Britain is a wonderful home for Jews

As a PR man, my job is to take a long hard look at a business, organisation, country or situation and find the positive in it. Then it’s a matter of encouraging others to focus on the positives that define the entity in question rather than the negatives which damage it. Of course, managing the negatives is also of vital importance but focusing on negatives – never a good idea.

Some of my work is done within the Jewish community here, in Europe and beyond, and therefore what is written on the pages of the Jewish media matters a great deal to me and to my clients.

In the last weeks the Jewish media gave a great deal of coverage to the Director of BBC Television, Danny Cohen and his view that it is “uncomfortable being a Jew in the UK” and his questioning whether the UK can be a “long-term home” for Jews.

I responded first in the columns of the Jewish Chronicle.

Really, Danny Cohen, really? Yes, there is Anti-Semitism in this country, just as there is Islamophobia, Homophobia and gender inequality. Yet our community’s apparent need to embrace the role of the victim so enthusiastically, is increasingly troubling.

Are we truly victims? More so than any other minority group?

I recently attended the dedication of a strictly Orthodox girls’ school in Stamford Hill. Some seven hundred people, the vast majority of whom were very visibly Jewish, attended the event with no visible security. The organisers were proud and confident of their school and local MPs and other non-Jewish officials who participated were delighted to show their support and were clearly similarly proud of “their” school. Needless to say, the event was an unqualified success.

I could write endlessly about the wondrous academic achievements of many of our schools, just as I could write about the Jewish care- home group which is consulted widely by Government and the national media on a range of issues relating to the care of older people or about the successful lobbying campaigns for religious freedoms which are the envy of faith communities across Europe – but I think the point is clear. We’re doing pretty well.

Danny Cohen stands as a wonderful example of a smart, motivated young Jewish man who was able to rise up through the ranks, to one of the most senior positions at the BBC of all institutions, and found his heritage to be absolutely no impediment.

Does that not send a strong message in and of itself? I live, work, eat, shop, socialise and worship in London on a daily basis and I have never once felt uncomfortable doing so. Yet here is a man who has become one of the most successful and highest profile men in British media, suggesting that he might have to leave the country. I cannot help but think that his comments were at best, hyperbolic and at worst, a disingenuous attempt to reach for the victim card in pursuit of an easy headline.

Vastly disproportionate numbers of Jews have had similar success in the fields of politics, the arts, business and public life. We have a government that pays for our schools, a Prime Minister who hosts a Chanukah party at his residence, a twenty foot Menorah in Trafalgar Square, thriving shuls, schools, community centres, kosher restaurants, coffee shops and book stores. Isn’t it time to focus a little more on celebrating the great things about our community rather than wallowing in a negativity that might well sell newspapers but cannot be healthy for British Jews?

About the Author
Shimon Cohen is the founder and chairman of The PR Office a Public Relations Consultancy that specialises in the Jewish community and non-profit sector. He is the Campaign Director of Shechita UK