‘Antisemitism has no place in society’ says Prince William

Future King and Queen ‘extremely concerned’ about antisemitism on UK campuses


29/02/2024. London, UK. Prince William speaks with Renee Salt, 94, a Holocaust survivor at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue and then joined a conversation with young Ambassadors of the Holocaust Educational Trust who are advocates against hatred and antisemitism. In the context of considerable increase in antisemitism in the UK and worldwide, His Royal Highness heard how organisations like the Holocaust Educational Trust are delivering programmes to tackle hatred and encourage cross community cohesion. Picture by Andrew Palace / Kensington Palace

The Prince of Wales said today that “antisemitism has no place in society”.

Prince William told Jewish students: “Both Catherine and I are extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism.”

His Royal Highness met students, members of the Jewish community, a Holocaust survivor and Holocaust Education Trust ambassadors at Western Marble Arch Synagogue on Thursday morning.

During his visit, the Prince of Wales joined a conversation with the young ambassadors, who are advocates against hatred and antisemitism.

His Royal Highness heard how organisations like the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) are delivering programmes to tackle hatred and encourage cross-community cohesion.

The engagement was originally planned to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day, and The Princess of Wales was due to be in attendance, but it was postponed due to the Princess’s surgery.

The visit marked the first public appearance of Prince William since he pulled out of the memorial service for the late King Constantine II of Greece, which was on the same day that news broke of Prince and Princess Michael of Kent's son-in-law Thomas Kingston’s death.

In a conversation with three Jewish students and three HET ambassadors, Prince William condemned the antisemitism that the students described experiencing on campus: “Prejudice has no place in society,” said the heir to the throne.

“I've said it before and I'll say it again — I want you all to know you can talk about it and your experiences.

“Both Catherine and I are extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism that you guys have talked about this morning and I'm just so sorry if any of you have had to experience that.

“It has no place... that's why I'm here today to reassure you all that people do care and people do listen and we can't let that go.”

The President of the Union of Jewish Students, Edward Isaacs, told Prince William that there had been an “explosion of antisemitism”. Edward said: “if you haven’t been a victim, you know someone who has been. It has created a fear like never before.”

The Prince of Wales asked Edward: “How do you go about helping and supporting each other during those moments and talking about it?”

Edward described how the UJS team supports over 8,000 students across 70 JSocs.

Jewish university students told William about experiencing death threats, physical assault,

and the desecration of Jewish property on campus.

Emma Levy, the president of Leeds JSoc said, “there is a constant environment of fear and looking over our shoulders.” Emma referred to the graffiti on Leeds Hillel House and the incident a day later when two Jewish students were verbally assaulted on their way to synagogue.

Levy described the situation: “It’s constant, never-ending and dehumanising.”

Prince William asked the young people: “For some of you, is this the first time you have experienced antisemitism, or have you had to live with this for most of your lives? Does it come and go in terms of volatility?”

Emma said: “It’s never been like this before.”

President of the Edinburgh Jewish Society, Elie Glaser, described the “social isolation” caused by antisemitism on campus.

Prince William asked: “Does the university itself support you? What are they doing to help the situation?” Elie said her university had helped but that some fellow students had not been supportive.

During the conversation, Edward Isaacs recalled that he had spent “a good year and a half of my time at university dealing with antisemitism.” Edward referred to the disgraced former Bristol University lecturer, David Miller, who smeared Bristol JSoc when he called it an Israel "lobby" group.

The UJS president said: “Allyship has been really lacking and we are grateful for your presence today.”

One sixth-form student, Gabrialla, told Prince William that she was looking at which university to go to after her A-levels, based on campus security for Jewish students.

William inquired about Jewish students in European universities and also asked, “What do we need to do to stop this [antisemitism] happening?”

William recalled his visit to Stutthof concentration camp in 2017 and he also spoke of his trip to Yad Vashem in Israel: “I went there, it was very moving, you can’t help but be moved when you’re there. It is everything right in front of your face, very graphically.”

