Ha’aretz in particular is displaying a lot of interest in the UK election. We repost four of their articles. Plus a note on Some Famous Jews in Britain, in response to the suggestion that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks is the best known.
1) Anshel Pfeffer: Jewish Labour firebrand aims at Tory upset in former Thatcher stronghold;
2) Toby Greene and Yossi Shain: The boundaries of Ed Miliband’s loyalty to the Jews, (introducing the phrase ‘Israelization of antisemitism’);
3) Elie Jesner: Social inequality should be a deciding factor for U.K. Jewish voters;
4) Anshel Pfeffer: The issue British Jews should vote on next week (hint: it’s not Israel);
5) Note: Some famous British Jews, 2015;
Comedian Eddie Izzard joins Sarah Sackman’s campaign trail. Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA
Jewish Labour firebrand aims at Tory upset in former Thatcher stronghold
In her campaign for the U.K. election, Sarah Sackman, a dynamic young lawyer who speaks Hebrew slang, has made major inroads against her rival in Britain’s most Jewish constituency – without avoiding the Israel issue.
By Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz
May 05, 2015
LONDON – Knocking on voters’ doors is one of the oldest traditions of British elections. All candidates for Parliament do it, including prime ministers and aspiring prime ministers in the constituencies they hope will send them to the House of Commons. There’s always an element of the surprise: Will someone be at home, how are they planning to vote, will the door be slammed in the candidate’s face?
Nowadays, of course, the canvassing on the doorstep is “data-driven,” backed up by technology used by the parties to pinpoint their potential voters, the waverers and those who are in the rival camp, so there’s often no point in spending valuable campaigning time knocking on doors. But even the best data are never complete or fully up-to-date and some uncertainty always lingers.
For Sarah Sackman, a Labour Party candidate for the Finchley and Golders Green seat, there is often another indication of the identity of the people behind the door: Roughly one in five of the homes in the constituency has a mezuzah posted on the right side of the entrance.
“When I knock on that door,” she says, “I’m aware that Israel could well be an issue.”
Finchley, in North London, is one of the most iconic of the 650 seats in Parliament: For decades it was the constituency represented by Conservative leader and three-term Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. For decades it was regarded as a “safe” Tory seat. Then came the centrist Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Conservatives lost Finchley for three consecutive elections – a sign of how low they had slipped in the public’s estimation.
But Finchley and Golders Green isn’t just another bellwether seat with name-recognition: According to the census, it is the most Jewish constituency in Britain, with that community accounting for some 22 percent of the voters. This election, according to the polling, it is also turning out to be one of the closest contests of the entire election with challenger Sackman and incumbent Mike Freer running neck-and-neck. And since the gap in the polls between the two main parties on the nationwide level is still extremely slim – Finchley and Golders Green could be one of the decisive races.
Surprise on both sides
This wasn’t originally expected to be a “marginal” – a closely fought seat that might change hands. In 2010 Freer won the seat back for the Conservatives with a respectable 5,800 majority. Of Labour’s list of “target seats” needed to win to wrest back power in Westminster, Finchley was only number 89. A poll which came out a month and a half ago showing the two candidates on an equal footing was a surprise for Labour as much as it was a shock to the Tories. Resources and volunteers were poured by both sides into the constituency, which has now become a key battleground. Even Prime Minister David Cameron turned up to help boost the campaign in a seat his party thought it could easily win.
How has Labour, which generally has failed in this campaign to achieve much of a breakthrough in the affluent suburban neighbourhoods like Finchley, turned things around here?
Most observers have pointed to the 30-year-old Sackman, a lawyer who began planning her campaign for the seat two years ago, after successfully representing residents fighting the closure of a local library, as the main factor in Labour’s surge. Sackman and an energetic group of volunteers have focused their campaigning on local groups, communities, schools, assisted-living facilities. Thanks to a long-term ground operation, they have succeeded in creating a situation where, according to surveys, 65 percent of residents had been contacted by Labour, nearly double that by the Conservatives.
“What we’ve done here is of course good in itself but it’s also good politics,” says Sackman. “We’ve given people a reason to listen to us. We were able to mobilize hundreds of volunteers. People were motivated because we sorted stuff out here that mattered to them.”
But while the bread and butter of politics is usually the local concerns of the voters, Sackman knew she would have to answer questions from many prospective constituents on Labour’s positions regarding Israel.
While her supporters say she was selected for the seat at such a young age due to her dynamism as a campaigner, it’s impossible to deny that in the most Jewish area in Britain, her background is a plus. In addition to that, much of her family and her husband’s live in Israel, Sackman clerked for four months at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem and she peppers the interview with Hebrew slang.
“The fact is that in a place like London, people in the Jewish community often care about Sderot and Tel Aviv as much as they care about places much closer by. I admit that it sometimes diverts attention from things that a local MP can affect. I can’t really have much of an influence over foreign policy at this stage,” she admits.
But such discussion is unavoidable and the Labour candidate says that “talking about Israel is one of the most difficult challenges of the campaign” – especially as many in the community view Labour’s leader, Ed Miliband, as not being supportive enough of Israel.
Sackman’s rival, Freer, has worked hard to present himself as a staunch supporter of Israel. Last year when Parliament voted on a Labour motion to recognize a Palestinian state, the Conservative position was to be absent from the vote. Freer was one of a tiny handful of MPs who defied the party line and voted against. As a result he had to resign from his junior ministerial position, but in doing so he endeared himself to many of his Jewish voters.
“Being Jewish and having so many connections to Israel gives me the space to talk about this issue with nuance,” says Sackman. She also believes that most of the people who won’t vote Labour because of the party’s more critical positions on Israel wouldn’t have been Labour voters to begin with.
“To the credit of the community the Jewish intellectual imagination has always gone beyond the parochial. We always had thinkers who had a universal perspective and I think in London we also shouldn’t be parochial as a community,” she explains.
While Finchley boasts some of the wealthiest streets in London, Sackman stresses that there are also pockets of poverty in the constituency.
“In Golders Green,” she notes, “one in every four children is living in poverty so you have microcosm here, and it’s the same with the Jewish communities.”
In a meeting a few days ago with residents of a Jewish old-age centre, the main focus was on the low wages of the carers who couldn’t afford to live nearby, Sackman says: “There is everything here from the most Haredi to strong Reform synagogues which are focused on social justice. So there’s also the whole range of opinions on Israel, and Jews with every kind of political opinion.”
And as if to prove her words, the next door Sackman knocks on, one with a mezuzah next to it, is answered by a woman with a very Jewish name who informs her that, “I’m voting Labour but my husband won’t be voting because there’s no candidate who is a proper socialist!”
Jewish Labour candidate Sarah Sackman. Screenshot from YouTube.
British Jews are plagued by a troubling question this election. Is the Labour leader Jewish enough? Does he have loyalty to the tribe?
By Toby Greene and Yossi Shain, Ha’aretz
May 05, 2015
The upcoming British elections are perhaps the hardest to predict since World War II. The real chance that Ed Miliband could become the first British prime minister of Jewish origin since Benjamin Disraeli in the late 19th century throws a spotlight on the complexities of the “Jewish question” in Britain today and perhaps in Europe as a whole.
The fact that Miliband is Jewish is apparently irrelevant to most British voters. A survey commissioned by Prof. Tim Bale at Queen Mary University in December found that 83 percent of the public said it would make no difference to their vote that Miliband was Jewish. Surprisingly, however, Miliband is losing support among British Jews. Despite making proud claims to feeling part of the Jewish community, his attempts to be counted by Jews as one of their own have been foiled by his positions on Israel.
The possibility of a Jew becoming British prime minister also brings an immediate paradox. After we have heard so many calls of alarm about escalating antisemitism in Europe, including in Britain, how could a British Jew soon be moving into 10 Downing Street? The immediate answer is that the warnings have not been about that kind of antisemitism. Jews in Britain rarely experience overt discrimination or exclusion because they are Jews. Indeed, they can be found succeeding in every area of British society.
