London riots prompt Alyth question time

By Jessica Elgot, September 15, 2011

Alyth Synagogue members heard a black community perspective on the London riots during a panel debate at the Golders Green Reform congregation.

Levi Hall from Brixton Black Families Forum observed that "when young people have no faith in themselves, they turn against their own community. While your children were enjoying their summer camps, our children have little to do and little opportunity to grow as human beings."

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith chaired a panel also featuring Chief Inspector Simon Causer, responsible for crime and disorder reduction in Barnet, and Julie Pal, policy adviser to Barnet Council's chief executive.

They were quizzed on how fractured family relationships might have been a factor among the rioters, and what needed to be done by the government and local organisations in the aftermath.

The audience included Aubrey Rose, one-time Commission for Racial Equality vice-chair and adviser to the Scarman Commission which investigated the 1981 Brixton riots.

Rabbi Goldsmith organised the event because of the level of discussion the riots had engendered within the congregation.

"A theme that came up many times in the responses to the questions was the need to support families in bringing up children to respect themselves and their own communities," he said. "All the panel members agreed that poverty is not an excuse for violence."

Alyth's new social action co-ordinator Nikki Levitan was co-organiser. She noted that "as a relatively affluent community, we found it very difficult to understand the mentality of the rioters".

She was exploring the possibility of sharing leadership training for Alyth's youth groups with youth organisations in the poorest parts of Barnet.

Last updated: 3:16pm, September 15 2011