OPINION: The call and cohesion of Royalty, inspired by Lady J
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OPINION: The call and cohesion of Royalty, inspired by Lady J

Rabbi Naftali Schiff reflects on Passover lessons of duty and obligation that can be taken from the Queen of Anglo Jewry

Lady Jacobovitz - known affectionately as 'Lady J'
Lady Jacobovitz - known affectionately as 'Lady J'

Many still nostalgically refer to Lady Jakobovits OBM as the “Queen of Anglo Jewry”. As the “First Lady” of former Chief Rabbi Lord Immanuel Jakobovits and the daughter of the renowned Rabbi Munk, empowered with a vivacious, chic and charismatic persona, she had an enormous communal following in her own right and was affectionately referred to by her beloved subjects as Lady J.

In the production of a film and book by that name, a few years back, her opinion on the subject of royal parenting was referred to by many interviewees with whom I met.

Lady J would love to reminisce about the Jakobovits’ memorable stay at Windsor Castle and the private time she spent intimately talking about family values and upbringing, together with Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth. She would add in her candidly signature style that she didn’t think the Queen ever took notice!

There is a pervasive element of royalty and nobility that surrounds every Seder table, even when many are currently denied certain basic freedoms during the current corona lockdown conditions. We bring out the most precious family heirlooms. Our tables sparkle with resplendent lustre. We share the majesty of a glorious past with the aspiration of instilling a sense of playing our role in building a vibrant future. We do our best to forge our personal link and that of each member of our families in the chain of our regal tradition. We hope for a future in which we each person around our Seder table will choose to play their unique role.

Mums and Dads, irrespective of pedigree, are universally challenged by the greatest trial of life, namely, how best to pass on our values to the next generation. Seldom has this conundrum vexed us all greater than today. The intensity of home life this year has only served to highlight the enigma that family relationships and education in the home represent to so many of us.

Having spent many a “kitchen summit” in the company of Lady J and produced the book of the film about her life and values, I am mindful of the sage wisdom she would possibly have shared with us today, during these strange times. Lady J offered advice to all on an equal footing. Pretence was not her way. The values and advice she offered openly, free from airs and graces. Lady J clearly felt the upbringing and traditions she had received in her home were as worthy and relevant to Kings and Queens as much as to the man/ woman in the street. To her we were all royalty,  carrying the sacred task of polishing the diamond Princesses and Princes with which we have each been entrusted.

Pasted to the fridge in the Palace that was her family home, Lady J had prominently displayed The 10 Commandments of a Successful Marriage.  Respect, Patience, Tolerance, Trust, Spouse Priority, Sharing, Love, Giving, Praising, Saying “Sorry”.

Constantly working upon Shalom Bayit, harmony in the home, with the prioritisation of spouse, was primary. Lady J felt that  successful parenting and the instilling of values in children was primarily achieved in the home and only reinforced by schools, external experiences and formal education. Irrespective of who you are, spend quality time with the family. Family holidays were of paramount importance.

Holidays away from the crowds, incognito. Every child needs to feel loved and special in their own unique way. Have plenty of fun and play. Lark around. Be silly. (I can’t picture Lord Jakobovits z”l ever doing that – but perhaps that’s the point!) Appreciate life, nature and the world that we so often take for granted.

On Seder Night we relate the story of the royal family, our family. We are perhaps the equivalent  of “by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen”, or perhaps the King of Kings. Indeed a  lofty pedigree. I recall a notable gentleman of distinction I interviewed, referring to Lady J as one born with an innate sense of “noblesse oblige”.

A sense of duty and obligation to uphold the traditions and mission of the realm is important, however, so is love, so is choice, so is recognition of different personalities, propensities and penchance.

When the four sons representing different types sit together around the same table, recognising and respecting difference and understanding that at times there’s perhaps a little of each of the four in every one of us, we in turn allow one another freedom to choose, freedom to be ourselves, freedom to grow, to aspire to greatness, to shine and to belong.

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