Two Voices: this week our weekly progressive Judaism debate tackles… anti-Semitism

Q: Should we be worried by the findings of the ADL report on anti-Semitism

Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner

Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner

• Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner says…

The survey reveals just eight percent of Brits hold anti-Semitic views. Let us celebrate this! Britain is one of the best places in the world for Jews to live.

A broad theme is that on our doorstep, anti-Semitism is worryingly high. Already a third of European Jews do not wear Jewish symbols out of fear. With neo-Nazi parties, such as Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary, gaining political traction, anti-Semitism is not always confined to the fringes.

This raises the question: can anti-Semitism openly prosper or is it the currency of a handful of extremists?

In 1988, Aharon Barak, Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, supported banning from elections the far-right party Kach because it threatened democracy’s “ability to defend itself”.

We must ask, especially in light of elections, can democracy defend itself in Europe? This question is a better litmus test for anti-Semitism than decontextualised questions asked by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), such as “do Jews think they are better than other people?”

If the answer is “no” and extremism has legitimacy, we must unite to defeat it. The report confirms that anti-Semitism still rears its ugly head in Europe. The immediate task of British Jewry is ensuring its experience is replicated the continent over.

• Laura Janner-Klausner is senior rabbi to the Movement for Reform Judaism

Arieh Miller

Arieh Miller

• Arieh Miller says……

First they came for the Communists … We know the rest of the Pastor Niemöller poem. According to the ADL report, the UK sits 16 percent below the world’s index score of anti-Semitic attitudes.

I went to Leeds University during 2009, the year with the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents ever recorded in the UK. I spent three years on campus, without personally experiencing anti-Semitism.

But just because I was not a victim does not mean my friends who were – and they were – are any less significant. Across Europe, we are seeing swings towards racist, anti-Semitic far-right politics. We can blinker ourselves assuming that it could ‘never happen here’, or we can strive to do something about it. I would opt for the latter.

If we convince ourselves that when it happens to the “other” it’s not our problem (be that European Jews or British Muslims), we run the risk of falling prey to Niemöller’s assertions. Should we worry? Not that our neighbours are going to turn on us tomorrow, no, but we must not be blind to the fact that anti-Semitism is real, and of the utmost concern.
We must stand up against all hate, be it on our doorsteps or across the world.

• Arieh Miller is a member of Alyth (North Western Reform Synagogue)