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Archive for July, 2012

As one who advocates formally and informally for Israel, I have heard the full gamut of misconceptions and slanders that are aired by those opposed to the Jewish state. Over time, my skin has thickened; people can throw whatever baloney they want my way.

Except… there is still one anti-Israel argument that makes my jaw drop. And it is one that is made with unfortunate frequency. It is the “they-of-all-people” argument: the suggestion that the Jews, having faced extraordinary persecution, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors.

Put aside for a moment that the “oppression” which proponents of this argument are accusing Israel of committing is usually imaginary. When directed by gentiles towards Jews, the “they-of-all-people” argument is in its very essence so fundamentally ill-judged and unjust, and voiced with such a breathtaking lack of self-awareness, that my spirit flags when I hear it.

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A year ago this coming Monday, we lost an angel. It might surprise you to hear Amy Winehouse described that way, but as someone who followed her life closely as both a fan and an author, I discovered an Amy quite different to the caricature the media constructed of her.

Amy frequently harmed herself, but she never really harmed others. As I wrote in the Jewish Chronicle after she died, she was a generous, considerate woman. Despite her drinking and drug use, she had an astonishing memory which she used to recall the little details of people’s lives they would relish the chance to talk about. Indeed, she was so supportive and kind that some of her friends called her ‘Mum’. The maternal moniker was more appropriate than you might think: Amy loved kids, she doted on them and dreamt of having some of her own.

Understandably, the media tended to focus on her darker moments: the drink, the drugs, the self-harm. There was rarely any inclination to show what a sweet person she was. In 2009, while holidaying in the Caribbean, she saved the life of a woman who had been flung overboard during a boat crash. During another trip, she saved the life of a sick elderly man who had been left to die on the beach. She got him to hospital and personally paid the $5,000 for his operation and after-care.

It never seemed to occur to Amy to make a big deal out of these incidents. They were just in her nature. I’ve spoken to lots of people who knew her, they all suddenly emit the same warm glow when they speak about her. As her father Mitch said after she died: ‘Her life was about one thing: love.’ She truly touched the lives of those who knew her. Her music touched the lives of millions more. Both the humorous songs – Me & Mr Jones, Addicted, F**k Me Pumps – and, of course, the tragic ones such as Back To Black and Love Is A Losing Game.

It’s still hard to believe she’s gone. She lives on in her music. Another legacy is The Amy Winehouse Foundation. This charity, set up in Amy’s memory, supports activities that provide help, support or care for young people in need. So she kind of got her dream of becoming a ‘Mum’ after all. I’m running the Windsor Half Marathon in October to raise funds for The Amy Winehouse Foundation. You can sponsor me here.

Lots of love and hugs to everyone who loved Amy and her music.

‘So we are history, your shadow covers me, the sky above a blaze that only lovers see.’

Yesterday, after Israelis were slaughtered in Bulgaria, rabbis and other members of the Chabad movement went to work. They watched over the bodies of the dead. They offered comfort, clothing and refreshments to survivors and witnesses at the scene of the attack, translated for doctors at the hospital, and handled a flood of telephone calls from concerned families in Israel.

Darkness will never snuff out that sort of light. Nowhere near.

It’s good to be blogging again. Speaking of Chabad, I love this cute video which transforms a Justin Bieber tune into a song about a Rebbe. Hope you enjoy it too.

© Copyright Chas Newkey-Burden. All Rights Reserved. Thanks to Chris Morris.