This week my son came home from school and asked me if it was true that the Jews killed Jesus. Um, I said. Read the Gospels. Read Hyam Maccoby. Ask your father. My husband is a religious maniac, though Christian. Any patriarchy will do. He insists I pretend to be an ultra-Orthodox Jew for festivals, and finds recipes for weird ceremonial breads. ‘Can’t we make Judaism fun?’ he asks. I reply, aghast: ‘It isn’t supposed to be fun.’ My Judaism is rather Holocaust–centric. I told a family therapist after my parents’ divorce: ‘I lost a father and gained a Shoah.’
Then we buried my husband’s uncle David Watts — not the one in the Kinks song, though he would hint that it was, ignoring supplementary questions on why Ray Davies would write a song about a seed merchant — in a churchyard on a hill in sunlight on Exmoor. He was my most beloved Spectator reader, and the one I wrote restaurant reviews for, because he once weighed my son on agricultural scales, which I thought delightful, and though he was not at all mean, he was careful. He would open his mouth and copy-edited Spectator editorials would fall out. It was uncanny. He could charm his way across a picket line. This skill, revealed in the eulogy, divided the pews. Then we had Passover by Zoom with my family in Finchley.
The food is never a problem; or, rather, it always is, which amounts to the same thing. My grandmother would bake coconut pyramids and cinnamon balls for Passover — it was the only time she actually baked, but she liked to be singular — but I have forbidden my husband from baking Jewish-themed cakes because they aren’t very nice. (Understanding that a Victoria sponge is superior to a cinnamon ball is part of the reason Jews are such spectacularly successful immigrants.