Skip To Content
Back to Opinion

Defending Lord Sinderby

I write in support of Lord Sinderby. Surely you’ve seen his character on “Downton Abbey”: more dour than Carson the butler, more rigid than Lord Grantham, Sinderby is a self-made Jew who is implacably opposed to his son’s marriage to a non-Jew. On the very morning of the wedding in a registry (no church or synagogue would have them), he makes it clear to his love-struck son that he doesn’t want him to marry outside the faith.

The timing of this conversation is terrible. I’ll admit that. It should have happened as soon as the son, Atticus, started fawning over his dear Rose.

But Lord Sinderby has a sincere point that can’t get lost in all the sneering.

“Our family has achieved a great deal since we came to this country. Not just for ourselves, for our people,” he begins. “We have a proud history and we’ve taken our place among the leaders of this land. And now you want to throw all that away for this little shiksa!”

Lord Sinderby’s pretensions to elegance are matched by his inelegant choice of words, I’ll grant that, too. But he goes on to remind his son that, good intentions aside, his grandchildren won’t be Jewish: “The second Lord Sinderby may be Jewish but the third will not. And soon our family will be one more British dynasty with all the same prejudices as everyone else.”

Despite the growling, I feel for the guy. He has a right to ask his son not only about love but also about obligation to family and faith. He has a right to ask his future daughter-in-law to become Jewish or at least to commit to doing her part to carry on a precious tradition.

Love conquers all in this ridiculously addicting series, and anyone standing in its way is depicted as heartless. So it is today. But if progressive Judaism is to be sustained, we need to learn how to ask uncomfortable questions, without resorting to a sneering script.


Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.