Be courageous and speak out against hate, Rachel Riley tells Jewish pupils

The TV star joined other big names to address a conference on antisemitism for Jewish pupils


Rachel Riley MBE, Konstantin Kisin, Emily Schrader talk during a panel discussion, hosted by StandWithUs UK's Yehuda Pink, March 28, 2024 (Credit: StandWithUs UK)

Rachel Riley has told Jewish pupils that they need to “be courageous” in their fight against antisemitism.

Addressing around 200 participants at the Swipe-Up Rise-Up conference on Thursday, she said it was “our shift now” in standing up to Jew-hatred.

She told them: “I’m British, 100 per cent, not Israeli. I support Israel in its fight against Hamas, and in getting the hostages home, and its right to live, but I’m British. This is where my home is, where my family is, and I’m going to stay and fight.”

The conference, hosted by StandWithUs at StoneX stadium, was the second annual event aimed at educating and empowering sixth form pupils to counter disinformation and antisemitism in person and online.

The students heard from a panel discussion featuring television personality and mathematician Riley MBE, comedian and best-selling author Konstantin Kisin, and American-Israeli journalist and human rights activist Emily Schrader.

Speaking later to the JC, Riley said she had been “completely shocked” by the speed and volume of antisemitic backlash October 7 had on British Jews.

She said: “Israel and British Jews are being lumped together and portrayed as devils. It’s the old-fashioned stuff coming back with new words, and I think a lot of people who hadn’t woken up to it before October 7 are now suddenly a deer-in-headlights, shell-shocked kind of aware.”

Regarding her own efforts in combatting antisemitism, she said: “If you put your head in the sand and don’t say anything, the problems are still going to be there.” She added however that there is “merit in taking breaks from social media too, putting your phone away for your own sanity. It’s so good for the soul.”

The conference opened with an expo featuring dozens of communal organisations which aimed to showcase the breadth of support available to pupils as they progress through education and beyond. The CST stall, for example, gave out reading materials including a Students’ Guide to Antisemitism: helping to identify and tackle antisemitism on campus. Art installations and a virtual reality experience were also on offer.

Afterwards, Emily Schrader spoke about how to identify antisemitism, the many forms in which it comes, resistance to it under the law, and tips for smart use of social media.

Also present were Mike Freer MP, Matthew Offord MP, Board of Deputies presidential candidates Sheila Gewolb and Phil Rosenberg, and London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden Anne Clark.

Offord told the JC that events such as this were “critically important” in educating young people on strategies to deal with hate, the support structures available to them and ensuring they know they have a community behind them.

He said: “Social media can be a problem because of how immediate it is. People say things in haste that they wouldn’t say to someone else’s face, and that can often border on or be antisemitic, racist, or just plain unpleasant. I think it is often wise to step away and not engage with someone online who makes outrageous comments.

“You see people, Members of Parliament, who sometimes just [spend so much of their time] online. I think it’s crazy because it’s frequently like talking to an echo chamber and with people who don’t [have your best interest in mind].”

He said he and his fellow MPs share the “deep apprehension and concern” of UK Jewry in recent months, “particularly on the Sabbath and other days when people are concerned about going into central London.”

Pupils were present from Jewish schools including JFS, Immanuel College, JCoSS, Hasmonean, and Yavneh College, and non-Jewish schools such as Harlington Upper School and Hampstead Fine Arts.

Yehuda Fink, Director of Schools and Youth Programming commented: “We are very proud to have made SURU an annual event. Particularly during this uncertain period, it is incredibly inspiring to see over 200 Jewish teenagers come together to unite against antisemitism with pride in their own identity. StandWithUs UK will continue to empower all generations to stand with Israel and their identity.”

Isaac Zarfati, StandWithUs UK Executive Director, added: “October 7 changed everything, and we are experiencing a 250 per cent growth in the demand for our work. Now more than ever, younger generations need to be equipped with the tools necessary to engage with Israel, to combat antisemitism and to counter misinformation wherever they may see it.”

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