The Definitive Guide To Broiges

I come from a long line of broiges holders (feuds, for the uninitiated). My father had a PhD in sulking. God rest his soul, he could stay shtumm for weeks, until my beleaguered Ma would wail, “I can’t even remember what I’m supposed to have done! I bet you can’t, can you?” He couldn’t—but that didn’t get him chatting again. We’re a stiff-necked people and that makes it painfully hard to turn the other cheek. 

The old joke says it all:

Q) What is the definition of Jewish Alzheimer’s? 

A) You forget everything but a grudge.

Dad’s family had an ongoing broiges with another Hull family that went back decades. The Lipmans and the Silvers didn’t mix, didn’t speak and didn’t acknowledge who had done what. Anyone who asked was in danger of receiving a reibin schnook (a clout on the nose) but somewhere  in  the  silence  there  were  feral  rumours involving bales of cloth and army surplus. It ran so deep that when my father showed up at the funeral for one of the Silver family, the widow chased him back through the garden gate. 

When I wrote a column for Standpoint this year about why I might not be voting Labour, the piece was picked up by the Tory press, taken out of context and reprinted everywhere. Leftie friends of mine avoided my eye and one virago poked me with a determined finger in the shoulder and hissed: “Don’t you care about poor people?” I found it hard to take this too seriously as we were in the Savoy hotel at the time, and the lady in question was washing down a lobster quenelle with a large glass of Krug…

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