Saturday, July 31, 2010

10 reasons why you would want ultra-Orthodox Jews as neighbours 

It’s not been a good week for the media’s treatment of ultra-Orthodox Jews – not that they will care: in their cloistered world they believe in the right not to know. Yours truly kicked off the drubbing with a piece about how they opted for unemployed piety over good honest toil and my colleague Damian Thompson weighed in with a well-read blog about anti-Christian attitudes among Jews.

But the most pungent offering – written in a style part Der Stürmer, part The Lady – was some lurid nonsense by Independent columnist Christina Patterson, “Attention all religions: multiculturalism has its limits”.

It began with a scream of invective about how rude and ill-mannered her ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbours were in the inner city enclave of Stamford Hill, north London, where she resides, before incoherently linking their ability to drive really badly with genital mutilation among Muslims, and finishing off with a shrill broadside against faith schools. Phew!

As Ms Patterson now shares a berth at the Indy with renown philo-semite and trenchant writer Julie Burchill, I had this vision of St Julie stomping across the newsroom and pulling the plug on prissy Patterson’s PC. Unfortunately, Burchill is a confirmed denizen of Brighton, so it falls to me to mount a defence of my (sort of) co-religionists.

10 reasons why you would want ultra-Orthodox Jews as neighbours:

1. Property prices: If you own a house in an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood, it’s a sellers’ market. The Jews must reside within walking distance of their synagogues and yeshivas because of the Sabbath driving ban, plus they are so close-knit they would never consider moving too far from Planet Haredi. So you’re guaranteed a premium asking price. They’ll try and bargain you down but stand your ground; they’ll have to pay up in the end.

2. Crime: There is no record of an ultra-Orthodox Jew ever committing a mugging in the UK. Be honest, who would you rather meet down a dark alley: a gang of hoodies or a posse of Yiddish-speaking boychiks in black hats?

3. No tiresome keeping up with the Joneses/Cohens: Ultra-Orthodox Jews don’t do conspicuous consumption. Even the well-to-do are quite content driving around in a battered old Volvo until the wheels drop off.

4. Noise abatement: They might be wild-eyed believers but they’re not into wild parties. All-nighters consist of going to the synagogue on certain high holy days and feverishly praying until the sun comes up.

5. Weekend parking: Religious Jews are prohibited from driving on a Saturday by religious law, thus you will find no problem finding a parking spot on the High Street from sunset on Friday through to Saturday night. Sunday morning is bedlam, however.

6. No impromptu visits: Privacy is guaranteed if you’re a non-Jew living among the ultra-Orthodox. They want absolutely nothing to do with you and will never, ever, ever pop round for a bowl of sugar.

7. No sex, please, we’re Jewish: An ultra-Orthodox Jew must be one of the least likely candidates to run off with your wife.

8. Leylandi (absence of): Ultra-Orthodox Jews have lived in crowded, urban ghettos for so long that they are totally immune to the British gardening fetish. They also hate dogs.

9. Schools: No worries about parental competition to get little Christopher or Mary into that high-achieving C of E/Roman Catholic primary.

10. Liberation from social conventions: Ms Patterson patronisingly demanded the ultra-Orthodox Jews “treat their neighbours with a bit more courtesy” but what she doesn’t get is that they live in a state of gentle anarchy and are just as rude to one another. Don’t be offended, just be discourteous back. Feel free to hoot at them in traffic and steal their parking spaces (they’ll just shrug nonchalantly, not beat your brains out); talk loudly on your mobile phone; forget to say thank-you; push in front of them in queues (they’ll admire your chuztpah); ram them with your pram (they’ll understand, they’ve got half-a dozen kids themselves); and enjoy the naughty and rare pleasure of not conforming.


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