Prince William said he was grateful for the opportunity to travel and educate himself about antisemitism.

“Education is so important, and I'm very lucky that I get to travel, but a lot of people don’t. A lot of people live in their silos, in their echo chambers on social media and they don't have different influences. They don't have anything else.”

William went on: “They might not have anyone that they know who’s Jewish, they might not have anyone they know who is from all parts of the world. It's so important that we break out of those boxes.”

Ambassadors from the Holocaust Education Trust referred to their life-changing experiences with the charity that teaches young people about the Shoah.

Many of the Holocaust Education Trust (HET) ambassadors are not Jewish, and the Chief Executive, Karen Pollock CBE, told William that students are equipped with the tools to combat Jew-hate when they are confronted by it.

One ambassador, Meg, said she has chosen to study the Holocaust at university. Another ambassador, Jonathan, told William: “You don’t really know how implicit antisemitism can be.”

The ambassadors referred to the use of language and criticised “the word ‘genocide’ being thrown around”.

Karen Pollock said: “Terminology [is] being thrown about in a deliberate or lazy way.”

The Prince of Wales asked the Jewish students about “anxiety” around antisemitism: “Is that a trigger? Does it take all of you back to what happened in the Holocaust?”

Pollock told Prince William that the Shoah was a “collective trauma”.

The Prince of Wales was shown around Western Marble Arch Synagogue by Rabbi Daniel Epstein and his wife Ilana, who have headed up the Shul since 2021.

Upon entering, Prince William recalled his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth’s, visit to the shul. “My grandmother was here in 1997.” There is a plaque in the entrance hall commemorating the late Queen’s visit.

Mrs Epstein said the community was “so excited” by Prince William’s visit.

The rabbi’s wife showed Prince William along the Hartog Gallery, which displays stained glass designed by David Hillman, the uncle of the president of Israel. The rabbi drew William’s attention to a 1901 letter to Edward VII, with a memorial prayer from the community after Queen Victora's death.

In conversation with the rabbi, his wife and Karen Pollock, Prince William spoke about his desire to watch the Bafta-winning film, The Zone of Interest.

In the shul, Rabbi Epstein took Prince William onto the bimah, where he was shown a 17th-century Sefer Torah, opened on Deuteronomy. Rabbi Epstein showed The Prince of Wales a psalm in which King David tells Solomon about the duties of a King. The rabbi also indicated to His Majesty the laminated prayer for the royal family, which is said every Shabbat in most synagogues in the UK.

The Prince of Wales then sat with Holocaust survivor Renee Salt for a one-to-one conversation.

Renee, who lives in Hendon, was nervous about meeting Prince William, but William put her at ease and said: “I only ask easy questions, I promise.”

Born in Poland in 1929, Renee told Prince William about her imprisonment in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen. Renee later married one of the British officers who liberated the concentration camp.

Renee told the Prince of Wales about her concerns that “some of the young people don’t even believe it [the Holocaust] ever happened. It is very bad.”

Addressing the horrors of the Holocaust and contemporary antisemitism, William took the hand of the 94-year-old survivor and said: “It will get better.”

Renee has written a book about her story, which will be published next year. The Prince of Wales said: “I’m going to try and read that”, and other guests assured him that he would be sent a signed copy.

Renee told William how sorry she was to hear about the ill health of the Princess of Wales and wished her well. As he left the synagogue, Karen Pollock presented His Majesty with flowers and a card for Princess Catherine.

Speaking after the event, Pollock told the JC: “It is an extremely powerful message to hear the Prince of Wales says that he stands with the Jewish community and say that there is zero tolerance for this sort of hate, for this anti-Jewish hate and that he wants to help, and he wants to listen.

“The time he gave to these young people who have experienced antisemitism and the enthusiasm and encouragement he gave to our young ambassadors is going to be something that they never forget. It sends a strong and powerful message.

Sixthformer Gabriella said Prince William’s words were “welcome and powerful” and Emma Levy said: “You could really tell that he cared when he was speaking to us,” adding: “The Prince’s unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism is what we need more people to do.”

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