Making antisemitism awareness more accessible to Catholic schools

Campaign Against Antisemitism rally against antisemitism (Jewish News)
Campaign Against Antisemitism rally against antisemitism (Jewish News)

“Jews cannot fight antisemitism alone. The victim cannot cure the crime. The hated cannot cure the hate.” As the child of an Austrian refugee, these words of the late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks were a clarion call to me.

But it took five Christian leaders, two who saw the need to combat antisemitism and three who initially did not, to provide the catalyst for me, working with Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), to write ‘Love thy Neighbour’, a resource for teachers about antisemitism and prejudice.

This story starts at Bolton Council’s Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) event in 2016, where I spoke about Kristallnacht in Austria. As I sat down, a Monsignor sitting next to me asked: “What about the Palestinians?” I was taken aback: what relevance did this have to HMD? I rang the Monsignor the next day to inform him about the resurgence of antisemitism. He suggested I contact Rev Canon Anthony McBride, Episcopal Vicar for Education in the Salford Roman Catholic Diocese.

At first, Canon Tony was not convinced that antisemitism persisted. I then played him a news item on my phone showing the security measures at King David High School in Manchester – the high fences, the security guards, the roof cameras. That shocked him.

Canon Tony introduced me to the new Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford, John Arnold. I felt quite intimidated as I drew up outside his official residence, the medieval Wardley Hall. Bishop Arnold too was not convinced that there was a current problem with antisemitism, and I was starting to see a trend. Mounting anti-Jewish racism was news to him. I suggested bringing a delegation of Jewish community leaders to Wardley Hall to see the Grade 1 listed building and have a Q&A session with the Bishop. I invited the local MP, Ivan Lewis, Joy Wolfe of the Zionist Central Council, David Arnold of the Council of Christians and Jews, and others. They all explained the situation very clearly and the meeting was a success. I presented Bishop Arnold with a copy of Jonathan Sacks’s book The Dignity of Difference, which he eagerly clutched to his chest.

I later took a group of Whitefield Hebrew Congregation members to marvel at the Hall and see its most prized relic – the skull of St Ambrose Barlow. I believe it’s important for faith members to learn about each other’s faiths if prejudice is to be beaten.

Thanks to Bishop Arnold I was able to deliver lessons on antisemitism to around 100 Catholic schools. I became so at ease in Catholic schools that icons became more familiar to me than Magen Davids! I also discovered, to my delight, that Judaism is the second religion taught in Catholic schools, and it is taught to a very high standard.

Subsequently, the Anglican Canon Steve Williams of the Manchester Council of Christians and Jews introduced me to the Manchester Church of England Religious Education hub. The chairman, Maureen Hogarth, had really grasped Rabbi Sacks’s message and suggested that I turn my lessons into a guide for teachers. She advised that many teachers do not know how to teach about antisemitism, and a guide would enable them to do so.

A guide would mean that, rather than pupils hearing about antisemitism from me, and only in the schools I manage to visit, much larger numbers could learn about anti-Jewish racism – and from their own familiar teachers.

With the support and input of CAA’s brilliant outreach and education team, I was able to create a polished and professional resource that is now available to teachers around the country.

The guide includes modules on diversity and tolerance, prejudice, stereotypes and scapegoats. There is also an introduction to the Holocaust, as well as examples of modern-day racism in the UK and race hate in the world. Because it is vital to keep up to date with trends that young people understand and experience, the 2021 updated version includes modules on Black Lives Matter, conspiracy theories and Tik Tok, and the accompanying PowerPoint slides include clips from well known personalities like Emma Barnett, David Baddiel and Maajid Nawaz.

We continue to look for ways to maximise the guide’s relevance and utility. There are Roman Catholic, Church of England, and, as of this autumn, non-denominational versions of ‘Love thy Neighbour’, all endorsed by BBC Teach. The guide is also used in Department of Education projects.

This project is just one of CAA’s initiatives, and I’m thrilled to be part of an organisation that has helped me to bring these guides – and my vision – into being.

Like David Baddiel, I believe anti-Jewish racism is too often overlooked. My dream is for these lesson plans – which complement the other brilliant educational initiatives by organisations across our community – to be used nationwide, so that antisemitism is overlooked no more.

I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to make education about the Jewish community and antisemitism more accessible to the wider population.

In January I will be speaking at Oldham’s HMD event. I wonder who I’ll be sitting next to then!

About the Author
Judith Hayman is Outreach Presenter at Campaign Against Antisemitism
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