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British comedian David Baddiel takes his ‘Jews Don’t Count’ argument to TV



LONDON (JTA) — David Baddiel, a comedian-turned-activist against antisemitism who calls himself “one of the U.K.’s very few famous Jews,” was holding court in the basement of one of Britain’s best-known TV studios. 

As a reporter headed hurriedly for the exit, Baddiel slouched into his chair, seemingly exhausted by the interview he had just completed about the forthcoming documentary based on his 2021 bestseller, “Jews Don’t Count.”

“I am speaking to many people like the last journalist who had not thought about any of this in their life,” he said.

The “this” Baddiel was referring to was to the idea, outlined in his book, that progressive anti-racists are guilty of hypocrisy towards Jews by not viewing them as worthy of similar protection or championing as other minorities because they are seen as white, privileged and wealthy. 

When the book came out last year, it received rave reviews, and Baddiel has since become seen by some as a “voice for Britain’s Jews.” He often litigates the finer points of contemporary antisemitism as a guest on radio and television, and he has been quick to square off with trolls and critics on Twitter. 

Now, with the premiere of an hour-long documentary also called “Jews Don’t Count” on Britain’s public Channel 4 network, Baddiel gets a primetime slot to make his case to a bigger audience. Featuring Baddiel’s interviews with Jewish stars of pop culture in both Britain and the United States — ranging from comedian Sarah Silverman to novelist Jonathan Safran Foer to actor Stephen Fry — the film argues that “in a culture where all forms of racism are being monitored, called out and held accountable, one form is apparently invisible.”

“With the intensification of identity politics and concerns about minorities, and offense and inclusion and representation, all that stuff seemed not to be tracking for Jews,” Baddiel explained to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as the general point of his work. “We seemed to not be part of that conversation. There seemed to be less offense about antisemitism and less inclusion and representation of Jews.”

Baddiel, who shot to fame in the 1990s when he collaborated with fellow comedian Frank Skinner for a BBC sketch show on soccer, is also known as the co-author of “Three Lions,” which has become the de facto anthem for the English national soccer team and has recently enjoyed a revival during England’s tournament runs. He has also appeared on several TV shows and has published several children’s books.

He became a more prominent voice as a campaigner against antisemitism during Jeremy Corbyn’s scandal-plagued tenure as Labour Party leader from 2015 to 2020 — though he is keen to stress that neither the documentary nor his book are about “Jeremy f—ing Corbyn.” His move into documentary making follows his appearance in a well-received BBC documentary, “Confronting Holocaust Denial,” that aired last year.

Baddiel said he cares less about specific arguments under the umbrella of his broader argument. Regarding the “Jewface” debate, for example, over whether or not Jewish actors should play Jewish characters on screen, Baddiel claims he is “not really interested” either way — even though the topic takes up a large portion of his documentary, coming up in conversations with actors such as Silverman, Miriam Margolyes and David Schwimmer.

“What I am interested in is that it is empirically the case that in casting directors’ offices they are saying that ‘this is an autistic role, so we have to get an autistic actor.’ Or that ‘this is a gay role, so we have to get a gay actor,’” he continued. 

“Whether it is right or not is not the point,” he added. “They are not saying that ‘it is a Jewish role, so we have to get a Jewish actor.’” 

David Baddiel, left, speaks with Neil Gaiman in the upcoming Channel 4 documentary “Jews Don’t Count.” (Channel 4)

Perhaps controversially, Baddiel — while recognizing that there is a certain privilege in being able to “pass” as white — has argued that being white is more about being “protected because you are a member of the majority culture” than it is about skin color. He says antisemitism is racism, and not about “religious intolerance.”

In the documentary, Schwimmer says, “I have never felt white.” 

“I am highly aware that I pass as white and I enjoy a lot of the privileges of being a straight, white, man, able bodied, I get it, I understand, and I am very aware of my privilege,” Schwimmer says before mentioning the murder of two Jewish civil rights activists by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964. “I never felt white, because for me, white means safe.” 

Schwimmer, who recently spoke at the Anti-Defamation League’s conference in New York City, goes on to say that while “Friends,” the sitcom he starred in, has been criticized for its lack of diversity, it did include a minority presence. There were multiple Jews, in the form of Schwimmer’s Ross Geller character and his sister Monica, along with Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel Green.

“You know what would happen if you said that,” Baddiel says in response. “People would get aggressive about it.” 

