When I was young, maybe nine or ten, my dad showed me a drawn illustration in some pamphlet. It was a representation, from left-to-right, of brains, a Jewish, a Scottish and some other. The Jewish one was the biggest and the Scottish one was second-biggest.
My memories are vague, but I think this article in goodness knows what kind of source, was suggesting that Scots had the second-biggest brains in the World and, perhaps, were one of the lost tribes of Israel.
My dad was a lifelong and confirmed presbyterian, with RC friends but a deep anxiety about the Vatican’s intentions and a notion about an affinity with the Jews.
Readers may have some insight into this.
So, my first ideas about Jewishness were very positive.
Later, by 12 or 13, in the early 60s, I had picked up the idea that the Israeli struggle for statehood was especially heroic and that General Moshe Dayan was an Arthurian figure. No doubt my dad again but also the UK media, were the source of this simplistic view.
At school, I missed the first opportunity to encounter Anti-Semitism in Shakespeare as our teacher, recognising the limited possibilities of teaching boys in an industrial town with flare stacks and cooling towers dominating the window views, taught only the horrors and violence of Macbeth.
Later still, in the later 60’s, I became absorbed in the music and words of the counter-culture. I loved Cohen, Simon and Dylan and knew they were Jewish. They were so thought-provoking, progressive, tolerant and literate – cool. At the same time, in my first and last year at Glasgow School of Art, 1969, I saw the first Fleetwood Mac with their guitarist Peter Green. I knew he was Jewish, and his words and guitar-playing seemed the most beautiful and moving sounds I’d ever hear. Unlike the so-called guitar greats of the time, he was not fast and showy but made sounds that bypassed the frontal cortex and went deep to pull at your emotions.
In my first job, in an architect’s office, I met Daniel who claimed his girlfriend’s father in Denny (!) had asked if he was a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew. We played football together. I though him cool.
In the Falkirk branch office of Baron Bercott & Associates, I thought the boss in Glasgow must be an aristocrat and only months later visiting the HQ, found that Baron was a Jewish name. How we laughed.
To then gradually discover what Israel has done in Palestine was a great sadness for me. I know it is for many Jews too.