Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has condemned rising anti-Semitism in Britain as “absolutely intolerable” and encouraged other faith communities not to give it, or other forms of racism, “any hospitality.”
The Archbishop was speaking at a Lambeth Palace reception for interfaith dialogue, this year showcasing the work of the Near Neighbours campaign. Representatives of Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Zoroastrian and Buddhist communities, together with Jewish community representatives led by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, joined the Archbishop in a marquee in the grounds of the archbishop’s palace to celebrate the work they have been doing throughout the year.
Two 17-year-old students from Yavneh College in Borehamwood, Simmy Wahnon and Shir Dor, made a presentation on behalf of the Catalyst Young Leadership Programme, of which they are graduates.
With admirable frankness, they admitted that as products of faith schools, whose ethos they admired, nevertheless there was a tendency to look inwards. Up until joining the Catalyst Programme, they said, “we did not have a single non-Jewish friend.”
Now Yavneh is supporting them in setting up an interfaith society based at the school, and the pair — who admitted nervousness before meeting Archbishop Welby — intend to continue reaching out to other faith communities.
Asked by Jewish News how he would ask other faith communities to help in challenging anti-Semitism, the archbishop said: “First, give it no hospitality. Hospitality is wonderful, but not for anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred.
“Second, give considerable hospitality and welcome to Jewish communities. You may disagree with them on certain issues, you may have questions to ask, but you start by earning the right to disagree, by showing your love, your concern, your welcome and your hospitality.”
Archbishop Welby — who until recently had believed he was the son of a Jewish father — indicated that he is likely to have more to say on the issue of antisemitism in the coming days. He spent time before the reception in a private meeting with Chief Rabbi Mirvis.