Chosen by Giles Fraser review – confessions of a priest

Chosen by Giles Fraser review – confessions of a priest

The Guardian

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In this absorbing memoir-cum-history of the rift between Judaism and Christianity, the former canon of St Paul’s reveals how exploring his Jewish roots saved him from depression

In October 2011, Giles Fraser became front-page news. St Paul’s Cathedral was surrounded by scores of Occupy demonstrators. The City of London wanted to evict them but as it was uncertain whether the land belonged to them or the cathedral, they sought the permission of the dean and canons. The chapter were divided but the casting vote of the dean led to the eviction of the demonstrators. Giles Fraser resigned on the grounds that the church should not use force to defend its buildings, especially when the cause of the protesters was such a just one.

Fraser then went into a deep depression, his marriage of 20 years fell apart and he seriously contemplated taking his own life. By chance, on the way to be interviewed for a new job as dean of Liverpool, he decided to look in on the synagogue on Princes Road of which his great uncle had been rabbi. It was a moment that started a long process of healing. It led him to explore his Jewish roots, about which he knew nothing. The family had come from the Russian Pale of Settlement in the early 19th century and joined other very poor Jews making cheap clothes for sailors in Portsmouth. Eventually, one member of the family, his great-uncle, got an education and became a successful and loved rabbi. But as Jewry as a whole in the 19th century assimilated and adopted the style and pattern of Anglicanism, so his own family became so assimilated that his father was baptised, though apparently without the least religious conviction. In due course, Fraser himself developed a deep Christian conviction and became ordained.

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