Church of England bishops have adopted the full international definition of antisemitism.
A statement endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, including all its working examples, was agreed during the annual residential meeting of the College of Bishops in Oxford this week.
This comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spoke of the need for its full backing during a pre-Rosh Hashanah video shot at the house of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
The statement “notes the necessity of making explicit its adoption of and adherence to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, including all examples, without qualification or exemption.”
It also urges “anyone involved in our political, spiritual and national life to reject all language and activity that leads to prejudice, stigma or hatred towards people on the grounds of their religion, culture, origins, identity or beliefs.”
The Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, said: “The Jewish community, among whom I live in Salford, carry with them the vivid memory and scars of the Holocaust; they know all too well that antisemitism is never far below the surface of our society.
“Today’s statement from the Church of England bishops assures them that we will continue to reject such prejudice and bigotry firmly, in line with our practice over 75 years. At the same time we will continue to speak out critically when governments here and elsewhere act in ways that our faith calls us to challenge.”
Welcoming the the news, Council of Christians and Jews Chair Bishop Michael Ipgrave said: ‘I am pleased that the definition has been formally adopted. This sends an important message to the UK Jewish community and beyond, that as people of faith we will speak up against prejudice and hatred wherever it occurs today. Jewish people should never again feel the vulnerability of previous generations and for this reason the adoption of IHRA was deemed to be important and significant at this time.’
“Today, on the first day of the Jewish New Year, the College of Bishops have sent a timely message of support to the Jewish community. Acknowledging the work that CCJ has done over the past 75 years to build bridges between communities and combat antisemitism”.
This comes after the Archbishop of Canterbury’s intervention last week, where he launched a thinly-veiled attack on Labour’s governing body and leadership which first refused to adopt all 11 accompanying examples and then accepting them with additional clarification on free speech.
Board of Deputies of British Jews President Marie van der Zyl welcomed the move, saying: “We applaud the decision by the Church of England bishops to formally adopt the full IHRA definition of antisemitism. The adoption of the definition in its entirety – with all of its examples, and without caveats – is a wonderful example of solidarity by a fellow faith community. This sends a clear message that the Church of England will not tolerate antisemitism and we thank the bishops, and the Archbishop of Canterbury in particular, for the moral leadership they have shown.”
Justin Welby backed the full adoption of IHRA, saying he was “very pleased that the Labour Party has accepted IHRA without any riders or caveats of any kind at all”, but that he found it “hugely distressing and depressing” that the Jewish community “should have a deep sense of insecurity”.
He added that “we, as a church need to adopt IHRA formally. I’m distressed that it should be necessary but I think it is necessary”.