In May 2012 New Statesman published a special issue on British-Jewish identity.3 Its editorial opens by recalling Tony Blair’s 2006 address to the Anglo-Jewish population on the 350th anniversary of the Jewish readmission to Britain. In a speech given at Bevis Marks, the oldest synagogue in London, Blair commended British Jews for retaining a distinct faith-based identity whilst also showing their loyalty and commitment to Britain.4 Blair’s words had obvious implications for other immigrant communities in Britain at the time, especially in view of the tensions that followed the London terrorist attacks of 2005.5 So are British Jews, as Blair suggested, an exemplar of assimilation? As the New Statesman leader rightly points out, the British-Jewish experience is far from that straightforward: ‘the history of Jewish cultural, religious and intellectual life in Britain’, it argues, ‘shows just how complex are such questions of identity and belonging’.6Writing Jewish explores some of this complexity.
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