The Prince of Wales has reminded us that the Jewish community is not alone

Remembering the Holocaust and taking a stand against antisemitism is intrinsic to who the Royal Family are


The Prince of Wales during a visit to the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, where he joined a conversation with young Ambassadors of the Holocaust Educational Trust (Picture by Andrew Palace / Kensington Palace)

March 05, 2024 15:06

The last six months have been unlike anything that the Jewish community has ever experienced. We witnessed from afar the indescribable terrorist attack by Hamas against the State of Israel. Through social media, rolling news and messages from loved ones, we saw the worst crimes imaginable carried out against Jews, because they were Jews. Mass murder, carried out by genocidal terrorists, in 2023.

Not even a few hours after Hamas had started its murderous rampage, British Jews became the targets of an explosion of antisemitism. Statistics from CST showed that last year was the worst on record for antisemitism with over 4,100 incidents – an increase of 150% on 2022. The rapid speed of the increase in antisemitism following the October 7 attack makes clear that this was happening in celebration of Hamas’ brutal attack. According to the recent report by the CST, antisemitic incidents in the week directly after October 7 – before Israel launched its military response in Gaza – were the highest ever recorded. That means that in 416 separate incidents, people celebrated the Hamas attack on Israel by committing antisemitic acts that week, entirely unrelated to the situation in Gaza which at that point, remained unchanged.

Antisemitism has flooded our streets, schools, universities and online spaces. British Jews have been targeted while walking to synagogue, dropping their kids off at school or while popping down to the local shops – just for being Jewish.

The community has been loud with the message that antisemitism is not a Jewish problem but, rather, a problem for all of society, that demands a response from society as a whole.

And so it is against this backdrop that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales made a truly special visit to Western Marble Arch Synagogue.

The future King led by example, sitting down with Jewish students who have had to face a deluge of antisemitism on their university campuses, and heard their harrowing stories of anti-Jewish hatred. He responded with a strong statement for all to hear, that both he and the Princess of Wales “are extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism”. He was clear that “antisemitism has no place in society”.

The Prince heard from young Holocaust Educational Trust Ambassadors who are campaigning against antisemitism despite not being Jewish themselves. These are young people have been to Auschwitz-Birkenau with the Holocaust Educational Trust and have seen where antisemitism can and did lead when left unchecked. They are a source of hope, passionate about ensuring that antisemitism has no safe place here in the UK.

And perhaps most important of all, the Prince made the time to sit and listen to the indefatigable Renee Salt BEM, a 94 year old survivor of the Holocaust, of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen. She was liberated nearly 80 years ago by the British Army. At that time, weak, alone, and terrified, she never could have imagined that she would one day be sitting next to the future King of the United Kingdom sharing her testimony, in a synagogue.

The Prince of Wales’s presence sends a powerful message that Britain is a country where Jews, whether Holocaust survivors who came to find sanctuary after the Nazis murdered their entire families or young Jewish students exploring the world on their university campuses – are welcome and celebrated.

This message was echoed last week by the prime minister, and the leader of the opposition. It is clear that there is an understanding amongst the leadership of this country that we cannot allow antisemitism to run rampant on our streets. Jewish students cannot be abandoned by their institutions after facing disgusting anti-Jewish racism on their campuses. Those who speak out against antisemitism cannot be attacked, threatened, and harassed for doing so. Jewish people cannot face this deluge of hatred alone.

While the much-needed extra funding for the Community Security Trust is welcomed, the fact that the work of the CST is so needed should send a shiver down the spine of all decent people in this country. Jewish people should not fear for their safety when walking to synagogue, should not feel forced to hide their identity to avoid verbal or even physical abuse.

While these are dark days, The Prince of Wales reminded us that the Jewish community is not alone. Like his great-grandmother, Princess Alice, a Righteous Among the Nations; his father, His Royal Highness the King who has truly championed and celebrated the British Jewish community; and his grandmother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, who was always steadfast in her view that this is a nation of tolerance and religious harmony, the Prince once again reminds us that remembering the Holocaust and taking a stand against antisemitism is intrinsic to who the Royal Family are and to what Britain is as a nation. This should give us all hope.

Karen Pollock is CEO of the Holocaust Educational Trust

March 05, 2024 15:06

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