When I was young my parents taught me the word ‘hate’ is a very strong word and should not be used lightly. Those words always stuck with me and they are words I now repeat to my children.
But the reality is my children are growing up in a world where they will learn the word ‘hate’ could be applied to them – because of their religion.
The Holocaust ended just 27 years before I was born.
But growing up in Leeds the Shoah and pernicious anti-Semitism that accompanied it was history – the history of the Jewish people and a small part of my own family’s past.
My great aunt Ruth’s family had hosted kindertransport children in Bradford. Great uncle Heinz fled Nazi Czechoslovakia and eventually ended up in Yorkshire.
The terrible history of our people becomes for many of us, myself included, part of our DNA.
But what do we say to our children now that it’s not just history?
Of course there has always been anti-Semitism. However ,in my lifetime it has never been at this level and on the rise.
I don’t want to be alarmist – I’m not predicting or anticipating a resurgence of fascism the likes of which nearly destroyed the Jewish people.
But the hate is among us and it frightens me.
My oldest child is only eight and doesn’t yet know about anti-Semitism.
But it won’t be long before he loses his innocence.
As he attends a Jewish school he will be learning about this hatred – I suspect almost subliminally.
He hasn’t asked me yet why there are four security guards at the gates.
But he will.
He hasn’t asked me about why children at Jewish schools have to practice hiding under their desks or running inside if there is a lock down – but he will.
And what will I say?
Will I tell him that anti-Semitic incidents in London rose by 62 percent between the first six months of 2015 and 2016?
Will I tell him that a recent survey found one-in-10 voters believe Jewish people have too much influence in the UK?
Will I tell him that last week a speaker at a parliamentary event compared Israel to Islamic State and suggested Jews were to blame for the Holocaust?
Will I tell him the Archbishop of Canterbury believes the “virus” of anti- Semitism is “deeply entrenched “ in British society?
It’s one thing growing up with anti-Semitism as part of your cultural and family history – but what will it mean growing up with it very much in your present.
What impact will it have on my children? Will they grow up in fear?
Will they grow up feeling ostracised, threatened and unwelcome, becoming ever more segregated from the rest of society?
Perhaps it won’t mean any of these things. Perhaps I hope this is all a blip and I am worrying for no good reason.
But the worry fills me alternately with fear and with sadness.
Fear of course of any future attacks on our community and sadness that this is the reality for Jewish children – my children – growing up in 21st-century Britain.
I teach my children to treat everyone with equal respect and tolerance and that no one should be pre-judged by their looks or beliefs.
Is it too much to hope for the same courtesy to be extended to them?