It is hostility to Israel and its supporters that many Jews feel has become the acceptable mask for anti-Jewish prejudice — this is the “Israelization” of antisemitism. In other words, antisemitic rhetoric and actions from both Islamist and left-liberal circles are at times overlooked or justified because they are presented as a response to Israeli injustice toward Palestinians. This was starkly illustrated when a BBC journalist interviewing a French Jewish woman following the killings of Jews in a Paris supermarket suggested the parallel that “Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish hands as well.”
The deadly attacks on Jews in France, Belgium and Denmark have not reached the U.K. yet, but the question is nonetheless also being asked by British Jews. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, perhaps the most famous British Jew*, recently warned: “For Jews, ‘never again’ has become ‘ever again.’” And Danny Cohen, a director of television for the BBC, who seems to symbolize the success of Jews in British national life, said: “I’ve never felt so uncomfortable being a Jew in the U.K. as I’ve felt in the last 12 months. And it’s made me think about, you know, is it our long-term home, actually.”
A coded form of antisemitism?
Certainly the heightened antisemitism that Jews have been talking about has come mainly in relation to Israel and its conflicts. There is not much discussion in the mainstream British media about a “Jewish factor” when it comes to Miliband’s and Labour’s electoral prospects. It would risk breaching major taboos in Britain to suggest that Miliband’s ethnicity might keep him out of office. However, the old style of antisemitism has not been entirely absent.
Some commentators have asked whether frequent references to Miliband’s “awkwardness” are implicit antisemitic tropes. A writer in The Independent argued that the frequent criticisms of Miliband — “He’s not one of us. He doesn’t quite belong. He’s nerdy, geeky; he tries to act like a regular guy but fails miserably” — are antisemitic innuendos.
Even if Miliband himself suspects this form of antisemitism, he has never said so in public. After The Daily Mail published a profile of his late father, Marxist Prof. Ralph Miliband, under the headline “The man who hated Britain,” Miliband’s fury was focused on the idea that his dad was disloyal to Britain. He did not say a word about antisemitism.
In fact, Miliband never tried to hide his Jewish roots and spoke publicly about it on many occasions; for example: “I am not religious. But I am Jewish. My relationship with my Jewishness is complex. But whose isn’t?”
His parents were Jewish refugees from Belgium and Poland. Although their home was staunchly atheist, Miliband and his famous brother David, the former British foreign secretary, grew up with deep awareness of their Jewish roots, including childhood memories of visiting their grandmother in Tel Aviv, Yiddish phrases at home, and the taste of chicken soup.
Yet Ed’s wife is not Jewish and he is willingly photographed at home in front of a Christmas tree. A picture of him eating a bacon sandwich played a prominent role in the attempts of the Labour party to brand Miliband “kosher” for the voters.
In the run-up to the election campaign, Miliband has also presented his personal story as being the child of refugees who fled the Nazis penniless but succeeded in their new homeland. Miliband’s story does not project Jewish particularity. His Jewishness is woven into a more universal story representing humble origins, a connection to real people, and the possibility that immigrants can become patriotic British citizens. Miliband himself wrote an article about his identity under the headline “The Patriotism of the Refugee.” [New Statesman, 2012]
Miliband’s ‘Jewish’ problem
When in April 2014 Miliband visited Israel, he spoke of the Jewish state being the “homeland for the Jewish people.” During this visit he had political meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and a public visit to Yad Vashem, where he learned about his many relatives who perished in the Shoah. But even the high-profile visit to Yad Vashem spotlighted the universal themes of persecution. There was no photo opportunity at the Western Wall.
For British Jews therefore, there is a troubling question. Is Miliband Jewish enough? Does he have loyalty to the tribe? A recent survey commissioned by London’s Jewish Chronicle found that just 13 percent of Jewish voters consider Miliband a future prime minister who would be good for the Jews. The fact that British Jews have such little confidence in him is mainly due to his lack of passion for Israel.
