Last Night's TV - Strictly Kosher, ITV1; The Truth About Wildlife, BBC2

Manchester united, yet still divided

There is an old story about an American with typical Jewish features who stumbles upon a synagogue in China, and is greeted with scepticism when he tells the congregants that he shares their faith. "Funny, you don't look Jewish," he is told.

I was reminded of this during Strictly Kosher, Chris Malone's affectionate documentary about the 40,000-strong Jewish community in Manchester, because actually the word "community" is misleading. So, indeed, was the programme title. Some Jews in Manchester (and, of course, everywhere else) stick rigidly to Judaism's strict dietary laws, while others are less literal, eschewing only pork and shellfish, and yet others will tuck into a bacon sandwich without even the slightest pang of anxiety that they're letting the side down. Rather like that congregation in China, some Manchester Jews barely recognise the Jewishness of other Manchester Jews.

Equally, some Jews are passionate Zionists, some are lukewarm, and some – among them last night's narrator, Miriam Margolyes – are downright angry with Israel. In Strictly Kosher, however, the I-word was conspicuously absent. Unless I missed it, the strictly observant Bernette didn't refer to Israel, nor did Joel, the flamboyant rag-trade merchant, or Jack, the octogenarian Holocaust survivor. Whether this was deliberate I don't know, but it was a useful omission, because Manchester was the only Promised Land, or at least Land of Promise, that mattered here.

Whatever, on the understanding that talking about the Jewish community is in one sense rather like talking about the red-haired community, offering a somewhat false notion of a collective lifestyle, in Manchester it is expanding more quickly than any other Jewish community in Europe. This is not least because the city's ultra-orthodox Haredi Jews (in fact mainly based in Salford) don't go in much for birth control, which reminds me of another story – which sounds apocryphal but I'm pretty sure is true – that when Who Framed Roger Rabbit was running at a cinema close to the heavily Jewish London suburb of Golders Green, someone climbed a ladder and cheekily removed the letter T. Anyway, suffice to say that among the Haredis, breeding like rabbits or rabbis amounts to much the same thing.

The Haredis don't go in for camera crews, either, so the closest Malone got to ultra-orthodoxy was Bernette Clarke, so religious that she won't tear toilet paper on the Sabbath, and instead makes sure there's a stack of it, pre-torn. As in the case of most of the world's great religions, Judaism has degrees of observance that make you wonder how het up the Almighty would really get if they were flouted; in this case, it seems reasonable to wonder whether He hasn't got bigger gefilte fish to fry than worrying about loo paper on his big day of the week. But maybe that's missing the point. Judaism, as much as any religion and more than most, is about ritual and tradition. If that's a ritual that brings comfort to Bernette then fair enough – and another of Malone's subjects gave poignant expression to the importance of maintaining links with the past.

This was Jack Aizenberg, who survived Buchenwald but lost his mother, father and brother in the gas chambers. Born in Poland in 1928, he arrived penniless in Britain in 1945 and went into the luggage-production business, building a hugely successful company. Jack doesn't worry about toilet paper, though we did see his bathroom, a fabulous riot of kitsch that, he said proudly, "is a little bit better than Buchenwald".

We also saw him celebrating his grandson's bar mitzvah. "Hitler should have been here," he mused, meaning that nothing mocks the finality of the Final Solution like Jewish traditions enduringly passed from generation to generation. In 1941 Jack wasn't allowed a bar mitzvah of his own, yet has no axe to grind with God. "He made it up to me," he said, concluding that he had effectively lived two lives. "I've been in hell, and the last 60 years in paradise." It was a line to penetrate the flintiest heart, and also a line to dangle before those who would turn away all asylum seekers today. Manchester might not be everyone's idea of the Garden of Eden, but it is when you've seen the inside of a concentration camp.

It would be stretching things a bit – oh all right, make that a lot – to compare marine life around Britain's coastline 50 years ago with the richness of Jewish life in Germany before the Nazis. That's all Britain's beleagured trawlermen need. Nevertheless, The Truth About Wildlife showed that huge swathes of the sea bed have been stripped of life these past few decades.

Our guide was the ardent conservationist Chris Packham, an engaging fellow with a slightly unfortunate inability to roll his Rs, given the wichness of the wocks and the weefs off the Dorset coast, and the over-fishing that still wankles. Packham could possibly do with weeling in his enthusiasm for metaphors, telling us that looking for dolphins, nowhere near as abundant in our waters as they used to be, is like searching "for a few slippery needles in a giant wet haystack". While I was reflecting that soaking the notional haystack doesn't really work, Packham ploughed on, explaining that Britain's fishermen have had "the wough end of a wusty stick", but actually it was good to hear him say that fishermen are too often maligned, and conservationists too often self-righteous. With more understanding on both sides, the spiny seahorse might bounce back.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
'Banksy Does New York' Film - 2014

Art Somebody is going around telling people he's Banksy - but it isn't the street artist

Arts and Entertainment
Woody Allen and Placido Domingo will work together on Puccini's Schicchi

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
The sixteen celebrities taking part in The Jump 2015

TV

Arts and Entertainment
British author Helen Macdonald, pictured with Costa book of the year, 'H is for Hawk'
booksPanel hail Helen Macdonald's 'brilliantly written, muscular prose' in memoir of a grief-stricken daughter who became obsessed with training a goshawk
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge has announced his departure from Blink-182

music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TV

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

    Greece elections

    In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
    Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

    Holocaust Memorial Day

    Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
    Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

    Magnetic north

    The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
    Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

    Front National family feud?

    Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
    Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

    Pot of gold

    Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
    10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

    From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

    While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
    Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

    Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore