70 years in the past, an individual known as bernard polak modified his name. He had been launched up contained in the east cease, the son of a taxi driving pressure. As a pupil at tottenham grammar faculty he excelled and gained a scholarship to the lse – the primary in his prolonged family to remain on at college previous the earliest leaving age, not to mention to go to college. He did correctly at school, graduating with a primary, profitable the lse’s prestigious gladstone memorial prize, and making his method lastly into the civil service.
He reached the very pinnacle of the civil service, advising a few of chancellors and ending his profession as director widespread of the inland gross sales. However you’ll search in useless for any doc of a bernard polak throughout the civil service. Similtaneously at college, he become cautioned by means of people he respected – jews and non-jews, all of whom meant properly – to ‘anglicise’ his name. So he modified it to pollard. And not merely his surname. On his first day, his boss known as him barry and my father notion it first-rate not to correct him. So in the middle of his stellar civil supplier profession, bernie polak was often known as barry pollard. I am telling you this not truely because of the truth i’m proud of my father nonetheless because of the truth a bit within the observer right this moment through the comic stewart lee means that nothing changes.
Seventy years in the past my dad wanted to vary his weird abroad name to keep away from the sly glances of bigots. Stewart lee is that bigot – a person who thinks the high-quality response to a abroad sounding jewish name is to ridicule it in a nationwide newspaper. The piece has no totally different argument or trigger. It’s miles nothing aside from an prolonged riff on the concept that the conservative mp tom tugendhat has a humorous surname:
“many names – fisher, put together dinner, smith – derive from historical trades. However “tugendhat” is simply distinctive phrases put together, like waspcupfinger, or appendixhospitalwool, or abortionmaqaquesymptom. This former intelligence officer is the nephew of a precise man known as baron tugendhat. Baron tugendhat is not all the time a person or girl from a nineteenth-century german children’s e e book roughly a baron with a peculiar hat, the stop of which will get tugged. However what did tom tugendhat need? Why change into he bothering us?”
on an on it’s going, on and on it repeats the ‘joke’. He even manages to tug dominic raab into it. Of route he does; mr raab’s jewish father escaped hitler in 1938 arriving right here as a refugee. The pattern is not all the time loads hinted it as bludgeoned. This isn’t merely ugly; it is miles the very definition of racism – particularly, of antisemitism. As mr tugendhat put it on twitter:
“the thought of uppity foreigner coming over proper right here and conspiring to take electrical energy is actually the archetypal antisemitic trope. It’s so most well-liked it’s uninteresting however that doesn’t make it any much less precise. The hunt into my name reveals he is aware of the origins. It’s not new.”
in my nineteen twenties, i concept heaps roughly altering my name decrease again to polak. I made up my mind, ultimately, that it’d seem like an insult to my father – as if i was making a degree that i somehow had extra braveness than him while, in reality, i had it easy as a jew in tolerant modern-day britain. I nonetheless think about that to be true. Nevertheless the likes of stewart lee present that nonetheless tolerant the sizeable majority people could also be, there’ll always be a subset of bigots for whom the jew stays an outsider – an merchandise of scorn and derision for his or her otherness.
and, it appears, they will always have a house within the mum or dad.