Being Jewish in Britain today

Whether it is easy being Jewish in Britain today very much depends on what kind of Jewish you are, your personality and your value towards other people’s opinion on you. With in the Jewish community, some Jews are stricter than others, and they have conflicts within them on the matter of this. Ultra-Orthodox keep all 613 mitzvot in the exact way as their accentor had; Orthodox Jews do the same but try to keep up to modern day lives at the same time without breaking any of the mitzvot, which is incredibly hard in Britain today.

It is very hard for Orthodox Jews to adopt modern day lives with out breaking the mitzvot because the mitzvot is nevertheless set in the BC for people who wonder around in the wilderness where their ascenders and people around them had different lifestyles form today’s Britain. For an example, one of the 613 mitzvot states ‘Whoever strikes a person mortally shall be put to death. ‘(Exodus 21verse 12) In Britain today, if a person had ‘strikes a person mortally’ on purpose, he/ she would have to be arrested and would more than likely to be put in prison for committed murdered.

No-one would have the right of taking the criminal’s life in Britain Today; so who in the Jewish community should execute the person who strikes the other person? And how should he do it? Would he not have committed murdered under the law of modern day Britain if he follow what the mitzvot states, considering it as his duty? However, in the next verse, it continues, ‘If it was not premeditated, but came about by an act of God, then I will appoint for you a place to which the killer may flee. ‘(Exodus 21 verse 13) If an Orthodox kills another person by mistake, should he try to flee?

If he/ she do, constables today would probably be able to capture wherever the criminal is and would hand him/ her over to the British constables and he would face more serious punishment for fleeing. When this happen, should the leaders of his/ her community kidnap him/ her from where he/ she is keep and ‘take the killer form my [God’s] altar for execution’ because the crime offender had ‘wilfully attacks and kills another by treachery’ if God had not appointed a place for the killer to flee? (Exodus 21 verse 14)

However, in today’s Britain being caught does not mean that the killer had murdered people on purpose because security and communication between countries is much much better than it was when the mitzvot was given to the Jewish because of the technology and many other things we have today. And if someone really kidnaps the killer from prison so that they could execute him, the people who kidnap the killer from prison would have committed many serious crimes – taking out prisoner without permission, keeping criminal, murdering, etc.

They would also break another mitzvot – ‘Whoever kidnaps a person, whether that person has been sold or I still held in possession, shall but to death. ‘ (Exodus 21 verse 16) The prisoner in a way is possession of the constables. So should they try to follow the mitzvot in the first place? How could you follow the mitzvot and the law of Britain today? Yet, that is only a few of the mitzvot in the 613 mitzvot that they Orthodox and indeed Ultra-Orthodox have to follow today in Britain! The example above is an extreme one is not likely to happen every day but it is possible.

However, the mitzvot being given to the Jewish DO affect their everyday lives. ‘You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. ‘(Exodus 21 verse 19) is one of the many of the mitzvot that affect Jewish people, especially Ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox’s everyday lives. To avoid boiling ‘a kid in its mother’s milk’, they would have to have two parts of kitchen, one for dairy products and another for meat and they are not allow to eat meat and dairy products together or within half an hour.

Lunch in school, from work or nearby restaurant is not going to be suitable for them since hardly any non-Jew would have two separate part of kitchen for dairy product and meat in school or restaurant. The problem would be even more difficult if one’s board in school! There are not many school especially established for Jewish children and the majority of the British schools today would not have two separate parts of kitchen, the same apply to restaurants in Britain.

Because of those reasons, I think it would be quite truthful to say that when Ultra-Orthodox are away from their own house, they could not get much more than fish and chips living in Britain. Indeed, they had to have special meals call kosher, so how much they could eat very much depend on the location of their house since restaurants supply kosher food is rare and uncommon in Britain today. How easy is it being Jews today also very much depend on how far is the nearest kosher food shop (and synagogue) are from where the Jewish family live.

Apart from the difficulties with foods, Ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox school children had to cope with their problem with dressing. They were taught to dress in a modest way with certain rules to follow. Boys have to wear a skull-cap to remind them that there is always something on top of them. Girls’ skirts have to be below kneels, tight have to be very thick, hair covered… Their school might not match their rules, especially PE uniforms. Changing for PE lessons could be a problem too.

The school they attend to might be able to cooperate with them but their mates is very likely to laugh at them and dislike them because of the ‘close-mined’ and ‘out of days’ dressing of theirs. During History and RS lessons in school, Jewish school children might find it uncomfortable because topics such as the crusade fought between Jews and Christians and other learning about other religion might upset them. However, this is very hard to avoid. The reasons above would make lives very difficult in normal British school today.

Friends would be hard to make in school if no-one understand you and even dislike you and friendship for children at the age of 11-15 is very important. When a making a friend or meet people who be nice to you is such a hard thing, when people send them Christmas cards or presents for friendliness it is very hard to reject their kindness but believe in Judaism is not suppose to celebrate Christmas. All these problem makes Jewish school children impossible to board in school.

