An interview with Geoffrey Cohen of Jewdas

March 25, 2009

Some call him elusive while others, well others don’t call him anything really.  It’s true that Geoffrey Cohen is not an easy person to track down but that’s mainly because he’s not very good with email addresses.  Nevertheless, in the interests of providing my readers with insights into the minds that are the future of Anglo-Jewry I traced him and travelled all the way to Hackney to speak exclusively with the 15 year old leader of what is possibly the most insignificant and futile Jewish political movement since my cousin Harry stood as an independent councillor in an attempt to extend the eruv boundary by four miles so it took in his flat in Harlesden.

Here’s that interview in full.

NWJ:  How did Jewdas begin?
GC:  It all started about two years ago as a cheder project.  My teacher was studying for a GCSE in politics at the time and he was, like, so cool.  He told me about anarchy and how it’s all about being rude and stuff.  I thought, that’s just what Judaism needs.  There’s not enough Jewish rudeness.  Everyone’s really serious all the time.

NWJ:  You tend to avoid the limelight. Is this deliberate?  Are you publicity shy?
GC:  Not publicity shy, no.  Let’s put it this way, (Cohen furtively looks all around his bedroom to check there’s nobody listening in, then, drops his voice and leans towards me) I’m really dangerous – I’m seen as a threat to the Jewish community.

NWJ:  How can you been seen as a threat if nobody’s heard of you?
GC: Also I’ve been grounded for two weeks.

NWJ:  What for?
GC:  My mum found out about the hoax email.

NWJ:  You’re talking about the email that purported to be from the Board of Deputies calling off the recent pro-Israel rally in Trafalgar Square.  Some say that the stunt was a desperate attempt to be noticed by the wider Jewish community.   How do you respond to that allegation?
GC:  Absolute rubbish.  Have you seen how many people attend our events?
NWJ:  About 20?
GC:  the last one attracted 36 and three of them were people none of us knew at all really.  Well, I knew one of them because she was at Daniel Levy’s barmitzvah, but I didn’t actually invite her, she just heard about it through Daniel.

NWJ:  And what do you do at these events?
GC:  We talk about how cheder sucks and how our rabbis are stupid, and Converse basketball boots.  Stuff like that.

NWJ:  So what’s next on the agenda?
GC:  We’re going to set up a mobile catering van outside Kinloss Gardens synagogue at Yom Kippur and sell bacon rolls!  It’s going to challenge people to think about why they fast every year religiously without recognising that they only do it because their parents and grandparents did it and because it’s part of the Jewish tradition.  See, we’re radical.

NWJ:  How are you going to cook the bacon on Yom Kippur, if you’re not allowed to light the gas on Yom Kippur?
GC:  (pauses) We’ll have to think about that one.

NWJ:  Well, I think we’d better end it there.  You’re mum said you could only talk for 10 minutes because you have homework to do.
GC:  I don’t take any notice of that bourgeois old bag.  I told you, I’m dangerous. Let’s keep going.

At this point Geoffrey’s mum put her head round the door.

Mrs Cohen:  Geoffrey. Homework.
GC:  OK. We’d better end it there then.

Purim Rap

March 6, 2009

I’m sure I’m not alone with my deep fear for the future of Anglo-Jewry.  Perhaps it’s the fault of soap operas, Facebook and texting, I don’t know.  One thing’s for sure, a good proportion of our young people have the attention span of a gnat with ADHD.  They can’t concentrate for longer than 30 seconds and, furthermore, they talk as if they were brought up in the ghetto – not the Jewish one, the Elvis one.

Purim approaches.  How are we to ensure that our children are able to pass on the tale to future generations?  I have the answer.

Here’s a three minute purim rap (by my calculation the average teenager should only need to deal with five texts in that time) written in a language that will hopefully make sense to them, if not the rest of us.

“ Yo Vashti, let me see you dance”.
“Soz” she said, “you’ve got no chance”.
“You’re dissin’ me, get off the scene
I’ll find myself another queen”.

Virgins from across the nation
Competed to be his relation
Mordechai thought “I’ll eat my hat,
If he don’t think cuz’ Esther’s phat”.

“Esther, try to be his bride
You might as well, there’s no downside.
But keep well shtum, don’t give a clue
That you were born a lowly Jew”.

Dressed up in a fancy gown
Esther won the bling bling crown
While Mordi, waiting by the gates
Heard a plot hatched by two mates.

He’s like “Warn Ahashverosh,
So he can put on the kibosh”.
She’s to the king “these homeys are spies
They want you dead before sunrise”.

Later the King says “Haman’s cool,
I’m gonna let him help me rule”
The people bowed when he passed by
Except the Jew called Mordechai.

Now Haman he was truly wicked
No, I mean really wicked, not like, wicked.
I mean to say he was terribly bad.
I’m saying, bad, not, you know, bad.

