British Jews seek reassurance after Paris attacks

British Jews seek reassurance after Paris attacks

B7E415ZIgAAXYde.jpg-largeBritish Jews this week stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Europeans of every faith, in Paris, London and beyond, proclaiming “Je suis Charlie” and “Je suis juif”.

Thousands of community members descended on Trafalgar Square and many others crossed the Channel to express outrage at the attacks in the French capital.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner were among the British religious leaders in Paris, while Board of Deputies President Vivian Wineman said the Trafalgar Square event had “a silent dignity,” with no speeches.

Senior politicians were among those reacting, with Mayor of London Boris Johnson saying: “Nous sommes tous juif aujoud’hui (we’re all Jews today).”

On a visit to JW3 and Mathilda Marks School, former foreign secretary William Hague sought to reassure British Jews that they “definitely” didn’t need to consider leaving the UK, adding that the government was working to “keep everybody safe”.

Meeting with Jewish communal leaders, Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “moved” to see so many “je suis juif” (I am Jewish) signs at the Paris rally, but cautioned that “in a modern democracy you can never protect against every threat”.

In the world of media, a complaint was lodged with the BBC, after reporter Tim Willcox interviewed an Israeli woman during Sunday’s event and appeared to link the attack at the kosher store with “Palestinian suffering”.

Willcox apologised, saying it was “a poorly-phrased question” but Jonathan Sacerdoti from Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) noted that the remark came “only weeks after he suggested that prominent Jewish faces will be very much against the mansion tax”.

Others criticised ITV for airing an episode of Foyle’s War described by one viewer as “anti-Semitic from the first minute to the last”. Alex Brummer, a candidate for the presidency of the Board of Deputies, tweeted: “Bad call by #ITV Foyle’sWar for peddling anti-Semitic trope after events in #ParisAttacks.”

Meanwhile British Jews who have lived in Paris said the attacks “sent shivers down the spine”. Alex Goldberg, former chief executive of London Jewish Forum, lived on Rue de Rosiers, the centre of the Jewish quarter, which has three Jewish schools. 

“It’s sad and surreal to see my old house surrounded by armed police,” he said. “It’s all far too close to home. The siege was 250 metres from my daughter’s old school. She would have been walking home when it took place. When I told her she was in floods of tears. There are a lot of frightened people there right now.”

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