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Cambridge Jewish Society let us down over antisemitism complaint

The victim of antisemitic abuse at Christ's College questions the response he received from some Jewish students

    Christ's College, Cambridge
    Christ's College, Cambridge

    Many people helped us get to an amicable settlement with Christ's College, including Jewish academics here at Cambridge, Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW) the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC) and others.

    We are deeply grateful to them for their time, commitment and concern and it is because of them, and the real empathy of the College Master, Professor Jane Stapleton, that an injustice was undone and an apology issued.

    It appeared that Christ’s, at the time of the incident, did not have the structure in place to tackle our complaint. Had the institution been equipped, this would not have been a six-month process.

    We do, however, commend the college for, eventually, taking our claims seriously and reforming their internal procedures for handling such issues. Many large institutions would have ignored our follow-up request for additional attention to be given to our incident. Thanks to Prof Stapleton, Christ’s didn’t do that.

    There is, however, a thorn on the rose - the absence of the Cambridge University Jewish Society from the list of organisations that came to our aid.

    Sad to say, we were met with indifference from the JSoc, not to mention denial and even mockery from some quarters.

    It proved itself, at least to us, incapable, in this case, of fulfilling what is, I feel, ultimately the first duty of any Jewish community organisation - to provide a safe space for Jews facing abuse, and a loud voice to go on the offensive when you are under fire.

    Both of those were missing, and in the worst cases, we were derided as “attention-seekers”.

    This is not an indictment of the Jewish students at Cambridge. We have many friends who were concerned about what happened, and who supported us.

    That same support did not come from the JSoc’s leadership, however. The society appeared to have no mechanism for handling the situation. Indeed, its weekly newsletter ran a mocking parody of the attack we experienced.

    Why such a response? Was it insecurity of confronting antisemitism lest we be judged by our non-Jewish friends? Was it disbelief that antisemitism in its raw form could happen at Cambridge?

    We reached a solution with the university because the “adults” at the “serious” communal institutions stepped in. What a travesty that a student-led organisation run by intelligent, motivated and usually concerned individuals could not step up to the plate.

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