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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform