This week’s Two Voices asks the question: ‘What makes Britain such a great place for you to be Jewish?’
Mark Phillips says...
British Jewry is more vibrant and open to new ideas (mostly!) than ever before – thriving in the tolerant and inclusive society we share. The diversity of opportunities to engage with Judaism are incredible; from Limmud and JW3, to lesser known examples such as Tzedek’s response to extreme poverty and Mosaic – London’s first pluralist synagogue community.
Wherever we are on a spectrum from “ultra-Orthodox” to “non-believing secular,” we are at our best when engaging positively with our Jewish identity and influencing the wider world through Jewish values. Our role in British society is out of all proportion to the 0.4 percent of population we represent.
The world is not perfect. Terrible things happen, and not everybody loves me – as a person or as a Jew.
My parents grew up through the horrors of the Second World War and the Shoah; as children we lived with the threat of nuclear holocaust and National Front-inspired thugs on the streets.
We should and do speak out to make the world a better place – both for Jews and for the wider world – but let’s have a sense of perspective and, rather than cower in fear in a self-imposed ghetto, celebrate the life we have in Britain.
• Mark Phillips is on the board of Mosaic, London’s first pluralist Jewish community and co-chairman of Harrow Day Limmud – taking place on 15 March
Rabbi Mark Goldsmith says…
My eight great-grandparents originated across the European Jewish diaspora. Some were first or second generation British and others were from families that had been here for generations.
All would have been pleased to see what living in Britain has done for their great-grandchildren and now their great-great-grandchildren too. In this country, we have a choice of our Jewish direction, this being a country where all the denominations of Judaism have been able to thrive.
Our Jewish culture and way of life has been respected by successive governments and our fellow citizens, so much so that children throughout the country learn about Judaism as a major world religion.
Jews have been able to succeed in Britain in all occupations and walks of life. The snobbishness and anti-Jewish prejudice of previous generations has all but disappeared.
British governments of all major parties support the right of the state of Israel to exist and the need for British Jews to feel connected to the Jewish state.
Britain is a country in which Jewish educational and social action entrepreneurship thrives through institutions, such as Limmud, J-Hub, JW3, the Leo Baeck College and LSJS, and there are many synagogues full of vitality.
Anti-Semitism does exist in Britain, but it is experienced by most Jews as a fear rather than a personal reality.
• Mark Goldsmith is rabbi at Alyth (North Western Reform) Synagogue