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Why did Vanessa do it?

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2005-10-14

Vanessa Feltz

Vanessa Feltz

No matter how irreligious you may be, the chances are that you will still acknowledge Yom Kippur – the Day Of Atonement.

Whether you fast or you don’t, whether you go to Shul or whether you simply choose to stay at home and reflect on the year gone by,whether you’re a secular Jew or a practising one, the majority of Jewish people will at least mark the day in some way. For many, it’s a day when they will refrain from their usual activities – going to work, watching TV, using a computer or texting on mobile phones.

This year, I decided to ask some non-Jewish friends to let me know of any Jews in the media they came across who were working on the day.

I have an issue with this because if you work in the media and are openly Jewish, then you are setting an example not just to other Jews but to non-Jews who see you as a representative of the Jewish community (whether you like it or not), and get their knowledge of Jews through you. If they see you working on Yom Kippur they may assume other Jews do that, and that it’s appropriate to be seen making money on this holiest of holy days.

So I was rather taken aback to be informed that Vanessa Feltz – the former talk TV show presenter and now BBC London morning show host – was fronting her live programme as usual on the morning of Yom Kippur. By contrast, her colleague Jono Coleman didn’t appear to have done his show, and over at LBC, nor did afternoon show host David Prever.

Which leaves me asking just why Feltz felt it necessary to broadcast her show on Yom Kippur?

Maybe she forgot it was Yom Kippur – but for somebody who has always been very open about her Jewish heritage, it’s disappointing that she felt the need to take to the airwaves, when many other successful Jewish media figures managed to take the day off.

If she were not openly Jewish and kept schtum about her religion and culture, then it would be another matter entirely – but when you’re exploiting your background to the extent that she has, you have a duty, however small, to realise that other people may judge other Jews by the standards you are setting.

I appreciate Feltz is freelance and not doing her show would mean losing a day’s pay – however there are plenty of Jews in the media who are also freelance and wouldn’t think twice about turning down work on Yom Kippur. This is the one day in the year that every Jew, regardless of affiliation, should down tools. Even if you don’t do so out of a religious nature, it’s a day of reflection about your past year and what you’ve done, and the year to come. Surely it wouldn’t have been so difficult for Feltz to do this for one day, since there are 364 other days in which to make money?

Maybe Feltz went to shul after her show finished at noon? Maybe she didn’t. But if you identify with being Jewish, one thing you don’t do is a live show on Yom Kippur. It just sends out the wrong message to not just your own community, but to non-Jews. I’m sure the BBC would not have minded her taking the day off, and getting a replacement for her slot.

After all, many Jews work at the corporation and take the day off without any problems – in fact, cultural diversity is positively encouraged at the corporation.

So why, in the face of all this, did Feltz do her show?

Vanessa, was it really worth it just for a few hundred quid? If not doing a show meant not getting paid for the day, then I’m sure someone would have bailed you out with a cheque for the amount. Next year, let me know and I’ll personally write you a cheque.