THE JR INTERVIEW
the Huguenots to the Jews to the Bengalis and again now. Eastern Europeans. And the best thing is that nobody knows it can also be very beautiful, and between M ile End and Bethnal Green you have swans and deer in the park. I think my son w il l be very happy here.”
1 ask whether being Jewish contributed to the loss o f her Parliamentary seat? Oona K in g replies that it was certainly a factor in a constituency with a large Muslim population, but a lesser factor than having voted for the war in Iraq. A raft o f antisemitic allegations without doubt contributed to her loss by 800 voles, including the rumour that she wanted to ban halal meal.
Constantly having people shouting abuse at her for being Jew ish made her more protective towards her Jewish background. “ I f you feel under threat then you pull your identity closer to you. Being Jewish links me to my grandparents, who 1was very close to as a child. It’s also simply who 1 am. I couldn’t imagine just being black. The thing about me is that 1am black and Jewish. It means I am different to other black people and it means I am different to other Jew ish people, it doesn’t mean that my experience o f Judaism has anything to do with the average Jewish experience. But it does mean that I draw on some o f the same stories and a lot o f the same identity.”
I ask about the ‘ coolness’ o f being black and wonder whether K in g finds there is any ‘ coolness’ about being Jew ish? There is much laughter as she replies, “ No, I haven't found that to be the case so far. The Jew ish community is seen to be quite wealthy, compared to other migrant communities. Wealth usually bars you from being ‘ cool’ . The legendary ability o f the Jewish community to flourish means it is just not like being Scottish. Asian, Irish.” Then Oona talks about the Hampstead Jews she grew up with and I identify Anglo-Jewry’s many continuing pockets o f poverty.
In her diaries K ing wrote about buying her hamsa in Fez and looking forward one day to reclaiming her Jewish heritage. I ask how she is doing with that. Oona replies that she has been reading quite a lot o f basic texts and she takes a greater interest now than ever before.
And w'hat would Oona still like to accomplish? Possibly to write a novel, but she says that at her usual rate o f output this wouldn’t be ready until her centenary. In about ten years lim e Oona K ing might fancy being Mayor o f
London. She already has an exciting and demanding full-tim e jo b at Number 10 but she wants to keep the promise she has made to herself and be there for E lia w'hilst he is still young.
A s I prepare to leave she says, “ I have alw'ays been struck by the generosity o f the Jewish community when they write to me. even when they are outraged over my v iew s on Israel.” Then she takes her copy o f Aharon Applefeld’s The S to ry o f a L i fe , which I mentioned I had not read, and presents it to me. The Oona King Diaries: House Music is published by B loom sbury a t £12.99
Golda Zafer-Sm ith is a psychologist and writer.
Limmudfest08 Bank Holiday weekend Friday 22 - Monday 25 August 2008 Pre-Fest Tikkun Trek 21 August Cliff College, Calver, Peak District National Park i
1 sco tch hard
A t L im m ud fe s t we create a unique and participative Jewish communal experience that comes alive with music, learning, festivities, culture and friendship, and offers something for people o f all ages. Limmudfest08 will take place at Cliff College, nestled in the hills o f the Peak District, a spectacular location for a spectacular programme, which includes: M u s ic ian s and perform ers The Apples, Los Desterrados, Diwon, Smadar Levi, JCC Tribute Troupe and Y-Love
In sp ira t io nal educators, a c t iv is t s and cam paigners Dan Berelowitz, Breaking The Silence, Clive Lawton, Jacqueline Nicholls, Nigel Savage, Chaim Weiner and Raphael Zarum W riters and sto ry te lle rs , film , po lit ic s , philosophy, yoga, dance and many many more presenters will also be there. There will also be many outdoor activities and an optional Tikkun Trek with an overnight stay under the stars planned for Thursday 21 - Friday 22 August. For more in fo rm a t io n and to b ook visit www.lim m ud .o rg /fest
' C om m u n i ty ’ u a r n i n * * s P o r t« . P j | r n | |y Fr,a o d\S