The past few weeks have shown yet again that tackling antisemitism must start with education

Something is very broken within our society when establishments designed to educate have become hotbeds of hatred


LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MAY 22: People take part in a Pro-Palestinian protest outside the Israeli Embassy on May 22, 2021 in London, England. Rallies in support of the Palestinian people have taken place across the globe during the recent eleven days of conflict between Israel and Palestine. Egypt brokered a ceasefire between Israel and the two main Palestinian armed groups in Gaza. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

November 02, 2023 14:53

Antisemitism isn’t a Jewish problem. The past few weeks have undeniably been a trying period for us all. We have grappled with a torrent of emotions, attempting to come to terms with the most horrific attack against our people while trying to support our family and friends.

It has been heartening to hear prominent figures unite in their condemnation of the abhorrent actions of Hamas and express support for Israel.

However, one of the most distressing aspects of recent weeks has been witnessing demonstrations openly celebrating the reprehensible acts of these terrorists and so accurately described by the home secretary as “hate marches”. There has been widespread coverage in the media of the record levels of antisemitic incidents reported to the police and CST.

In a meeting with Gillian Keegan, the Secretary of State for Education, I explained there were three key aspects that need to be addressed: security of the community, enforcement against extremists and education of wider society.

We were grateful for the increased security funding, the affirmative action taken by the police, and the letter from the secretary of state to all school leaders requiring that any expressions of support for Hamas are reported.

I would like to believe that the vast majority of British society values the fundamental principle that all faiths and creeds must be allowed to live their lives without fear or judgment.

However, in a matter of days our community has transitioned from feeling protected and assured to being nervous and exposed.

It is beyond comprehension that in 2023 a Jewish child should consider hiding signs of their Jewish identity. Imagine the uproar were any other faith group or minority to be given a similar directive.

Perhaps even more troubling is, under the guise of freedom of expression, the relentless onslaught of antisemitism seen in universities across the country.

Establishments designed to educate and envision the next generation have become a hotbed of hatred and intolerance. Something is very broken within our society when so called educators can herald the importance of diversity and, at the same time ,justify the victimisation of Jews.

The solution must not about creating a safe space for Jews, but rather ensuring there is no place for antisemites.

Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem, and the solution cannot be higher fences, more police or more communal meetings.

Nor is antisemitism a matter of semantics, enabling legalistic gymnastics in order to excuse racist rhetoric. Antisemitism is a cancer and unchecked it will destroy the very fabric of our society.

The solution starts with education. It is essential that we give students an understanding of the dangers of antisemitism, how it has mutated over time, and why it so dangerous to our society.

However, there is a deeper aspect that has to be challenged. Schools are assessed on outcomes, and these are invariably more to do with academic achievements than our moral and ethical conduct.

Students are more likely to be learning about current events from TikTok and Instagram than any mainstream media.

As has sadly been evidenced on our streets, the result is a rabble of ill-educated youth with no moral compass.

National leaders, religious leaders, school leaders and above all parents have to play a part, espousing and teaching our children moral values, and the importance of standing up for the fundamentals of our democracy.

There can be no bystanders in the battle against racism and it is responsibility of every individual to stand up and ensure our streets, schools and institutions are safe. The message needs to be clear and unequivocal.

Anyone who expresses anti-Jewish hatred is unwelcome and unwanted within our society.

Rabbi David Meyer OBE is the chief executive of PaJeS (Partnerships for Jewish Schools)

November 02, 2023 14:53

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