After Manchester: Fear...and defiance

Faith leaders from the Jewish community were among thousands who attended a vigil to show solidarity and support for the victims of the terror attack.


Rabbis joined imams and priests for a vigil on the streets of Manchester on Tuesday, the day after a suicide bomber killed at least 22 people — including children — and left 59 others injured.

“There is nothing like the horror of hearing that news,” said Rabbi Warren Elf of Manchester Reform Synagogue. “But at a time like this it is very important to bring people together.”

Rabbi Elf, who is community development officer of the Manchester Faith Network, added: “The person who carried out this attack didn’t care who they hurt. We want to stand together and say ‘we do’.”

The vigil was a few hundred metres away from where Salman Abedi had detonated a deadly device at Manchester Arena the night before.

The thousands who gathered were not only paying tribute to the dead. They were also showing defiance and looking, positively, to the future.

People of all faiths and none made new friends and joked with strangers. But while the general mood was defiant, there was also a sense of fear among the city’s Jewish community.

That feeling was palpable along Leicester Road in Salford, home to Brackmans kosher bakery.

Community Security Trust volunteers manned the street corners nearby, and mothers with buggies did not want to stop and chat. Suzie, 50, said she was “terrified” of a secondary attack targeting Jews. “We are living in scary times. CST was outside the school today. It is scary for us and our children.”

Her 19-year-old daughter, Sheva, added: “CST make you feel like someone is looking after you. I don’t feel safe here. It feels safer in Israel because you know there everyone looks out for you. Here we feel like the minority, like we could be next.”

Jonny Wineberg, vice-president of the Jewish Representative Council, said his feelings were “indescribable” as he heard about the attack, knowing his daughter was attending the pop concert targeted by the suicide bomber.

“You can’t imagine what that feels like as a parent. Like any parent would, the second I heard the news, I tried to call my daughter. It felt like forever till she picked up but then she answered and we knew she was ok. Other parents were not so lucky.”

Yeshiva students Asher Benarroch, 16, and Moishe Halpern, 18, were among those who came to pay tribute in Manchester.

Tzitzit tucked neatly into their trouser pockets, the teenagers had cycled the two miles from Prestwich to join the crowd.

Mr Benarroch said: “We are in shock. We came to see people here and pay our respects. We want to show that faith is not going to separate us from our friends.”

The teenager said that in Manchester’s strictly Orthodox community, in the north of the city, the feeling was “very tense.

“There is extra security everywhere and we weren’t allowed out of the yeshiva yesterday after the attack. It was very scary.

“To know five minutes up the road there was a terror attack is very frightening.”

CST increased its patrols in the city’s Jewish areas following the attack. One volunteer, who did not wish to be named, said: “We’ve seen before with attacks in France when the first target is not a Jewish one, Jews often become the second [target]. The community here are rightly terrified and it’s our job to protect and reassure them.”

Back at Brackmans, one woman, Micky, was trying to reassure her 10-year-old daughter.

She said: “All her friends are talking about it. All the kids have been asking questions and they are worried when they see CST everywhere.

“We have to be careful about how we talk to our children about the attack and who carried it out. This was carried out by a person who doesn’t respect life, he has no morals.”

Micky moved to Manchester from Israel 20 years ago, and her voice shook as she described experiencing the aftermath of terror attacks. “It’s frightening and it brings all that back for me. It’s very sad that it feels normal. This was an attack on humanity. But we can’t let the attacker get what he wants, which is for us to live in fear.”

Rabbi Fabian Sborovsky, of Menorah Reform Synagogue in Altrincham, said he had been comforting congregants whose children, pupils at King David Jewish school, were among those caught up in the attacks.

“It was very frightening for them. Luckily they were all OK and not hurt. Something like this doesn’t just affect the community, it affects all of Manchester. We do our best to reassure people and we pray.”

On Tuesday evening, faith leaders from the Jewish community were among thousands who attended a vigil to show solidarity and support for the victims of the terror attack.

Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag, of Whitefield Hebrew Congregation, represented the Jewish community alongside Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.

“This was an unprecedented gathering for an unprecedented event,” Rabbi Guttentag said. “The Jewish community here is in shock and we share the grief of those families who have lost loved ones.

“We identify with the children involved. We have been through it ourselves so, sadly, we are not surprised these attacks have widened out to include all society.”

He said sharing the stage with faith leaders from Manchester’s Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities sent a powerful message. “We are all children of God. When someone assaults us we come together to give each other strength.”

Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi of the Reform movement travelled from London to pay her respects and meet Muslim faith leaders in a statement of solidarity.

As she watched teenagers light candles for the friends they had lost in the attack, she broke down. “I’ve seen people do that too many times.”

She continued: “I worry about recrimination and attacks on the Muslim community after an event like this. I feel it is important to stand with them.

“When you look at the people out there you feel calm, you feel warm, and it shows the city’s resilience. And that is the purpose to carry on with our lives.”

As the sun set on the city’s Albert Square, Rabbi Shneur Cohen, of Chabad Manchester City Centre, was still talking to Manchester’s residents.

He and his colleagues — yet to go to sleep after the attack the night before — had handed out hot drinks and food to officers standing guard outside the arena after the attack.

“As soon as the call came in we mobilised a group. We gave out blankets, we gathered people to give people moral support and any other need we could help with.

“We went out to tell the community that we are in this together.

“As Jews our job is to show acts of kindness and our message in the face of adversity is that we will do that together.”


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