The damage was done predominantly during Operation Protective Edge. While Prime Minister David Cameron stuck firm to Israel’s right to defend itself, Miliband attacked him for his “silence on the killing of hundreds of innocent Palestinian civilians.” He also backed a vote in the House of Commons on recognizing Palestinian statehood, and even addressed a meeting of the pro-boycott Palestine Solidarity Campaign. These actions painted him as disloyal for many Jews.
The Jewish community would surely view with suspicion any Labour candidate seen as unreliable on Israel, but to have a British Jew expressing such an attitude toward the Jewish homeland is for some too much to swallow.
Lifelong Labour supporter Maureen Lipman, a famous British Jewish actress, wrote a furious attack on Miliband’s criticisms of Israel. She vowed she would not vote Labour again until the “party is once more led by mensches,” alluding to the idea that Miliband is not a nice Jewish boy.
It seems that the majority of British Jews have established positioning on Israel as a key demarcating line defining whether one is truly inside or outside the tribe. On this measure, Miliband failed the test, at precisely the moment when Jews around Europe feel under heightened pressure due to the Israelization of antisemitism.
If in the end Miliband becomes the next British prime minister, he will exemplify the complexity of Jewish identity. At this point, his candidacy illustrates the dilemmas of Jewish politicians in the Diaspora. How Jewish can they be, and how much affinity or criticism of Israel can they show?
Prof. Yossi Shain, the head of Tel Aviv University’s political science department, is writing the book “The Israelization of Judaism.”
Dr. Toby Greene is a visiting scholar at Tel Aviv University and the author of “Blair, Labour and Palestine: Conflicting Views on Middle East Peace After 9/11.” @toby_greene_
Jewish voters betray Judaism if they focus solely on their community’s concerns.
By Elie Jesner, Ha’aretz
May 01, 2015
The Jewish story begins when a privileged Egyptian prince becomes sensitized to the hardships inflicted on the local slave people. Finding the imaginative capacity to sympathize with them, he eventually decides to liberate this people, irrespective of the cost to his own wellbeing. The ultimate lesson he repeatedly bequeaths to us through his Torah is simple – our fate is bound up with those who are suffering.
It cannot be stated clearly enough: Judaism stands for justice, compassion and equality of opportunity.
So I am deeply perplexed when people tell me that the only legitimate Jewish choice in next week’s U.K. election is to vote for David Cameron’s Conservatives.
And this is not mere anecdote. A recent survey found that only 22% of Jews are planning to vote Labour, with 69% backing the Conservatives.
This is a recent development, for in 2010 the Jewish population was roughly evenly split, with Labour on 31% and the Conservatives on 30%.
The popular account of this is that David Cameron has been a vocal supporter of Israel and the Jewish community, whereas the positions of Ed Miliband have been, in the eyes of many, far less friendly. There is, however, no evidence at all that Labour would respond any differently to the needs of the community, as their previous track record more than amply demonstrates. And questioning Israeli policy is very different from delegitimizing or demonizing it, which Miliband has absolutely not done.
But this election is not about Israel, it is about Britain.
It is about a country where the shape of society is changing, where it is becoming increasingly unequal. And this is the fundamental question in this election: Is one happy about this or does one wish to change it?
Inequality has blighted much of North-east England, leaving swaths of derelict houses (above in Middlesborough, one of the poorest boroughs in England) while suffering from an acute housing shortage. Below, Elmbridge in the Surrey stockbrokers’ belt, the richest area in England outside London.
Inequality is different from poverty. Helping those in poverty sounds like an optional good deed, and may well be something one does through private means and donations. Perhaps one feels that politics is not the arena in which to be charitable.
Inequality is to do with the distribution of wealth and opportunity in society, which can be measured and tracked statistically. And it appears to be moving in only one direction.
This structural issue is not something that any one person can affect through charity; it is something that only government has the power to tackle.
Only the state can counterbalance the indifferent neutrality of the market economy. Only the law can prevent people being dominated by powerful corporate interests.
