Home Secretary Theresa May gave assurances that Jews would continue to enjoy freedom of religion in the UK and practices such as shechitah would remain safe under the present government.
In a well-received speech at the Board of Deputies dinner at the Mansion House last night, she pledged her determination to combat antisemitism, incitement to hate and the influence of extremist preachers.
Mrs May said that although there were some in Britain who wanted shechitah banned, “I can assure you they will not succeed” .
The government would do “everything we can to ensure that Jewish people can practise their religion safely, without incurring any disadvantage – like being required to work on holy days such as Shabbat” .
(Some observant Jews have complained that they have been denied job seeker’s allowance because they would not work on Shabbat).
While Britain had come out better than most countries in a recent EU survey on antisemitism, she noted that “even here, two thirds of Jewish people think that the situation for them has worsened in the last five years…
“One in five report that there are places they avoid in their neighbourhood because they do not feel safe in them.
“That level of anxiety is clearly far too high, and we badly need to reduce it.”
In response, the government could “make it clear that we will not tolerate antisemitism in any form and we will zealously protect the right of Jewish people to follow their religious practices and customs” .
It was “shocking” that Jewish schools had to be fitted with shatter-proof glass because of the extremist threat, she said.
Mrs May said that she had excluded more foreign “preachers of hate” from Britain than before and that since 2010, 18,000 separate pieces of terrorist propaganda had been removed from the internet.
She was “glad to see” that more universities were starting to understand the importance of taking action against campus extremism and she praised the Board’s role in opposing it.
Hate preachers, she said, “must be prevented from spreading their poison in any public forum in Britain”.