On the other hand, you could say that it is not that difficult for a Jews to cope with school since Jewish education in Britain had already began to develop after the Second World War, during the late 1950s and 1960s there was more money available to support new projects; the result was a steady growth of Jewish schools. Today in Britain, there are about 41 Jewish nursery schools, 30 primary schools and 20 secondary schools, there are also 2 special schools for Jewish children with disabilities.

So they could chose to go the few schools that established especially for Jews so they could keep their customs and have meals without worrying that they might have eaten the wrong thing, however, this would make the rang of choices of school much smaller; besides, every parents, Jews or non-Jews would want their children to receive the best education they could have and as a matter of fact, the best schools in Britain in terms of GCSE and A-Level results are not Jewish schools. So of the 45, 000 Jewish children of school age in this country, only about 30% are in Jewish schools today in Britain.

Some people might think that Jewish adults might find their lives easier because they have used to the way of lives and are experienced of how to cope with difficulties they have to cope with as Jewish. However, just as a non-Jewish adult, as people grow up, people normally find themselves become tired of lives because of the experiences of lives. And Jewish adults are likely to face even more difficulties than children do because there is hardly as work that is open just for Jewish people in Britain today therefore it would be very difficult for them to look for jobs without breaking any of the mitzvot.

Jobs with uniform for Jews would not be a good choice since they have to dress in a certain way, grown-up male Ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox have to wear a false bear and a big hat. Jobs that required to work on Saturday would be impossible for them to take because Jewish Shabbat start on the sun set of Friday and end on the sun set of Saturday. Shabbat is a holy day for the Jewish in which they are not allow to work so that they can devote themselves to prayer and Torah study – ‘God said to Moses, ”I have a precious gift in My treasure house, ‘Sabbath’ is its name.

Go and tell the people of Israel that I wish to give it to them. ”'(Talmud) Following all these rules, they have a very small range of choices of work in Britain today because instead of resting on Saturday, most works in Britain today rest on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath as Britain is a Christian country. There are still a few jobs Jewish could do without breaking the mitzvot such as teachers whom teach in school that do not have to go to school on Saturdays and self-employment.

However, being considered as odd and dislike by many Christians (and about 90% of the population in Britain is Christians! , being a Jewish teacher in school might be dislike and not respected by their pupils because of their ‘bizarre’ clothing, their religion and even the family value on Jews that passed onto the pupil which would make a real pain for the Jewish teacher to teach. Beside, schools might not even want to employee the Jew! Perhaps, if the Jew is well educated enough, the only way for him to earn a living and to support his family in today’s Britain is to be a teacher in Jewish schools – that is if he is well-educated!

Despite the hardships they have on earning livings, most Jewish husbands have large family to feed. There are also special Jewish festivals Jews celebrate, and ‘These are the festivals of the Lord, holy assemblies which you [Jews considered the ‘you’ is the Jews] shall proclaim at their appointed times. ‘ (Leviticus 23 verse 4) Some of these are major celebrations when ordinary daily affairs, such as working, going to school and shopping must cease so that they could have a great deal of time and concentrate on prayer or celebration among their families.

Others are less important occasion and daily life continues much as usual. The rest are simply days when special prayers are recited in the synagogue. As mention before, on major Jewish festivals, Jews have to be off from to school and work. Jews use the Biblical method of reckoning time, each new day starts at sunset, instead of at midnight (Genesis 1 verse 5), so all the Jewish festivals starts in the evening. For example, when the sun goes down on Friday, it is the Saturday for Jews which mean Sabbath start on Friday evening after sunset.

There are very large seasonal differences in the times of sunset in Britain because of the long distance between Britain and the Tropics. In the height of summer, the sun normally does not set after 9pm (or even later in Scotland), lives could be easier for the Jews at that time; in midwinter, however, the sun can be set as early as 3:30 in the afternoon. This, again make lives difficult for Jews in Britain today. Bosses of Jews might not be happy for their Jewish (or indeed, any) employee to be off of their work as early as 3:30 on every Friday during the winter!

It would be easier for their bosses to accept if they want to be off early on Saturdays in Britain but not on Fridays. Jewish children would have to leave school much earlier than others on Friday afternoon in winter for they have to be at home BY sunset. This might make the other pupils grow unfriendliness feelings towards the Jewish child because of jealousy and many who do not understand Judaism might think the Jew pupil is of to somewhere to have enjoying their school hours to the fairground or somewhere.

Lives for a school child could be very hard if no-one likes you and consider you as an ‘odd’ person. Same apply to the other major Jewish festivals which are quite often during the course of the year any many of them last a more than two days normally longer. Examples are the Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippir, Sukkoth, Passover, Shavuoth… they would have to stop working and ceased everyday lives routines.

They do not have holidays on these occasion sine Britain’s public holidays lay in the time of Christmas, Easter and other Christian festivals which do the Jews no good. Same as Orthodox Jews, Reform Jews try to keep themselves up with the modern world but unlike the Orthodox Jews, instead of putting mitzvot as the first thing they try to follow, Reform Jews consider that to keep up with the modern world is the more important thing.

