Party fracas was true cause of synagogue attack, rabbi reveals


An attack at a synagogue in the early hours of Sunday morning was sparked by a Jewish teenager's dispute with a party-goer, it has been revealed.

The incident led to a group of teenagers smashing doors and windows at the Ahavas Torah building in Stamford Hill, north London.

The shul is also used as a drop-in centre for Jewish youths and a number of people were in the building when the incident took place at around 1.15am.

Community leaders and police confirmed on Wednesday that the fracas was not motivated by antisemitism, and began when a dispute spilled out of a nearby house party.

The shul's Rabbi Maurice Davis said: "There was a party happening across the road. We think a Jewish boy at the party ran out and got into a fight with other party-goers on the street.

"He came into the shul and it got out of hand, that's when the other people smashed the windows.

"We want people to know it wasn't an antisemitic incident. Tottenham is such a wonderful place to live. We have tremendous social cohesion here. Everybody gets on and we haven't had any experience of antisemitism."

He said the synagogue had been supported since the incident by members of a nearby mosque and church.

A letter believed to be from the hosts of the party was sent to the shul. It read: "We are proud to live among our neighbours in Stamford Hill and we are shocked and upset to hear of the violence. We send you our best wishes."

A public meeting was held on Wednesday to reassure the Jewish community.

Metropolitan Police Commander Mak Chishty said: "As communities we have come to stand together. It was not antisemitic, thank God, but it was a crime and it was anti-social behaviour and we all understood that."

Rabbi Abraham Pinter, a Stamford Hill community leader, said: "The club keeps the young men out of trouble but sometimes they bring the trouble here.

"I'm not sure where most of the worst language used in the video actually came from. A lot of it was coming from inside the shul and was not very respectful.

"The abuse that was antisemitic was the same as when women get called 'silly cow' in an incident of road rage."

It is understood that following the dispute the Jewish reveller ran to hide in the shul building.

When other party-goers arrived in search of the teenager, the Jewish youths inside the centre believed they were under antisemitic attack.

A video of the incident posted online showed around 10 people inside the synagogue defending themselves with chairs and makeshift clubs as the apparently drunk youths attempted to force their way in through a set of double doors.

The gang, which included two girls, were shown throwing missiles, smashing windows and threatening those barring their entry.

The gang is alleged to have shouted "kill the Jews", but only one person is believed to be under investigation for racially aggravated abuse.

On Monday, the Metropolitan Police said the incident was being treated as antisemitic, but that there was no reason to believe it was "a planned or targeted attack". Six teenagers have been bailed until mid-May.

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