Amy Winehouse Reflections

Sunday, 24 July, 2011 - 10:42 am


I can hear you ask, why am I getting involved in sensational tabloid journalism. As a Chabad rabbi serving Jewish students, I consider this matter close to home. This is not an attempt to use the news to attract readers to my blog. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts.

The weekend news has been sobering.

Fanatical extremism has once again raised its ugly claws, this time snatching close to a hundred innocent lives in Norway, mostly youngsters enjoying a summer break. It’s unlikely the world will ever get its head around what motivates a radical terrorist to gun down innocent children in cold blood, though tomorrow this brutal murderer will ‘calmly explain to the court why his actions were a necessity’. The world will gasp again, and then it will recede to the recesses of our memories; until terror strikes again.

Fatalities in Texas because an angry human happened to be in possession of a gun. Despite this further loss of life, many colleagues and co-religionists across the Atlantic will probably continue campaigning for less restrictions on gun ownership.

Amy Winehouse has passed away. Unexplained, but all signs indicate persistent drug abuse.

Many facebookers have questioned why, after the awful tragedy in Norway, Amy even deserves mention. Her loss was caused by a chosen path of self-destruction, and an adamant refusal to access the support that was offered her by those who loved her so much. So why the big tzimmus?!

Firstly, when a Jewish girl loses her life, whether because of illness, terrorism or self-destruction, it should resonate within the community she is part of. Even if her association may have been nominal and she sat on the periphery, contributing little or nothing to said community, her community owes it to her soul to reflect and remember.

As I am good friends with a close acquaintance of Amy’s, with whom I spoke earlier today and I know that he is pained by her loss, it has hit home personally. Though obviously it would be unreasonable for me to expect the same feelings from those who don’t share a mutual friend.

But above all, to me, her tragic final years of life, and her unfortunate death, are not so much about her but about what she represents.

Exchange Amy’s name with any other. Choose a girl you know from a hard-working family in North London. Give her the challenges that she will inevitably face when she leaves the safety of her family home. ‘Somename’ will likely strive for success in the arts, whether painting, music or singing. Or she’ll go to a university somewhere in the UK, where she’ll study anything from Psychology to Politics to Architecture. Likely somewhere like Sussex, Kent, Southampton or Portsmouth, where I serve as Chabad rabbi, or elsewhere in the UK where one of my Chabad on Campus colleagues is located.

There she’ll struggle for meaning and depth in life. For independence and a carefree existence that she thought life would so readily offer her. There she’ll find parties, alcohol, nicotine, coffee, drugs of all classes, late nights, social stresses, academic stresses, internet addictions which will include a range of inundating social networking sites, and a whole lot more.

While all of this is going on, in all probability her parents and family will be deriving huge amounts of pride, assuming she’s using her hard-working and conscientious personality to the maximum. Why else is she always exhausted; too busy to speak; too busy to visit and never a free moment to relax.

Mind you. Come to think of it. She may well be a He.

He or She will likely mature, either in the face of or as a result of the experience. Possibly, but not necessarily guaranteed, he or she may well give up on the drug addictions and settle down to a reasonably stable life; job, spouse, kids.

(There’s no knowing if the experience will leave its traumatic mark on his or her mental psyche, because few are prepared to be honest about the devastation this lifestyle can inflict. Suffice it to say that many have emerged seemingly wholesome).

And then there are the Amy’s. Lost in the vicious cycle of desperate yearning for an elusive meaning in life. Struggling to overcome the inner torment which life has left in it’s wake. Friends, security and serenity all so vague and distant. And yet the whole world angrily declares that the answer sits at his or her fingertips, and accusations of self-destruction and masochism are amplified with surround-sound.

The addictive comforts found in the range of substances and opportunities will soon become a part of the fabric of the twisted, overwhelming life that is his or her share. They’ll quickly graduate from recreational use to full blown abuse, taking hold of one’s mental and physical state until they become fully in control of their unfortunate victim. He will go in and out of psychiatric wards; she’ll gravitate from one therapist to the next. There’s a chance that someone caring will take control, and teach him or her to take control again. If that caring individual never shows up, then he or she will die.

Even if you didn’t know this Amy, statistically, it is highly probably there’ll be another Amy soon who you may well know and love. So whether you’re sparing a thought to day for ‘Amy Winehouse’ or for all of the Amy’s of the world, reflection is certainly in order. Say a prayer and think of someone lost and lonely who can benefit from a phone call or visit from someone who really cares. If not in her memory, then in the memory of the poor children of Norway, for whom, to be honest, I highly doubt there’s much you can really do.

Comments on: Amy Winehouse Reflections

So true! wrote...


Natalie Salem wrote...

very well articulated :) it runs way deeper than a sensationalised tabloid story..