I spent many hours on Saturday and Sunday watching the BBC Proms production of “On The Town” and excerpts from “West Side Story” and old footage of their composer, Leonard Bernstein, the centenary of whose birth was celebrated at the weekend.
On Tuesday I read a long Obituary of Neil Simon, writer of such comedies as “The Odd Couple” who has died, aged 92. Today, in London’s Gielgud Theatre, I watched the second part of “ Imperium”, a dramatized adaptation of novels by Robert Harris, on the life and times of Cicero, the fall of the Roman Republic, civil wars, political intrigue, tyranny, dictatorship and creation of an Empire.
Bernstein, Simon and Robert Harris produced works of genius. And all were Jewish. I don’t, if I can help it, go in for stereotyping .
I think that, in something said by Jeremy Corbyn five years ago he appeared to appropriate or misappropriate, on behalf of the British, the Lion’s Share (or even The Three Lions’ Share?) of the world’s supply of Irony. And to imply that some British Jews don’t have it.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks presents as a member of the same ethnic group as Leonard Bernstein, Neil Simon and Robert Harris but he does not appear to share their quality of wit. His is a slow-burning sensitivity. It has taken him five years to discover a sinister, threatening murderous, anti-Semitism, in an anodyne remark.
I believe the expression “Never mind the quality, feel the width” originated with Jews in the Rag Trade, about wide-boys selling inferior goods to suckers. The Rabbi’s complaint seems an ersatz one to me. Its quality seems fake, and its alarm rather strained. I’m sure he could do better.