And everyone is affected by inequality.
As shown in the 2009’s “The Spirit Level,” unequal societies do worse on nearly every measure. This is because inequality heightens the sense of competition and aggression between people, and makes us relentlessly insecure about the ways we live and the futures we can look forward to.
Inequality is what makes us uneasy when we worry about providing education and health care for our children, about the sorts of opportunities that await them.
The Conservatives have not really engaged with this, sticking to the tired mantra that wealth will somehow trickle down to help everyone.
Wealth, like power, has a tendency to concentrate. Once you have some, it becomes a whole lot easier to get more as demonstrated in Thomas Piketty’s “Capital.”
Having wealth allows one to make riskier investments, to employ economies of scale, to undercut the profit margins of competitors. It will often bring influence and access that create subtle but significant advantages.
The only way to tackle this phenomenon is to focus on taxing wealth, as opposed to income. This incentivizes work, whilst reducing the negative and demoralizing effects of aggregation.
This is where the idea of a mansion tax comes in.
There are certainly problems with the mansion tax. It is not clear, for example, why one should tax property rather than other forms of investment.
That said, it is nonetheless a step in the direction towards a society where more people have a chance, where one’s starting point in life doesn’t wholly determine one’s fortunes.
From a Jewish point of view, one could claim that it doesn’t go nearly far enough. In the Biblical vision, the entire nation’s wealth would be reset every 50 years, via the Jubilee mechanism. Everyone would start again with equal opportunities, whatever the misfortunes and errors of their fathers.
The mansion tax may not be good for Jews, but it certainly has good Jewish pedigree.
For the many Jewish voters in the Finchley and Golders Green constituency, a further twist in the tale finds Labour’s candidate Sarah Sackman to be a committed Jew and a lover of Israel. Sarah explains her own considered perspective by reference to a famous teaching of Hillel that her grandfather drummed into her: “If I am not for me, who will be for me. But if I am only for me, what have I become?”
She interprets this as charging us with a sense of civil responsibility, with ensuring that one’s politics never become solely about the protection of narrow interests.
And it seems to me that the community would do well to reflect on Hillel’s point. Whilst concern about Israel and the community are certainly admirable, if they are all we can worry about, then, truly, what have we become.
Moses didn’t turn up his nose at those less fortunate, but with courage and faith he managed to change the course of human history, in ways that have echoed and reverberated across the centuries.
To be a Jew is to demand no less of ourselves, and to rise to the challenge of in some small way perfecting our world.
Elie Jesner is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist in London, and an educator at a variety of communal institutions. He has a background in philosophy and Jewish thought, having studied at Cambridge University, The University of Warwick and Yeshivat Har Etzion. His website is thinkingpsychotherapy.com and he blogs atthinkingdafyomi.com.
Awkward nerdy Ed with students at the Hebrew university, Jerusalem, April 10, 2014. Photo from Hebrew University
The issue British Jews should vote on next week (hint: it’s not Israel)
For voters who insist on taking Israel into their considerations, the choice is clear. They have to vote Labour.
By Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz
April 30, 2015
For some British Jews, the positions on Israel of the parties and candidates in Thursday’s general election will greatly influence the way they intend to vote. I don’t know how wide that tendency is, but the candidates themselves seem to think it is significant. In their interviews with local Jewish media and appearances before Jewish audiences, they all speak extensively on the issue. This is sad because without exaggeration, this is the most important British election of a generation and the Jewish community has much more acute concerns closer to home.
Deep divides over British (and English, Scottish and Welsh) identity are coming to the fore. The national attitude towards immigrants and minorities as well as Britain’s place, or lack of it, in Europe are all at stake here. All of these matters are of huge importance to the Jewish community. And I haven’t even mentioned the impact the parties’ radically different policies on economic and social matters will have on Jewish families and schools. On the other hand, the identity of the next man living in 10 Downing Street will have very little effect on Israel and the Middle East.
