Leaders should lead
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This week’s front-page story is not something we ever thought would be published. The poll is not scientific; we simply approached 150 people randomly in the street. But it accurately reflects the overwhelming anecdotal evidence of recent weeks. Emphatically, that does not mean that 63 per cent of us are preparing to leave. But it is deeply shocking that the stench of antisemitism is now so pungent that so many in our community feel the question has to be asked. No wonder, when the government itself includes a party that refuses to take action against an MP who writes, ‘If I lived in Gaza would I fire a rocket? — probably yes’, and has a Business Secretary who will impose an arms embargo on Israel should Hamas attack it. That conjunction leaves no ambiguity about the LibDem view. But there is another feeling also current: of dissatisfaction, to put it mildly, with our communal leaders.
Where is the leadership? Where is the vigour? Where are the ideas? Last week, we revealed that some of our so-called leaders were refusing to make any public criticism of the Tricycle Theatre. The response is that our report was misleading because, in private, they were indeed angry. But that simply proves the point. They may well have worked hard behind the scenes to try to stop the theatre’s boycott. But the time for behind-closed-doors-whisper-whisper-let-your-elders-and-betters-sort-things-out machinations has long gone. It is simply not good enough for the Board to suggest that letter-writing, a few press statements and some secret meetings are the best they can come up with. When 63 per cent of a random sample of British Jews say they have thought seriously about whether there is a future for them here, leaders who pick up the phone to their contacts and hold behind-closed-doors meetings are an irrelevance. We need leaders who lead — and who speak not just for the community but to it.