A welcome democratisation of British Jewish culture


For me, the pandemic has produced a welcome democratisation of British Jewish culture. No longer is living in a remote fringe of the United Kingdom, a hindrance to full participation in British Jewish cultural life.  

The current situation has led to a levelling up: Jewish culture, once previously inaccessible either because of location and/or cost, is now free and accessible.  

I no longer miss out being stuck in north Wales where there is little to consume in terms of Jewish culture and to reach London takes half a day and £100, or Manchester 2.5 hours.

Arrangements for childcare and travel are no longer a consideration.  

Since March, I have given a Zoom talk for the Jewish community in Aberdeen, as well as listened to lectures hosted by the Jewish Historical Society of England in London, the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism in Bloomington, Indiana, and The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, none of which I would have attended before owing to time, location, expense and sheer hassle.

Giving talks over Zoom means that we can potentially also reach a more international audience, too.

Other cultural happenings have become victims of of their own success, pricing attendees like me out of participation, requiring a significant time and financial investment.  

One of the reasons for wanting to launch JewThink is because of the dissatisfaction with those existing models of British Jewish culture which have outpriced us if they even wanted us in the first place. The cost of participation, combined with travel, is often prohibitive, and eats into leisure time when us academics are expected to pay for the privilege of ‘working’.  

I realise that this has come at the expense of the loss of income to British Jewish cultural organisations which, of course, is not a good thing, and let us hope that they will get back on their feet.

But let us also hope, when we return to ‘normal’ (whatever that entails), that the best of this democratised British Jewish culture can be blended with physical, live performances (and monetized if need be), allowing those of us in far-flung places, or simply those without the time, energy, inclination, cost or whatever can continue to participate. 

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I teach film studies at Bangor University in north Wales where I live. I research, write and broadcast regularly (in Welsh and English) on transatlantic Jewish culture and history.
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