Sister of actor Tom Hollander says she does not want to ‘interact’ with Jews

Julia Hollander cancelled a talk with Oxford university’s Chabad society


'I’m sorry but this is not a good time for me to interact with any Jewish community': Julia Hollander cancelled a planned talk with Oxford Chabad society over the war in Gaza (Photo: YouTube)

Opera director Julia Hollander, whose brother is acclaimed actor Tom Hollander, cancelled a talk to Jewish students because she did not wish to “interact with any Jewish community” during Israel’s war against Hamas.

Hollander had agreed to give a talk to members of Oxford University’s Chabad society at which she would promote the upcoming paperback release of her book Why We Sing.

In an email, the author told Rabbi Eli Brackman that she would be “honoured” to speak to the Jewish student society.

At the beginning of February, however, Hollander emailed again to say that she would not be able to appear.

“There are just too many competing elements in my life at present,” she wrote. “I do hope we can organise something another time.”

When Rabbi Brackman responded to ask if Hollander might be able to hold an informal Q&A session for students, she replied with the real reason for her cancellation.

“I’m sorry but this is not a good time for me to interact with any Jewish community,” she wrote. “I hope you understand.”

After Rabbi Brackman asked the author to clarify what she meant, Hollander added: “Over the past four months I have found it increasingly difficult to express my agony over the massacre of the population of Gaza when in the company of people who are practising Jews.

“I understand that they too are experiencing their own agony, but am extremely troubled by the killing of tens of thousands of Gazans, and the impact this has on the rest of the world.

“I meant to say nothing of this to you, but am concerned that you don’t leap to any assumptions. I am ardently against discrimination of any sort.”

Jojo Sugarman, President of the Oxford University Chabad Society said he found Hollander’s comments “hurtful”.

He told the JC: “I cannot imagine an academic saying that they don’t want to be around Muslim communities because of the conflict. We rightly would view that as unacceptable, and should view this as equally unacceptable.

“Avoiding an entire group because of the possibility your opinion differs with that of some of its members breeds alienation and xenophobia.”

Hollander said that her words had been taken out of context and that she was sorry if her emails had caused any offence.

“Whilst I take my professional obligations seriously, the reasons for my pulling out of the talk were many and various, including the death of a close friend after a prolonged illness,” she said.

“This latter event was extremely distressing and meant I did not feel able to speak publicly about anything; I communicated this to the Rabbi and he was sympathetic.”

Hollander added: “I realise that your quote from my email of Feb 17 (written under pressure and grieving, and only a few words within extensive communications) might be construed as collectivising, but this was absolutely not my intention…

“Plainly I am not antisemitic. My own Jewish heritage is very dear to me, as you may know from my book, Why We Sing, and the BBC Radio 3 documentary I made about my family.

“Both my great uncle and great grandfather were arrested by the Nazis in 1938 and died because of their Jewish faith: the former through a protracted suicide and the latter exterminated at Treblinka in 1942.

“It was only because of a chance meeting with someone from the BBC that my own grandfather, a prominent music lecturer and critic, was able to escape Czechoslovakia with my grandmother and father in March 1939, on the very day Hitler invaded their country.”

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