How a small band of activists took the lead

How did a small group of previously unknown activists arrange Britain’s biggest Jewish rally of the year in less than a fortnight?

That was the question being asked by demonstrators on the pavements outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Sunday.

Three weeks ago, at a meeting organised by communal leaders to discuss Gaza conflict responses, campaigner Mandy Blumenthal had her concerns dismissed by Board of Deputies president Vivian Wineman. Yet in the sunshine on the Strand, it was Ms Blumenthal who took the microphone and opened the event while Mr Wineman was repeatedly booed.

Birmingham-based Ms Blumenthal is now a leading figure in the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) set up at the start of August.

It grew largely out of social media activity among those who felt more should be done to promote the Jewish community’s concerns.

Gideon Falter, a former Warwick JSoc president, conducted Sunday’s rally. During the conflict he wrote a piece on Facebook and was surprised to see it shared online hundreds of times.

When the Tricycle Theatre’s boycott of the UK Jewish Film Festival was announced, Ms Blumenthal, Mr Falter and others decided to act.

One CAA supporter said: “They made it happen. It wasn’t the same old people doing the same old thing.”

The CAA’s small advisory committee liaised with senior communal organisations, including the Office of the Chief Rabbi and the United Synagogue, which offered early support in the planning of the rally.

Grassroots groups in the United States have enjoyed similar success; they come up with the ideas, and the mainstream groups back them financially and logistically.

After Rabbi Mirvis said he would appear, groups including the Jewish Leadership Council quickly backed the CAA initiative.

Within a week the organisers had lined up influential speakers and managed to unite disparate groups.

CAA’s success shows how social media is increasingly empowering individuals unaffiliated to any particular organisation, while the community’s leaders find they hold less sway than ever before.

Last updated: 9:27am, September 4 2014