The idea that a small community would find it so difficult to practise their faith in their own country that they would be forced to move to another land is not something you’d usually associate with a place where people talk, as much as we do around here, about “inclusivity” and “diversity”.
But as Jewish leaders have explained to Secretary of State Brandon Lewis this week, problems over access to kosher food, as a result of Protocol regulations, could lead to the ending of Jewish life in Belfast.
And — not just for the Jews — but for Belfast in particular and Northern Ireland in general, that would be an utter, irreversible tragedy.
So, is Boris on the ball about stopping it happening? Or is he just more concerned about getting his pic in the papers at the Euros?
Tiny though the Jewish population in Northern Ireland is — it’s currently estimated at around only 60 to 100 — its history is a long and a proud one.
In terms of the contribution it’s made to this place, and to the wider world, it’s always punched way above its weight.
That this community is now being threatened with collapse over something as fundamental and essential as being able to source the food it requires is appalling.
The problem is the Protocol. A further problem is that where you stand on the Protocol colours whether you think it is causing actual difficulty — and, further, whether resolving this difficulty is any of your concern.
Some politicians (step forward, Boris) are more interested in viewing the problems it’s thrown up as a cute way to score political points.
This week, as the story made international headlines, he was talking about a Jewish “exodus”.
Dramatic words — but what exactly is he doing to stop it?
For Jews living in Northern Ireland, the difficulty in accessing kosher food stems from Protocol regulations — red tape, increased checks — which have made it more difficult to bring supplies over the Irish Sea from Britain.
The fear is that, when the current “interim” period expires and even more stringent rules on transit of fresh meat kick in (see also “sausage-gate”), it may be all but impossible to access kosher meat here. Bringing it in from the EU would cost too much for such a small group.
It goes without saying that, without the food and religious artefacts central to their religion, local Jewish leaders fear a devastating impact upon an already declining congregation.
Over the years, young Jews have been moving away from Northern Ireland. You can see why. There’s not much to keep them here. A dwindling population means it’s difficult for them to find a Jewish partner. There are no Jewish schools.
And there is also the virulent anti-Semitism which flares, especially when there’s trouble in the Middle East, but always bubbles malignly in the background. On social media, it’s just vicious.
As recently as April, Jewish graves in Belfast City Cemetery were vandalised. That isn’t a new thing. But what does it say to Jewish people to hear again and again about this sort of desecration?
How prone is an ageing community made to feel when even the memorials to their dead are defaced?
Not so long ago, I caught a repeat of Aaron Black’s brilliant, moving film The Last Minyan about his own Jewish family background and the struggle of Belfast’s ageing Jewish community to muster the 10 men (the minyan) needed to hold a prayer service.
It’s affectionate and it’s funny. On one hand, it’s all so very Belfast. On the other, it’s a window into a religion and a tradition that stretches back to other roots and times and places.
It’s an ancient voice with our accent. And it should be compulsory viewing for Boris and the EU negotiators who between them have hefted further hardship on the shoulders of people who only want to be able to adhere to their religious laws.
We need to get over the politics of the Protocol and focus a bit more on the practical (or impractical) fallout from it.
Where is Stormont in all this? What is it doing? Surely, it should be offering support and assurance. Because this is about more than customs regulations, the movement of goods and choosing sides over an Irish Sea border. It’s about the long-term survival of one small and precious section of our community.
If we can’t — or don’t — protect that from being lost, what does that say about all of us?
Just like Spanish anthem, there’s no words
Until this week, I didn’t know either that the Spanish national anthem doesn’t have words. So, I do have some sympathy for Lord Kilclooney, similarly ignorant of this important fact.
He’d tweeted his dismay that the Spanish football team weren’t singing along when it was played before their clash with Italy.
Speaking of keeping schtum, what’s the old line? Better to remain silent and let people think you’re a fool than speak and remove all doubt.
Get Eur own song next time, England!
“Where it began, I can’t begin to notice... ” sang the England football team and fans after the win over Denmark. Where it began, we did begin to notice here. Was in the spring, when spring became the summer, back around 2016 at the last Euros. That’s when it was adopted as the theme song of Northern Ireland fans. How dare Harry Kane steal our tune! More galling still, that Neil Diamond sent a message of support to England. Has someone been in touch to explain this to Neil? A fan reaching out... ?
Emma can breathe easy
I know my dear friend Joanne will not agree, but if the Euros have spared us one thing it’s been the usual boring ping, pong commentary and endless analysis of Wimbledon.
Okay, I’m not a tennis fan.
But the story of 18-year-old Emma Raducanu (left) who made it through to the fourth round, before having to withdraw with breathing difficulties, touched even me.
Not because I feel sorry for Emma.
But because I admire how she came back with her upbeat video statement later.
Game, set and matchless.