So Haman made this evil plan
And mentioned it to the main man.
He goes: “I’m gonna kill the Jews.
Send messengers to spread the news.”

Now Mordechai knew what occurred
But didn’t know if Esther’d heard.
Hatach came back with news at last
And Esther told the Jews to fast.

She then went off to see her husband
Who offered to give her half all his land.
“Come to my place”, she goes, “for food
And bring with you that Haman dude”.

The King said “mmm, this food is sick,
But why d’you call us?  What’s drastic?”
She goes, “come back again tomorrow
I’ll tell you then about my sorrow”.

By now old Haman’s really miffed
Cos Mordi doesn’t get his drift.
“Build some gallows”, Zeresh said
“And in the morning see him dead”.

That night the king had trouble zizzing
So he got up to do some admin,
And decided to reward the man
Who’d grassed on Teresh and Bigtan.

He’s like: “how do I big up someone
Who’s served me better than anyone?”
Haman thinks “he must mean me”
And suggests a procession for all to see.

“Do it for Mordechai who sits at the gate,
Hurry blood, don’t be late”.
Reluctantly he performed the honour
Then rushed off for the second dinner.

Once again the King asked Esther
“Tell me what it is that’s vexed yer”.
She’s like “This Haman and his creeps
Have planned to murder all my peeps.”

Then Charvonah spoke and revealed
The gallows Haman had concealed
The King said “hang the Agagite,
And give Esther his whole estate”.

He then made Mordechai the estate’s new master
While Esther reminded him of the impending disaster
So to help the Jews in fear of attack
He gave them permission to all fight back.

Mordi was safe, reckoned the King
So he made the rules, and he used his ring.
The gentiles were scared and some went over
To Judaism before Passover.

On the thirteenth day of the month of Adar
Jews sought and killed Parshandata
And his bruvs; the sons of Haman
Plus 500, just in Shushan

Two whole days saw Jewish retribution
For Haman’s plan to inflict persecution
Thousands were stabbed, the place was trashed,
And that is the reason we now get mashed.


Building My Own Mishkan

March 1, 2009

So inspired was I by last week’s Torah portion that I decided to build my own tabernacle.  Well, when I say inspired, what I really mean is confused.  Reading the text, it is virtually impossible to understand the instructions to make, let’s face it, a few bits of simple furniture.  For the first time I appreciated those wordless IKEA instructions that at least allow one to believe they are succeeding in building whatever useless object it is they have queued for 3 days to purchase.

With this in mind, I thought I’d try IKEA first, and trotted round to Brent Park to see if they sold flat pack arks.  As it turns out they do (they’re called Fleemg I think, or is it Kllurm?) but unfortunately, as with all IKEA products, they only come in a non-standard size and as everyone knows, the Torah is very clear about the size of the tabernacle and all its contents.

I therefore decided I would have to study the text carefully and try to make my own from scratch.  Which brings me to the first of God’s little teases.  The almighty knows full well how useless we Jews are at DIY.  He must have been having a joke, right?  All those miracles just a few weeks ago, and yet he couldn’t just give the Israelites the Mishkan.  He had to send them into a sweat fuelled frenzy of panic while they tried to create this thing.  I can hear the arguments even now, passing down through the centuries.  “No! you said you’d collect the gold, I said I’d get the wood!” and “What on earth are you doing?  How are we supposed to put the cherubs on now, we haven’t finished gilding it yet!”

After several hours of translating and note taking, I took myself off, with trepidation, to Homebase.

“Can I help you?”
“Yes, I need 11 cubits of acacia wood, a cubit and a half wide, plus some acacia wood poles as well, two, about 8 cubits each”.
“How much?”
“What do you mean?  I just told you how much.  About 11 cubits”.
“What’s a cubit?”
I hesitated and then unconfidently placed my hands in front of me, flat palms facing each other, about shoulder width apart.  “About this much?”
“Right, well we don’t have acacia wood.  Will MDF do?”
“Not really”.
“Pine? Contiboard?”
“Oh give me the MDF then.  It’s got to be covered with gold anyway so no-one will know”.
“To cover the MDF?”
“We don’t sell gold”.
“I was aware.  I was thinking gold spray”.
“Aisle four”.
“Thanks.  And four gold rings?”
“What is this, the 12 days of Christmas?”
“They’re to hold the MDF poles”.
“Try the curtain section”.

For the crown and cherubs I spent hours sifting through tat at Camden Market and even then the angels were a bit too big.  Still, I did it, and now I feel truly connected to my ancestors as they traipsed through the desert.  In fact, I know exactly how my own antecedents must have felt:

“What kind of God is this?  He takes us into the desert and then gets us to play Changing Rooms.  When we get out of this mess I’m never going to do a single DIY job again for as long as I live.  I’ll find some goy to do it for me instead.”

And that’s why all you’ll ever find in a Jew’s tool kit is a butter knife and an old hammer with a loose head.