Neighbours attack ‘barbaric’ brit

An elderly woman living in sheltered housing has been threatened by an anonymous letter over her plan to hold her great-grandson's brit milah in her flat.

The letter was sent to Shirley Shad, of Norman Harris House, Southend, after she had told her neighbours about the impending circumcision.

Signed "The Residents", the mis-spelt note read: "It has been brought to my attention that you and members of your family are planning a savage and barberic ceremony [sic] on these premises. I will bring to your attention that myself and other members of Norman Harris House will never allow this savage act to go ahead. You will be stoped [sic]."

Mrs Shad acknowledged that the letter had "made life a bit awkward", but went ahead nevertheless and decided to publicise the case "to show how ignorant and small-minded people are."

Staff of the Careline service of South Essex Homes, which manages Norman Harris House, went into the building asking residents whether they had any opposition to the ceremony.

An SEH representative said: "We will refer the case to the Hate Crime Panel. The perpetrator will also be visited once the complainant has been interviewed, and depending upon our investigation, appropriate action will be commenced."

Rabbi Yossi Simon, the mohel who performed the brit, said: "Despite the letter, Mrs Shad was adamant that she would stand up for the carrying out of the commandment of the Torah - and it was a heimishe bris."

Rabbi Binyamin Bar of the Southend and Westcliff Hebrew Congregation, said the threat should be seen as an isolated event. "We haven't had any antisemitic incidents recently in Southend and relations with the wider community are excellent."

    Last updated: 1:08pm, November 6 2008