Jay Stoll

My family’s fear over grave desecration

May 26, 2016 09:47

With the formative years of my career spent in student politics, public affairs, and now as a parliamentary assistant, I have become relatively well-versed in the various guises of antisemitism.

I have had swastikas daubed on my property, suffered online abuse following media appearances, and faced political antisemitism from opponents in elections. These incidents were infuriating, but looking back, I would never describe myself a victim. I believe a victim to be voiceless, to be without support, or to be lacking redress for what they have suffered.
The manner in which our community treats victims has always been a source of pride, not least when someone we know suffers a bereavement. Whether it is the shiva or the reverent silence as mourners recite Kaddish in the synagogue, there is an unwavering respect with which we afford the dead and the people they loved the most.

When I heard that Blackley cemetery in Manchester had again been the target of vandals , I felt a sudden surge of anxiety and upset. I scrambled for my phone and messaged my family to double-check where our relatives were buried. Sure enough, my mother confirmed that a large number of our relatives rested at Blackley.

Within a couple of hours, we had established that our relatives had been undisturbed. My Dad visited the site to check, and the “good” news was shared with the rest of the family.

This ending was a relief, but given the upset we felt over the incident, we have now committed to more frequent visits to Blackley. We have chosen to do this out of respect for the family’s memory, but would we have come to this decision if we did not fear their stones would be attacked in the next incident? I’m not so sure.

In 2016 Britain, we find ourselves as a community that educates children behind security perimeters, that plans event logistics in near secrecy, and that will now have to revisit procedures to protect our dead. It is a shocking indictment of any civilised country that a minority community has to fear attacks on its burial grounds.

The thugs responsible are anything but mindless. We must treat these incidents as though they were organised attacks on our living. Our families must be allowed to rest peacefully, and these cowards should be brought to justice.

Jay Stoll is Senior Parliamentary Assistant to Tulip Siddiq MP

May 26, 2016 09:47

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