Bogursky reads a lot, writes a lit­tle and talks quite a bit. He is a media exec­u­tive and expert in dig­i­tal media.

Discussion Questions