I’m not a religious Jew. But I am culturally and secularly Jewish. And living in Ireland. This year, as in the previous few, I attended my local Jewish community’s Rosh Hashana service. This year, though, due to Covid, it took place online, on Zoom. All fifteen of us in our little boxes on the screen, except when the celebrants (that’s the word, isn’t it, for the people running the show, even when it’s not really celebratory?) shared their screen to allow everyone to read the words that were being intoned, recited, or sung. It was a lovely service, and only an hour or so, not like the orthodox synagogue Rosh Hashana services of my youth, that went on for about six hours both days. We’ll meet again on Zoom on Yom Kippur, for an hour of a service including a meditation, while my religious family, if they can attend synagogue (so not the Manchester cousins, they’re in lockdown) will be in shul for about twelve hours. But I like it better this way.
And for Tashlich, for the throwing away of sins, myself and two non-Jewish female friends went down to the seashore to chuck away a few negative thoughts which we’d written down on – hopefully biodegradable – paper. I live two minutes walk from it at the moment, which sometimes makes me think ‘There must be a God’!
As we left the house to walk beachwards, a pal rang: ‘Hey I just switched on RTE Radio One, and the Wolf Mankowitz play The Hebrew Lesson is on!’ Luckily, I had my phone on me (although the self of my youth would have been disgusted at anyone who used a phone on Rosh Hashana) and so I could listen to the play as we walked to the shore, well, a minute of it anyway, until we were out of coverage. After the girls and I had chucked away what we no longer wanted in ourselves or in our lives – in my case, self-doubt and inaction – we walked home and I listened to the rest of the play. I really enjoyed it, as I’ve enjoyed reading it twice.
But I was a bit bothered. One never hears a Jewish play on Irish radio, and here they were putting it on on a religious, very solemn festival. When no orthodox Jew, and possibly not many non-orthodox Jews, will be listening to the radio. It’s a great play, and it would have been nice if everyone could have heard it. Actually, if they’d waited half an hour, Yom Tov would have been out, and more people could/might have tuned in. Oh well, I suppose it’s better then than airing it on Yom Kippur.
Are there any other Jews out there bothered by this kind of thing? Like I say, I’m not religious, but I’d like to think that if any of my orthodox brethren in Ireland would like to hear a play with Jewish content on the national broadcasting channel, they would have that option.