Andrea Zanardo
The Zionist Rabbi your friends warned you about

There is antisemitism and it’s Elul

You know what you have done. Perhaps you are (rightly) ashamed of it. And this is a good start. You are aware (I hope) of how many people you have hurt: Jewish students, their families, and their friends. And because you are ashamed of what you have done, you would rather not talk about it. Yet, talk we must.

When the CST released a report revealing more than 120 antisemitic incidents in British Universities, you scoffed on social media. You always questioned the findings of the CST about antisemitism in the Muslim community and in the Far Left.

When an independent investigation exposed the hostile anti-Jewish culture in the National Union of Students, you rushed to cast doubts on the analysis. Instead, you pointed out the dangers that anti-Zionists, non-Zionists and critics of Israel (allegedly) are exposed to.

When Campaign Against Antisemitism, working together with Daniel Allington of King’s College, found out that more than 90% of British Jews believe that antisemitism in University is a problem, you went on social media -and on some Jewish publications- to point out that the methodology was inaccurate.

For years, you have been denying that there is a problem of antisemitism in British Universities. You have done it showing off your credentials and insinuating Islamophobic motivations -would you ever imply anything about a report about homophobia in Iran?

And, of course, you never fail to hint at some Zionist agenda. You always have to point out that not all Jews consider moving to Israel then they actually move. You know nothing of the challenges of stelling in another Country, so how easy to judge.

But guess what? There is a problem of antisemitism in British Universities.

David Miller, a man who claims that Jews are “over-represented in positions of power” and is currently working on a list of names of powerful Jews to expose, can count on the support of more than four hundred colleagues. They signed an online petition, claiming that he is persecuted by the Zionist lobby and should be allowed to spread his venom cloaked with the garb of sociology.

You were wrong.

And your attempts to downplay, to split between antisemitism and antizionisnm, to welcome the signatories of that petition “into the Jewish conversation”, your lectures to the Jewish Student societies to stay away from Israel engagement -for their own safety, of course!- have causes serious harms.

Those students trusted your dismissive opinions; they enrolled in British Universities. And have been victims of antisemitic attacks. Their families have spent their hard-earned money trusting that their sons and daughters could learn in a reasonably safe environment. And then these young men and women had to sit in classes in front of supporters of David Miller, For years.

See what have you done?

It’s Elul, now. Rosh Hashanah is behind the corner. This is the time of the year when we Jews – you know it- consider what we have done and its consequences. No one questions your good faith. But you have to face the results of your actions. And look at the list of David Miller supporters, how long it is. You have persuaded Jewish families that they do not exist or they are not harmful.

But they are. There’s no “theory of oppression”, as sophisticated as it may be, that can diminish the horror of hundreds of academics supporting a man who believes that resistance against Zionism is a value.

You can do teshuvah. You must apologise.

You certainly know one or perhaps more of the families who trusted your expertise. Even in these polarised times, you know how to reach out to another Jew with a more realistic assessment of the problem of antisemitism at British University. And I mean reach out in real life, not through social media, that old thing, a telephone call.

Show yourself that you dare to admit you were wrong. Because you were wrong, hundreds of times wrong. Each signatory of that horrid petition is one time you were wrong.

Dare to apologise.

It may be risky, I know. Your pals will laugh at you, they will call you a traitor, a friend of the enemy, a Zionist. Never apologise is a rule of politics, especially in your camp (and in the Far Right). But there are moments when Judaism (or Jewish values if you prefer) conflicts with the values of the political tribe you belong.

And in moments like that, we say, hineni, “here I am. I am a Jew; I know I made mistakes and have caused pain. But I am ready to amend, in the name of a tradition that teaches the power of saying and meaning: I am sorry”.

Do that call. Prove that you are a Jew.

And Shanah Tovah.

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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