Opinion: ‘Why I’m publicly owning my Jewishness’

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Opinion: ‘Why I’m publicly owning my Jewishness’

Benjamin Bell felt now was the time to 'unmask' his Judaism in the workplace and beyond in a LinkedIn post that went viral

This post is about Judaism. This post is about Israel.

Not suitable for LinkedIn?

I thought I was meant to bring my ‘whole self’ to work.

They are a part of me. Not by choice. By birth and by belief.


Almost 20 years in the workforce and it’s time to declare my past cowardice.

Only when I know and trust a colleague – and there’s a need to mention it – have I let the J word slip out. I typically do it softly, in case others hear.

Today is about correcting that.

Forced not by courage but by duty to a small community around the world that has been rocked to its core.

Brought on by the greatest loss of Jewish life in a day since the Holocaust.


Benjamin Bell

So the theory goes, Jews don’t count. From ‘You can’t be racist against whites’ to ‘Yes, wasn’t this weekend ghastly, but what about….?’

No what about.

No qualification.

No equivocation.

It just was. And it goes on. In firefights with terrorists on Israeli streets and in deathly depravity inside Gazan dungeons.

Sympathy for Israel at this time should not be deemed bold, risky or political. It must simply be reckoned human.

Should you take anything from my words, let it be this:

If you’re mulling whether to message your Jewish friend to see if they’re OK, send it.
If your hand is hovering over the ‘like’ button of a heart-rending post for fear of offending an unreasonable person in your network, press it.
If you disagree in a conversation with someone trying to justify the butchery of babies, rape of civilians and murder of partygoers, speak it.

Jews do count, to be clear.

Pretty well, too. Sadly all the way to six million.

Look at me, another Jew banging on about the Holocaust again.

For the avoidance of doubt, the greatest crime in history – with two-thirds of European Jewry wiped out – deserves repeated air time.

Blame the deniers, not me. And blame the new rise of Jew hate.


They say that anti-semitism is a light sleeper.

It was roused in my neighbourhood this morning, with my favourite falafel joint having its windows smashed in. From fresh, hostile chillis yesterday to fresh, hostile graffiti today. Kristallnacht this was not, but the resonance runs deep and the slope is slippery.

Such intimidation is not a new phenomenon following this weekend. But, as suffered by my local restaurant, this weekend will exacerbate the bile.

The starting point was already a depressing place. Here’s a pair of drops from a vast, polluted ocean:

Two weeks ago my football club wished Jews well over the fast on Yom Kippur – our holiest day. It was deluged with hateful abuse.
Our synagogues, kindergartens and schools require security guards. Not just now. Ever since I can remember. We Jews do our stints as volunteers providing eyes and ears alongside the professionals. Not paranoia. Necessary based on frequent threats.
We live with this daily cr*p.

Shouldn’t have to, but the oldest form of racism lies in the bones and mouths of many.

Always has.


Like numbers of you, I’ve been through family divorce, personal loss, other traumas. Still, I’ve never cried so much as recent days.

On my daughter’s bed.

On my way to the gym.

In my wife’s arms.

In front of my team.

Writing this.

The inhumanity visited on families, kids, teens, Generations X to Z, the elderly – in their homes, their playgrounds, their beds, their wheelchairs, their festivals – has not just broken the heart.

It has challenged the lifelong sanctity in my mind of Israel as a safe space for Jews.

It will recover.

But the scars will endure.

Even with salt added to open wounds by unspeakable celebrations in parts of the UK since Saturday.


We need to learn that being pro- one thing does not mean you must be anti- another.

Support does not have to be a zero-sum game.

Yes, there are sides to every story and people diverge in outlooks, but these atrocities were undeniably a horrific catastrophe for a people.

Mine is an appeal to:


Repel the extremes.
Reject division.
Side with humanity.
Do so and you’ll find yourself on the team with everyone that belongs.

Which is why today I’m publicly owning Jewishness before my professional network. I want to belong as the real me.


If this hopefully uncontroversial post – it is about love not hate – surreptitiously denies me work somewhere in future, that’s OK. Not the place for me.

Now time to don the pictured Star of David for the first time since my Bar Mitzvah as I attend the London vigil, surrounded by shaken but stirred fellow Jews.

It was a gift from my fearless late Grandma, a British Jew who cycled through Berlin in 1938.

A braver Jew than me.

Today I start pedalling to catch up.

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