Britain is occupied with its internal turmoil, and despite the outsized role Israel often plays in its media, there is little a British prime minister will be able or interested to do in the region over the next five years. He will have too much on his plate between preserving the United Kingdom, the near certainty of another referendum on Scotland down the road, and keeping the U.K. a viable part of Europe.
That said, if some British readers are convinced that Israel should be part of their considerations when they arrive at the polling station, then the choice is clear. They have to vote Labour.
Why Miliband is better for Israel
I know, David Cameron is probably the most pro-Israel prime minister in history and he wears his admiration for the Jewish state and belief in the justice of its actions bravely on his sleeve. And yes, Ed Miliband is often so painfully awkward in coming to terms with his own Jewishness, so much more careful when endorsing Israel, and is openly critical of many of its policies. Every time I’ve heard the suave and urbane Cameron speak about Israel to a Jewish audience, I felt around me the warm and comfortable atmosphere spread throughout the room. Miliband on so many issues sounds anguished and conflicted; when it comes to Israel, too, he is much less reassuring. Which is exactly why he is ultimately the better friend for Israel.
Faithful Christian Mr. Cameron offers the UK’s support to Israel in response to ‘appalling’ attacks carried out by Hamas. Friends like this feed ‘the moral rot of the occupation’. Photo by Reuters
Miliband is no closet anti-Zionist. When you hear him speak of the sanctuary Israel gave his grandmother after the Holocaust, there’s no doubting his sincerity. Yes, Cameron’s backing has been valuable in many ways, but Israel needs true, critical friends more than it needs another Western politician strengthening Benjamin Netanyahu’s resolve to continue doing nothing to end the moral rot of the occupation of another people.
It would be helpful if Miliband would speak out more forcefully and often against the creeping Judeophobia on the margins of the left-wing, masquerading as anti-Zionism. That doesn’t change the fact that British Jews, and Israelis as well, should be listening to his honest criticisms. Instead it seems some of them are intent on holding a pauper’s version of the sordid affair last weekend at the Venetian casino in Las Vegas. Prospective Republican candidates prostrated themselves at the feet of Sheldon Adelson and competed over who could utter the more unhinged expressions of support for the Jewish state, totally disregarding the real problems it faces.
If you want a good reason not to vote for Miliband, then his position on Israel certainly isn’t one. The real question mark looming over his strength of character as a leader is the disgraceful way he acted during the vote on Britain’s participation in the strike on Syria after the Assad regime gassed to death hundreds of its own citizens in September 2013.
Miliband talks proudly of his parents who found refuge from the Holocaust in Britain, and how the country offered them not just survival but an opportunity to succeed and prosper. He claims that his family’s experience has formed his views over how to preserve and build British society, and that is certainly commendable. But in defeating the government over the Syrian attack, he spurned another British legacy. One that was commemorated this week at Bergen-Belsen, the German concentration camp liberated 70 years ago by the only army that fought through the entire six years of the war. The doubt over Miliband’s strength of character to forego political considerations and confront totalitarianism – and, for that matter, the doubt over Cameron’s as well, since he has also ultimately abdicated British responsibility for the world’s troubles – is much more important for Jewish voters than their positions on Israel. Both men now face a greater test on home turf.
Of course, there is no moral equivalence between the mass-murderous tendencies of the Assad regime and the relatively genteel varieties of nationalism now competing on the right and left of British politics. But if there is a real long-term threat to the viability of the Jewish community in Britain, as well as that of other minorities, it is not a slightly less pro-Israel government in Westminster, or the occasional outbreak of low-level anti-Semitic incidents perpetrated by a small minority of Muslim citizens, worrying as those may be. The real threat is in the breaking up of Britain and its transformation into two parochial, xenophobic, insular societies, heralded by the rise of the Scottish National Party and the United Kingdom Independence Party. Jews have never prospered for long in such environments, and the fact that the SNP and UKIP are miles apart on just about every issue doesn’t mean they don’t pose a joint threat to British values of tolerance and openness, and to every minority community.
