Fixing Britain’s broken heart after the Manchester attack

What a city Manchester is. Diverse, dynamic and defiant, all its best attributes were on display in the aftermath of this week’s terrible attack.

There were the examples of pizza gifted from local restaurateurs to busy journalists, the local Sikh community distributing drinks to attendees at the poignant vigil, and the selfless efforts of local people who helped emergency services on the night itself.

As I write this, there are still 13 individuals unaccounted for. We count a similar number this shabbat, when we read Bamidbar, Numbers.

In this week’s parsha, every name in the census of the Israelites is read in acute detail – first names, parents’ names, family names, the tribe they belong to.

We read out the names of our loved ones in detail, and in doing so learn that no one – wandering in the desert, or grieving for a loved one – is alone or forgotten.

That is why the vigil in Manchester was so poignant and so important.

Together, the people of Manchester, and of Britain, are defiant against the backdrop of a sombre reality.

When I asked the imam of the Manchester Central Mosque what his first thoughts about the attack were, he responded that he thought immediately of his own children.

What horror did those young people who attended Monday night’s concert experience?

As a rabbi, my main concern for the coming days, in addition to praying for the wounded and the mourning, is keeping communities together.

Visitors to the Central Mosque, who had come from Oldham, explained that an attempt to firebomb their mosque had been made within hours of the Manchester attack.

We need to ask ourselves how we stay together as a British tribe. We must decide how we tackle a toxicity whereby my tweet that received the most ‘likes’ – announcing plans to visit a local mosque – also attracted the most vile anti-Muslim hate.

Monday was a terrible day, and tragically the suffering for some of those involved will never end. But the day after, and the day after that are what we make of them.

Seeing Manchester turn out in defiance, in all its reality, diversity and humour, set an example to us all, of how we respond to awful tragedy.

Manchester came together as a wounded tribe. May we all follow that city’s example.

About the Author
Rabbi Janner-Klausner grew up in London; worked as an educator in Jerusalem for 15 years working with Jews and as dialogue facilitator trainer of Palestinians and Israelis. She is the former Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism in the UK and is now a qualified inclusion and development coach
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