There are certain things northwest London Jews just know to be true
TOUR TOUR TOUR
Jews do not make up a significant proportion of the UK population. But we make up a really large part of the population of northwest London.
Whether you’re from Hadley Wood, Radlett, Pinner, Edgware, Hendon, Hampstead, Borehamwood, Bushey, Elstree or Golders Green (oy), there won’t be more than two degrees of separation between you and any other northwest London Jews around your age. And your parents definitely went to school/on tour/to shul with their parents.
You know that whenever you are out in London, you will see someone from the NW London loop. And as soon as they leave you’ll turn to whoever you’re with and say, “I know them.”
There are some other things you know too.
Your youth club was the most important part of being a teenager
You were either a part of BBYO, FZY, Noam, RSY – though perhaps one of the rogue ones – and whichever you went to, you were furiously loyal to it. This group became your original Jew Crew, and you spent your childhood summers at their summer camps.
Which, by the way, were the highlight of your early- to mid-teens. Before camp you made your mum spend far too much money on Kosher snacks that you would only eat half of anyway, and you packed far too many clothes.
You suspect the activities may have had a wider meaning and the goal to make your learn more about Judaism and Zionism or some shit like that.
And really, those summers cultivating friendships were preparation for the biggest moment in a northwest London Jew’s life…
You spent the years leading up to tour listening to older siblings’ and friends’ stories about it, and when the year finally arrived you desperately wanted to be in a tour group with all of your friends and with Madrichim who wouldn’t be too strict when it came to bedtimes.
When the all-important (and bloody time-consuming, actually) shopping happened, the most important thing in the world was to find hiking boots and sandals that didn’t make you look totally awful, and trying desperately to get around the Compulsory Hat Rule (unsuccessfully – your mum ended up making you buy a really ugly sunhat, but hey, at least your head was protected).
You didn’t sleep for more or less the entire month, drifting off while the more serious talks were happening, and you spent the rest of the time plotting how to get your hands on shisha and sneak into person you fancied’s room after bedtime. You were most likely unsuccessful, and your pleas to buy a shisha pipe and take it home “for your parents” fell on deaf ears.
The most exciting part of tour may have been when an American tour was in the same hostel as you (swoon).
Of course, it was the best month of your life. Of course you cried when you got picked up at the airport. Of course you wore the T-shirt and hoody fairly regularly and still have it in a cupboard somewhere. And of course, you’d be distraught if your mum threw it away.
JFS is the centre of northwest London Jewdom. You either went there yourself or knew everyone in your year there anyway. JFS kids were everywhere: at your youth club, at your evenings in, and on your Tour.
That’s not to say JFS is the only Jewish school that matters – there’s a fierce rivalry between the other northwest London Jewish school such as Immanuel and Yavneh and if you went to any of these, you would be a little judgemental whenever people from the other schools turned up at the same party as you.
And if you didn’t go to Jewish school, JFS was the only one you’d ever have considered going to.
You really have Judaism to thank for your thriving social life. While any non-Jewish friends were sitting at home being bored, you spent every Saturday night at an evening in.
They usually consisted of a group of awkward pubescent girls and boys sitting around and eating crisps that had been left out by parents. Then you turned 16 and alcohol became the lynchpin of every Saturday night.
You probably also had your first kiss at an evening in – whether you snuck into the garden to do it in secret or it was during a game of spin the bottle.
Friday night dinner
Or, why you can’t go out with your non-Jewish friends on a Friday. Maybe you observe the proper rules of Shabbat, maybe you don’t, but either way, it’s strictly Family Time.
Chicken soup, roast chicken, veg and potatoes, probably accompanied by plenty of wine and some intrusive questions from your family.
Older relatives will probe you: why haven’t you found a boyfriend or girlfriend yet? Whatever happened to that nice Jewish boy you were dating? Week in, week out.
Grandpa, we dated in year 10. We’re not together anymore. Get over it.
You probably go or went to Nottingham, Birmingham, Leeds or Manchester. If you’re a northwest Jew who also happens to smoke a lot of weed and do, er, other stuff, then you might have branched out to Bristol.
You may have lived in Kosher housing and essentially lived entirely with people who you already knew from school, tour or parties. If you didn’t live in Kosher housing then you probably still ended up hanging out mostly with people you knew from home or making friends with people you didn’t meet when you were at school but find you already have 98 mutual Facebook friends with.
If you didn’t go to one of these Jewniversities you were probably shocked at the amount of people at your own uni who had never met a Jew before, and your J Socs were almost certainly lacklustre. It wasn’t so bad though – you had plenty of people to stay with for Booze 4 Jews.
Designer trackies tucked into Ugg boots. Paul’s Boutique bags. Over-straightened hair. Becky clips. You know who you are.