The shame of Jews voting UKIP
I doubt more than a tiny handful of Scottish Jews are even considering a vote for the SNP, especially considering that the majority of them, who live in the Glasgow suburbs represented by Labour’s embattled Jim Murphy, would never forsake such a true friend of the Jewish community in his hour of need. But south of the border, there is the shame of Jews planning to vote UKIP, under the deluded impression that a party which exudes open antipathy towards Muslims can somehow be an ally of the Jews. A poll carried out two weeks ago for the Jewish Chronicle suggests that less than 2 percent of British Jews will vote UKIP, which is bad enough. Hearsay and anecdotal experience suggest the numbers could be higher.
This fatal attraction, however, underlines how much the nationalism creeping over Britain should be the main concern of the overwhelming majority of Jewish voters, who would never dream of voting UKIP or SNP. There are reasons to doubt the resolve of both main candidates in facing this. Miliband is unlikely to be prime minister without the tacit support of the Scottish Nationalists. Cameron is flirting with UKIPpers, repeating his dangerous promise to hold a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union. Which of these two will be capable of overcoming petty political considerations and keeping Britain together as the open, hospitable nation that became home to so many minorities, including one of the most successful Jewish communities in history? That should be the main question occupying the minds of British Jewish voters next week.
Some famous British Jews, 2015
* Jonatha Sacks ‘the most famous British Jew’? We don’t think so, though it does depend who you mix with. Surely some if not all of the public performers listed below are more widely known in the UK than is Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
Sacha Baron Cohen (born 1971), comedian (eg as Ali G, Borat and Brüno)
Steven Berkoff (born 1937) actor, writer and director
Lionel Blair (born 1931 as H. Lionel Ogus), actor / dancer / entertainer
Claire Bloom (born 1931), actor
Helena Bonham Carter (born 1966) actor
Eleanor Bron (born 1938), actor
Joan Collins (born 1933) actor, writer
Daniel Day-Lewis (born 1957)
Fenella Fielding (born 1927) stage, TV and film actor, (eg Doctor films).
Rebecca Front (born 1964), Comedy actor (eg Nicola Murray MP in The Thick of it)
Stephen Fry (born 1957), comedian and actor
Andrew Garfield (born 1983), film and stage actor (eg Biff in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Broadway)
Henry Goodman (born 1950), actor (ego Sir Humphrey Appleby in the stage version of Yes, Prime Minister)
Anthony Horowitz (born 1956), author
Howard Jacobson (born 1942), author
Lesley Joseph (born 1945), actor (eg Dorian in Birds of a Feather)
Felicity Kendal (born 1946, convert to Judaism), actor (eg The Good Life)
Mark Lester (born 1958, Mark Letzer) actor, child star eg Oliver!, Run Wild Run Free.
Maureen Lipman (born 1946) film, tv, stage actor
Miriam Margolyes (born 1941), actor
Warren Mitchell (born 1926), actor (eg Alf Garnett in Til Death Us Do Part)
Sophie Okonedo (born 1969) Academy Award-nominated actress (Hotel Rwanda)
Tracy-Ann Oberman (born 1966), actress
Robert Peston (born 1960), BBC news business correspondent
Daniel Radcliffe (born 1989) actor (eg Harry Potter)
Esther Rantzen (born 1940), TV presenter, creator of Childline
Jay Rayner (born 1966) broadcaster and food writer
Michael Rosen (born 1946), poet
Andrew Sachs (born 1930) German-born English actor, (eg Manuel in Fawlty Towers)
Jane Seymour (born 1951), film and TV actor (eg Cathy Ames in East of Eden, Bond girl Solitaire in Live and Let Die)
Antony Sher (born 1949), actor, diarist
Tom Stoppard (born 1937), playwright
Clive Swift (born 1936), actor, (eg Richard, husband of Hyacinth Buckett in Keeping Up Appearances)
Rachel Weisz (1970–) film and stage actor (eg The Constant Gardner, Streetcar Named Desire)
Zoë Wanamaker (born 1949), actor
David Warner (born 1941), actor (eg Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment, Jennings in The Omen)