'Security situation for UK’s Jews needs watching'

"Huge amount of effort goes into protecting Jews," Board of Deputies head says of Community Security Trust.

February 17, 2013 03:01
2 minute read.
Burning Jewish star (illustrative)

Burning Jewish star. (photo credit: UMIT BEKTAS/REUTERS)


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The level of anti-Semitic incidents occurring in the United Kingdom rose slightly in 2012, with 640 attacks, up from 608 in 2011.

While there has been some debate over the numbers – with some critics alleging that certain incidents were counted twice – Jewish leaders have been watchful.

However, speaking with The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Vivian Wineman, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the primary body representing that country’s Jewish community, said he did not believe the security situation was as bad as some made it out to be.

“It’s not drastic,” he said. “We are not in crisis, but the situation needs watching.”

Asked if anti-Semitism was getting worse, he replied: “I don’t know. 2012 is up on 2011, but 2011 is down on 2010, and 2010 was down on 2009. But 2009 was a record year.”

In order to protect the Jewish community, Wineman said the Community Security Trust, a protective organization, had mobilized some 3,000 volunteers.

“There is a huge amount of effort that goes into protecting Jews,” he said.

Moreover, Wineman, a former Peace Now leader, has expressed a preference for engaging in interfaith dialogue, saying the Board of Deputies did “an enormous amount” in its efforts to portray the Jewish community in a positive light.

“All parts of the community engage in interfaith dialogue,” he told the Post.

“The board is particularly involved in that [and] represents the community on interfaith dialogue. I’m the vice-chair of the Interfaith Network, which is an umbrella body which brings together all interfaith bodies in the UK.”

The Board of Deputies, he said, worked with Muslim and Christian groups and was especially active regarding Holocaust education.

Reacting to the tendency among some pundits to refer to London as “Londonistan” in reference to radical Muslim clerics operating there, the Board of Deputies president was adamant that the city’s Muslims “are largely South Asian and they are not particularly radical or anti- Semitic.”

“Let’s not exaggerate,” he said, admitting, however, that “there is a small minority who are anti-Semitic and a large minority who tolerate anti-Semitism, and that is a problem.”

A problem of its own that British Jewry must admit to, he said, was intermarriage and assimilation.

“One challenge is demography,” Wineman asserted.

“We have rising rates of outmarriage. The number of marriages being solemnized in shuls is falling and is falling particularly among the progressive elements.... It’s like in America.”

Despite this, he explained, one problem US Jews faced that was not present in England was alienation from Israel.

“The British Jewish community is very strongly Zionist and very supportive of Israel,” Wineman said. “Well over 90 percent of British Jews have visited Israel. Over half of British Jews go on the Birthright tour. They are often quite dovish so they are not always in agreement with the Israeli government, but plenty are. They’re quite divided.”

Yet unlike Americans, he said, “we don’t see a sort of disaffection among the younger generation.”

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