Reform Jews do this because they think that the 613 mitzvot were given the their ancestors whom were wondering around in the wilderness with a large group of people and now that that have settle in a Britain, not wondering around in the wilderness without a home anymore, they do not have to follow all 613 mitzvot, although they still follow some of the mitzvot that they think is still important today. This makes them, in most people’s eyes that Reform Jews are less religious compare to the Orthodox Jews which in my opinion makes their lives much easier in Britain today. Still they have to cope with difficulties in Britain today.

Reform Jews still keep the Sabbath on Saturday holly and celebrate many of the festivals during the course of the year which means they would still face the problems that the Orthodox face on this subject. But because Reform Jews do not follow all 613 mitzvot that are given to their ancestor, they do not face problems the Ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox face by following the mitzvot, for examples, Reform Jews are free to dress in normal modern days clothing, eat normal meals that you could get in Britain which means they sees less ‘odd’ to the others and they could get food much more easier than the Orthodox.

Most people who believe in Judaism are born as Jew but some are converted into the Jewish family; Being a Jewish from birth at least mean that you have support form your own small family while facing so much difficulty outside. However, if you were converted to be Jewish, life could be much harsher for the hardship you have to cope with away from home and find yourself unwelcome by the family when you get home because they reject you to be a Jew.

Losing the warmth from you original family as well as bear the load of being a Jew facing other non-Jew on your own is a very difficult situation and is probably the harshest thing anyone could face; let alone getting support form your own originally family. Luckily, most Jews are born as Jewish. Although Jewish lives is not as difficult as it used to be – since 1898, freedom of worship has been propose officially but putting up a law like this would not take away people’s unfriendliness towards Jews.

As well as religious Jews there are even Jews all over the world whom are not at all religious and do not believe in God at all. Lives for these Jews are as normal as non-Jews. If lives for non-Jews are easy in today’s Britain then I dare say it is easy being a non-religious Jews in Britain today. Living in a Christian country, the 0. 5% of population of Jewish in Britain are often dislike or even hated by many of the 90% of the population of Christians. Many affairs occurred in the past lead to today’s result. When William the Conquer landed in England in 1066, he brought many Jews with him.

Jews are not allowed to charge another Jew any extra if he lends out money to another Jew. Lending out money to non-Jews (i. e. Christians) and charge extra became their livelihood when they came over to England. They were known a ‘tax collector’ whom Jesus dislikes. And of course, people do not like the people who they own money to, what is more is that they have Jesus words support them. This made Jews became unpopular. However, Anti-Semitism, in the sense of regarding the Jews as people set apart for special contempt or hatred, really began with the rise of Christianity.

In the middle ages, Protestants began to rise by Martin Luther; Luther tried to persuade the Jews to join their new faith and fright against the Roman Catholic Church together. Refused by the Jews, Luther started to persecute the Jews. Later on, when Henry VIII tried to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon; Henry changed England into a Protestant country. His act was consolidated during his successors Edward VI and Elizabeth I’s reign. England, and later extended to Britain remained as a Protestant country until today. In Christians’ eyes, Jew had committed the worst possible crime – they had rejected Jesus.

Christians believed that Jesus was God in human form come to save the world, and it was the Jews who murdered Jesus. From the earliest time, therefore, Christians believed that God hated the Jews. Their literature described Jews as descendants of the devil – ‘You [referring to Jews because of the verses before and after it’s mention on Jews] are from your fathers desires. He was murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8 verse 44)

This sowed the seeds of the Anti-Semitism that was to have horrific results five centuries later. During the 1920s, various political parties emerged in Germany, each offering a way of solving the problems they faced as results of losing the First World War. In 1933 the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party) was elected to power, their way of solve these problems were to wipe out the Jews who they thought was the people whom cause the defeat of Germany in the First World War. Hitler made propaganda speeches telling people that Jews were lazy and does not deserve the rights of living.

His propaganda speeches still remain in people’s heart, Christians or non-Christians in Europe and I think some people in Britain as well since people are often reminded all these things during History and RS lessons in British schools unavoidably. This was proved when the graves of Jewish had Swastikas drawn on by the Anti-Semitism long after the Second World War. The Arabs Britain (there are people come from all over the world in Britain) might dislike Jews in Britain because the Jews had fought with the Arabs over the states the Israel after the second world war making many of the Arabs have no where to go.

Other people hated or dislike Jews simply because they are Jews and because they are rare and ‘odd’ so there are problems that all Jews have to face, religious or not religious – being picked on. Certainly not all the people in Britain nor all the Christians dislike Jews; however, religious Jews might be offended by people who do not mean to for example, British school History and RS lessons teaching about the 11th century Crusade. This again, prove how being a Jew but not religious is easier than being a religious Jews in Britain today.

In 1858, Jews were given the same political rights as member of Church of England in Britain. Their votes were now value but would people accept them as their prime minister just because they have given the rights officially? However, these things that non-religious Jews face are faced by many races of people who are not native British and people of colours and these are rare and small. So I would not say it is particular difficult for a non-religious Jews to live in Britain today compare to a non-Jew. But being a religious Jews is certainly not easy in today’s Britain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *