People are being attacked in the street because of their nationality, colour and their religion. This would be unsettling at any time but particularly now because the perpetrators feel that their hateful views are legitimated by political circumstances.
Following the EU Referendum in June there has been a 41 per cent spike in racially or religiously-motivated offences. The UK has long been a tolerant, inclusive society and that is how it should remain. That is why the Board of Deputies is throwing its support behind #BetterThanThat campaign, which was launched last week in Parliament – a cross-party initiative to confront hate crime which is supported by more than 20 organisations from a variety of communities.
For Jews, life is – in general – very good in the UK. Britain is a diverse and caring home, and we are a long-established and vibrant community here.
We also know what it is like to experience hate, anti-Semitism, and division in society and carry that history with us. This is why we are worried, not just for our community but for our country.
In this atmosphere of uncertainty, fear, and divisiveness, it becomes a duty of communal and faith organisations like the Board of Deputies of British Jews to promote messages of unity, mutual respect and to engage in work that tackles the root causes of hate.
The Board of Deputies will always call out anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia wherever it occurs, without fear of favour, whether targeted at Jews or any other group.
When Polish and other migrant communities were attacked in the streets of the UK, we spoke out:
“Everyone, including European Union citizens and other minorities resident in the UK, has the right to security and protection from hate speech. The Jewish community knows all too well these feelings of vulnerability and will not remain silent in the face of a reported rise in racially motivated harassment.”
When incendiary remarks were made by Kelvin MacKenzie in the Sun, in which he said that it was wrong for Channel 4 news presenter Fatima Manji to report on the Nice terrorist attack because she was wears a headscarf, we spoke out again. Such comments drive a wedge between Muslims and others, and remarks like that are utterly unacceptable.
Education is also a priority. Prejudice will not whither through law and order alone, but through proactively educating minds across the generations.
To this end, the Board of Deputies has a Jewish Living Experience exhibition which travels the country enabling both young and old to gain an insight into Judaism as a living faith. We also run a Jewish Volunteers Schools Network where Jews go into schools to meet pupils of all ages and faiths – often in places where the children have never seen a Jew before.
We cannot do this work alone, and know that success is only possible when we work together, with partners from across the political, religious, and national spectrum. Only through collaboration can we achieve this goal of community cohesion to make it clear that the UK is no place for anti-Semitism and hate.
Be assured that in the Jewish community and in the Board of Deputies, this country has friends willing and ready to work and fight to make that possible.