Esther Rantzen has revealed that she’s joined two synagogues, because she can’t decide who she wants to bury her, writes Sharon Feinstein.
The broadcaster’s comments came during an interview with Jewish News in which she opened up about how she copes with feelings of loneliness and about being “absolutely” secure as a Jew in Britain.
Rantzen, 71, said: “I am not observant, I’m an agnostic. But would you believe I belong to two synagogues now, because I can’t make up my mind who I want to bury me? If I died tomorrow, I would be quite cross, because it is my ambition to see my grandson’s 21st birthday, and he is only three.
“I can’t leave the synagogue I was born into – the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood – but I am very interested in the one I have just joined, the West London Synagogue, which my ancestors helped to found. “I think Baroness Julia Neuberger is wonderful and it has a lovely atmosphere. We all have to have a synagogue we don’t go to, don’t we?”
Rantzen, founder of ChildLine and more recently Silver Line, admitted there was a stigma to revealing you were desperately lonely.
“What you realise is that if you are facing a crucial loss in your life, like a partner or sight or hearing, it is very difficult to fill that vacuum, so you find distraction.
“When I’m alone, I binge on X Factor, Strictly, and Downton. I watched five instalments of Downton in one afternoon. I love it.
“I’m very close to my children and absolutely rooted in family. It dissipates loneliness, particularly when they very kindly produced two grandchildren.
“I’m a grandmother who never says ‘no’, known as Etta, and I have as much fun as possible.”
Rantzen’s mother and four sisters were all involved in social work, and she said helping others is “in my DNA”.
“But the achievements of ChildLine and the Silver Line are other peoples’. I am very happy to claim the credit, but I know in my heart it’s one thing to come up with the thought, but quite something else to make it real and work.
“We still have shocking paedophilia and child abuse in this country, but to solve a problem you first have to recognise and identify it. The important thing is that we are not in denial.”
The former That’s Life presenter also spoke about life in Britain for the Jewish community.
Despite a rise in anti-Semitic incidents last year, Rantzen said: “Not only do I feel completely secure and accepted here, but I owe this country my loyalty, want to assist in any way I can, and feel deeply grateful to Britain for the fact that I and my children are alive.”