Ask The Rabbi with rabbi Yitzchak Schochet
How to react to this hate?
How should we respond to the anti-Jewish hate-fest that’s scheduled to take place in Golders Green on Shabbat, 4 July? Should we show that the forces of good can defeat evil? Should we counter-demonstrate by standing silently across the road, given that it is Shabbat and we don’t want to violate the spirit of the day of rest? Should we launch online petitions to the home secretary and local MPs?
The original term given by the anti-Semites for this rally was ‘Jewish privilege’.
Should we place an advertisement in the press saying we believe that true Jewish privilege is the fact that we British Jews are able to live in a genuinely compassionate country?
You raise an interesting question: what should the Jewish response to anti-Semitic threats be? Do we argue that “the hand is the hand of Esau” and just sit idly by, perhaps praying and letting God get on with the business of taking care of us? Or maybe wielding as much influence as we do through captains of industry, do we set about exerting as much pressure as possible to ensure the government does its job of looking after us?
Or, indeed, maybe we should just roll out all the muscle within the Jewish community and demonstrate we are not sitting ducks! The honest-to-goodness answer in my opinion is: all three of the above.
Taking the example of the time when Moses smote the Egyptian looking to kill the Jew, the rabbis debate how he went about this.
One suggestion is he used his fist. Yet a second opinion says he used a shovel of cement to carry out the deed. While a third rabbi posits that he uttered the ineffable name of God. The real question is – who cares? The fact is Moses killed the Egyptian. End of story.
Yet the fact all three opinions are cited suggests perhaps all three approaches are valid and necessary. The fist implies a physical response, the shovel of cement indicates “building” influence.
The ineffable name of God would mean resorting to prayer and the spiritual route. Every effort should be made with the powers that be to ensure this rally doesn’t happen. It is lamentable that in this 21st century racists and bigots are allowed to demonstrate in what can only be described as a hate-fest. If, indeed, the government is powerless to stop it, we should have a strong presence to stand and show we will neither run nor cower in the face of hostility.
As Jews we always put our faith in a Higher Order – as recited in the Haggadah each year on Passover eve: “And even as they rise up against us in each passing generation…God spares us from their hands.”
In other words, no matter the action that we take, we should always stay focused on Divine intervention to ensure success of our endeavours. I am sure all three alternatives are being exploited and you, Joseph, must pursue whichever avenue you feel most comfortable with.
Bottom line: Let the message go out loud and clear on 4 July: Never again!
The danger in over-reporting
Despite the “anti-Jewish protest” planned for Saturday 4 July, do you think anti-Semitism is a threat we need to be concerned about in the UK today? Are things really as bad as reported?
You ask a loaded question, so here comes a loaded answer. Scenario one: last weekend I awoke to find my front car tyre flat. I thought nothing of it until I saw the AA outside my neighbour’s house. His tyre was also flat. We also happen to be the only two yarmulke-clad men on our street.
He opted to report the incident to the police and the CST, who in turn told him to tell me to report it as well. This, they said, was because the more we report the more protection we will receive in the neighbourhood. Did I report it? No – because I think it was sheer coincidence.
I hit a curb hard a day or so before and the hole in the tyre was too neat to be a slash. Scenario two: A Jewish man is walking home in Radlett during Shabbat. Someone drives past and yells out the window. It is reported to the CST and, subsequently, the police and the driver was traced and the police hauled him in. The incident was recorded on a phone – he yelled “Come on you Gooners!” as he celebrated an Arsenal victory.
As a policeman from the hate crime unit told me: “There is a problem when there is such hypersensitivity.” I understand that the CST needs everything documented.
I am an admirer of its incredible work. But I do remain somewhat cynical when there is ongoing encouragement of over-reporting and I remain somewhat sceptical as to how “real” the incidents are among those represent. Am I going to get lynched for this?
Well, anyway I’m outta here now for my annual siesta – just so you’ll all appreciate me more when I’m back. Until then…