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Dr. Lionel Kopelowitz

One of the great benefits of old age used to be that you could say whatever you wanted in public and nobody minded. Not any more, as former Board of Deputies of British Jews president Dr. Lionel Kopelowitz discovered when he used his minute of rage at the podium on May 28 to say that it’s time to use the Hebrew meaning of anti-Semitic Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s last name – Korban (altar sacrifice) and “sacrifice him for all the trouble he has caused.”


Jews have enjoyed punning Hebrew words off the sound of foreign languages. I spotted the earliest such effort in I Kings, where the villainous Phoenician wife of King Ahab, Jezebel, whose real name was most likely Z’vul (judge, god, as in the name of the tribe of Z’vulun) – and the Jewish authors changed it to Eezevel, meaning an island of garbage. Other famous puns include Am Reik (empty nation) for America; and Rasha (wicked) for Russia. Nowadays we have Hamas, which in Hebrew means violence.

Here’s the thing (two, actually): puns are never as funny as you think they are when they first ring in your head; and Jews may be the only people with a real sense of humor out there, so watch out when one of your puns makes it out of the closed room…

Indeed, the horrified nice lady running the BoD forum hastily reminded the elderly former leader: “We are being live-streamed.”

Lionel Kopelowitz will be 93 in December. The last time he was live streamed was probably on one of those lovely Thames tributaries we all remember from Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat. But Kopelowitz did get that he had made a bad one, took his cane and quickly shuffled off stage, even as the nice lady was reminding everybody else that they were being live-streamed.

He has since apologized for his statement, adding that he did not mean to suggest carrying out a physical attack on Corbyn. “I deplore political violence and I am sorry that I phrased this so inelegantly,” Kopelowitz said. “I would hate for my own clumsy rhetoric to be erroneously understood as any sort of vindication of this alarming trend.”

June was a very busy month (just leaf back and see for yourselves), so very few news outlets reported the incident, also because everyone in the business knows that puns are bad news.

See how I punned right there? That’s what I meant. One news source did pick up this ball and tried to run it upfield – an outfit calling itself Palestine Revolutionary United Front 48.

So 48-PROOF (which to my understanding of alcohol ratings would put it at 24% – a jolt but not a big jolt) put the Twitter clip and put it on YouTube with the accompanying text:

“A former president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews has called for Jeremy Corbyn to be ‘sacrificed.’ […] Lionel Kopelowitz said: ‘The word Corbyn is a very suitable one for him, after Corbyn in Hebrew is ‘korban,’ which is a sacrifice. And I think we should sacrifice him for all the trouble that he has caused.”

So far so good, and then the 48-PROOF folks cited a comment from Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, a fellow who must have been sent upstairs without dinner so many times because of his sense of humor he finally left it in the attic. How do we know? Because back in 2017, he wrote an op-ed for Haaretz titled: “I’m a British Jew, and I Don’t Fear a Corbyn Victory. I’d Welcome It,” with the immortal quote inside: “But what we don’t have in the UK is an anti-Semitism crisis.”

Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead / Free Gaza movement via Flickr

And Prof. Rosenhead waved a fiery sword over Lionel Kopelowitz’s aging head and declared (remember, sense of humor still up in the attic): “Human sacrifice is defined as ‘the act of killing one or more humans, usually as an offering to a deity, as part of a ritual.’ What sort of god does the BoD’s Senior Past President wish to appease?”

I’m going with the god of putting the gents rooms closer to the conference rooms; failing that, there’s always the god of pizza.

Stay indoors, and remember, in this hellish weather, don’t serve your revenge dishes until they’re really cold.

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