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‘you Don’t Have to Be Jewish’

November 9, 1976
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Every Sunday morning thousands of Jews here switch on their radios and prepare to listen to a half hour of Jewish, music, discussion and humor on Radio London. The audience represents only a part of London’s 200,000 Jews, but many of them have become devoted followers of Michael Freedland, who began the program five years ago.

It is entitled “You Don’t Have To Be Jewish” and Freedland claims that half the 300,000 people who tune in are non-Jews. His program started shortly after the BBC introduced local high frequency broadcasting in the London area. It is produced with the cooperation of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. However, it is in no way a tool of the Jewish establishment and also steers clear of the more parochial controversies.

Over the past five years, Freedland has hosted a distinguished collection of speakers, from former Premiers Harold Wilson and Golda Meir to Lord Samuel, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Leon Rosten. Although the program lacks a truly mass following–because of wavelength rather than quality–it has become accepted as part of the London Jewish scene and there would be a shrill outcry if it were to go off the air.

As well as covering the local scene, it keeps listeners in touch with the rest of the Jewish world with just the right mixture of levity and solemnity. Freedland himself is best when interviewing Jewish entertainers. This is natural because of his special interest in them. He is currently writing a study of Jewish entertainers to place alongside his books on Irving Berlin, Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker.

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