Tower Bridge and the River Thames, London.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – Britain’s former chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, has described the current level of anti-Semitism in the UK as at an all time high, with Jews feeling anxious.
“After what happened in Paris, you are beginning to get British Jews asking, ‘Will I be safe going to synagogue or going to a Jewish shop? Will my children be safe in a Jewish school?’ ” Sacks told Sky News.
“I hope it will dissipate soon, but there can be no doubt that there is an anxiety now among British Jews, which is pretty much at a record high within my lifetime,” he said.
Sacks explained that, however hard one tried to “eradicate the virus of hate, it kind of mutates and it hangs around.” He said it is very disturbing that, after the Second World War and the Holocaust, the whole of Europe is engaged in a massive anti-racist campaign, with a Holocaust education campaign, and a community cohesion interfaith dialogue campaign. “That these attitudes still persist must be a worry.”
However, Sacks later told BBC Radio that the most recent survey showed that the overwhelming number of Jews in Britain feel safe and that it remains one of the most tolerant societies on Earth.
Asked to illustrate the feelings of Anglo Jews, Sacks said that in Jewish areas of London during the last fortnight there had been “a very visible police presence, so Jews going to synagogue see all these police and it makes them anxious. They can see that something has changed internally. Our security level has risen, but the truth is we have been aware of this as a kind of background noise for many years” Praising the work of the Community Security Trust (which arranges security for the community), he added, “I think we are pretty used to it, we are well prepared and I would say this is well under control.”
Sacks also disclosed to Sky news that “a lot” of French Jews had moved to Britain “because they feel so much safer here”.
Meanwhile reports of other anti-Semitic daubings emerged over the weekend. In the Tower Hamlets part of East London the words “liars” and “killers” were seen on a poster advertising a local Holocaust Memorial Day event on January 27th, and Jewish students at Birmingham University were upset at the appearance of swastikas and anti-Islamic slogans found on a wall of a student dorm.
A Union of Jewish Students spokesman said that, in the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it was “abhorrent” to find that the lessons of the Holocaust had not been learned.
“Jewish students have the right to walk around campus free of intimidation and free from hate,” he added.
Edgbaston Police Sgt. Pete Sandhu said that mindless hate of that kind has no place in Birmingham and “work was under way to find those responsible.”