Schwimmer responds: “You’re right, people would just be like: ‘not a real minority.’”

Baddiel is hardly speaking for all British Jews. One case in his book and documentary involves the fact that British Jews are not offered “Jew” as an option on the census when asked to select their ethnicity. (The same issue has been debated in the United States, where white respondents were asked in the 2020 census to write in their racial “origins.”)

“It is othering and alienating” that Jews do not have a distinct option box, Baddiel said.

But the view that Jews should not have an ethnicity option has historically and continues to be the position of the main representative body for British Jews, the Board of Deputies, as well as the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, a think tank that studies the demographics of British and European Jews. 

The Office for National Statistics, which administers the census, investigated the possibility of adding a Jewish ethnicity option ahead of the 2021 census in England and Wales. The ONS consulted with the Jewish groups and, in cooperation with polling firm Kantar, concluded that Jews in Britain viewed it “highly unacceptable” given historical concerns about discrimination and “the racialisation of religious groups.” 

The ONS and Kantar found that most Jews “did not identify as an ethnicity” and that adding an ethnic option would be counterproductive, as “its inclusion may cause participants to question whether they wanted to complete the census.” 

Baddiel questioned the conclusion, arguing that the most recent research was “a long time ago” and that such views were “massively out-of-date notions of what representation and inclusion looks like.” He said he had “certainly” felt demand for a Jewish option “from the people who speak to me.” 

Baddiel’s book garnered mostly positive reviews, but Josh Glancy, a British-Jewish journalist, wrote in the Jewish Chronicle that he Baddiel’s ideas implied “emphasising and amplifying every aspect of Jewish victimhood” to a point that would require “a level of self-imposed martyrdom that simply doesn’t align with most contemporary Jewish lives.” 

Stephen Bush — a prominent Black and Jewish journalist who conducted a landmark racial inclusivity report for the Board of Deputies last year, and who is interviewed for a few seconds in the documentary — argued in The Times that Baddiel was “so concerned with asserting his own lack of privilege that he forgets his obligations to others: not least to talk and to listen to them.” 

Baddiel’s idea that “progressives turn a blind eye to and dabble in just one form of racism, and that the experiences that he grapples with would not occur if he were black, Asian, or from another ethnic minority” would “struggle to survive a conversation with more than three people from any other minority,” Bush argued.

Rachel Riley, a British game show host, faced antisemitic abuse online after criticizing Jeremy Corbyn, the U.K.’s former embattled Labour Party leader. (Channel 4)

Baddiel said he is “sort of not that interested” in people’s responses, adding, “Glancy is wrong. He doesn’t understand the book.”

In response to Bush, Baddiel said: “That is not something that most minorities are asked to do. I think that most minorities, particularly now, when they present testimony of their lived experience of racism, it would feel racist to say to most of them, ‘why should I listen to this, because you don’t seem to talk about any other minorities.’

“That’s a ‘Jew’s Don’t Count’ phenomenon, what you are talking about,” he continued, “that it is incumbent upon Jews to have to make more space.” 

Among the portions of the documentary that have attracted the most interest in Britain is an apology that Baddiel offers to Jason Lee, a former professional soccer player whom Baddiel mocked in blackface for a sketch in the 1990s. Many feel that Lee’s career was negatively affected by Baddiel’s sketch, even though he pushed back on that idea in a recent interview with the Guardian. Baddiel has accepted that his portrayal of Lee was racist. 

Lee, who has since gone on to campaign against racism in soccer, was also interviewed in The Times, opening up about how he had felt “violated on so many levels” by Baddiel’s sketch. 

For his fellow Jews, Baddiel is less conciliatory. He claimed to not be aware of criticism from within the Jewish community over his theses. “Literally no one” he said had come to him with any concerns, he said. He often feels “whatever the Jewish equivalent of the Bat Signal is” and recalled how a senior Labour Party politician “came up to me yesterday and said: How does it feel to be the person saving the Jews?” 

At one point during his JTA interview, Baddiel interrupted a question about why he had not chosen to speak to any visibly Orthodox Jews — despite their presence in the background of several shots in the documentary — by repeatedly asking: “What’s your problem? What’s your problem?” 

“I am not really interested in understanding Jews,” he said. “I am interested in the ways that our present way of seeing racism fails Jews.” 

The post British comedian David Baddiel takes his ‘Jews Don’t Count’ argument to TV appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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