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Am I Nuts or Is An Education a Jew-Bashing Polemic?

The Oscar-nominated film serves up a giant helping of anti-Semitism.

by
Carol Gould

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February 24, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Do I live in a parallel universe or am I the only person to find the British BBC feature film An Education anti-Semitic?

I appreciate the story is based on the true-life experiences of Observer journalist Lynn Barber and that her bestselling book of the same title is regarded as a classic tale of coming of age in 1960s Britain, but is it not also a relentless polemic about the seven deadly sins all wrapped up in a tawdry Jewish package? A close friend and colleague described it to me as “Der Sturmer wrapped in a sweet teen pic.”

What is fascinating is that many reviewers ignore the Jewish element and describe the film as a delightful teen tale that reminds the writers of their respective youth. GQ calls it “a sly and sexy treat” while the Sun deems it “gymslip love.” Still another, the Daily Mail, calls it “big in heart,” and Sky Movies calls it “a gem.” New York touches on the Jewish angle. Without a doubt it is a well-made, entertaining, and at times gripping story of a teenager, Jenny, caught up in a romance with a man, David, old enough to be her father and her liberal parents’ acceptance of this unconventional affair.

The script makes us aware at the outset that David is a Jew and Jenny’s parents accept his presence in her life even if he is one; this I found heartwarming considering the anti-Semitism underlying many elements of British society in the 1960s. (Indeed, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has described present-day Britain and Europe as being in a “tsunami of anti-Semitism.”) What I found disturbing was the progression of the Jewcentric story, which shows David engaging in despicable act after despicable act. He and his cohort Daniel smart-talk old ladies and then leave their homes having stolen expensive artwork; Jenny screams at him that this is stealing but he has no scruples. David the Jew tenancy agent, in a scene shot from a long distance but depicting a large Jamaican family being moved into a house by him as a distraught-looking homeowner gesticulates in protest, installs black tenants into properties he wants to purchase and accordingly forces the price down. (He takes after a rogue landlord in Britain at that time named Rachman, but if David is the only example of Jewish property speculators, that is a pity.) David is a wide-boy and bounder (this is Britspeak for lowlife confidence-trickster and peasant-class social climber); as Jenny’s parents manifest increasing awe, he forges a C.S. Lewis signature to the girl on a Narnia volume and boasts of his cultivated Oxbridge (Oxford-Cambridge) background, evidently another lie.

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