Katie Price

Attacks on Chasidim are attacks against us all

For all our differences with the strictly Orthodox, they are part of the community and need us

December 22, 2022 15:46

The Hebrew concept of “kevod habriyot”, meaning “respect for (God’s) creations”, can mean that one may fundamentally disagree with a neighbour yet respect and advocate for their rights.

This phrase is sometimes used to pre-modify views on Israel, disagreeing with its government but supporting its right to exist. But its relevance closer to home — in N16, specifically — seems to have been forgotten.

According to Home Office figures, Jews are the target of 20 per cent of the total number of religious hate crimes.

We are more than four times more likely to be targets than any other faith group, with an average of over three hate crimes directed at Jews every single day in England and Wales.

I use the term “we” intentionally here, knowing my audience. But whilst I, a reform Jew living very much in the modern world, have experienced my fair share of antisemitism, I am not the primary target of this increase in attacks.

The primary target seems to be those more “visibly Jewish” than I, despite my Magen David, curls and Diet Coke. The primary target is the Chasidic community.

I’ve long since understood that due to several core tenants of my identity, I’m never going to be warmly welcomed by the Chasidim. I’m a 26-year-old unmarried lesbian living with gentile (male and female) friends in South London.

I wear shorts at any opportunity, spend Shabbat telling jokes to audiences across the country and my last trip to Stoke Newington was a “trip” by two definitions.

I have worked for organisations both in Britain and Israel who support those who have left, or are contemplating leaving, insular strictly-Orthodox Jewish communities in their quest to lead self-determined lives, be that for reasons of sexuality, mental health, or sheer intellectual curiosity. So, it’s safe to say that the Chasidic community and I are hardly kindred spirits.

But, to return to “kevod habriyot”: the Chasidic community needs our help and it needs it now. They are the ones who end up taking the brunt of our attacks.

It is entirely possible — and, I would argue, important — to argue for the Chasidic community to be more tolerant of LGBT people and encourage greater educational prospects, particularly for women, as well as disagreeing with them on other key issues.

Most JC readers probably do.

But what we must not forget, in those differences, is that these are the very people who are often first in the firing line of violent antisemitic attacks.

And an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. Last month, “visibly Jewish” men, women and children were attacked with alarming frequency in their community.

The case that shook me most was that of a young boy riding his bicycle outside his family home who was left with cuts, bruises and torn clothes after being knocked to the ground by a passer-by spewing anti-Jewish racism.

This deplorable attack on a child cut through the statistics and opened my eyes to the inhumanity shown to the Chasidic community.

That is why it is up to those of us who are on the outside to ensure that we show our solidarity with our fellow Jews — to volunteer with security organisations, to listen to what the community needs and to call out any prejudice against the Chasidic community in both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds.

We must remember that solidarity is not just a privilege awarded to those we agree with.

An attack on one of us is indeed an attack on all of us.

December 22, 2022 15:46

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