Rachel Riley vows to keep fighting the ‘Pandora’s box of antisemitism’

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Rachel Riley vows to keep fighting the ‘Pandora’s box of antisemitism’

Countdown presenter and activist against Jew-hate made her remarks during Limmud Together event featuring the winning trio of Jewish News' Forty under 40 list

Rachel Riley  (Credit: Yakir Zur)
Rachel Riley (Credit: Yakir Zur)

Rachel Riley yesterday vowed to keep using her platform to fight the “Pandora’s box of antisemitism,” but expressed relief that the “immediate danger of an antisemite” becoming Prime Minister had passed.

Her comments came during a Limmud Together UK Summer session in which the winning trio of the Jewish News Forty under 40 list reflected on the challenges ahead for the community.

Riley, who placed second on the list, added: “The last few months have been an incendiary time in general, not just for the Jewish community. George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a spotlight on racism and how online hate translates into the real world.”

The 34-year-old Countdown presenter’s journey into one of the most vocal campaigners against antisemitism began with the torrent of abuse and physical threats from Labour activists in response to her criticism of Jeremy Corbyn.

Her concerns were echoed by Danny Stone, Director of the Antisemitism Policy Trust, a role the 39-year-old has held since 2009.

“I do worry about rising antisemitism. When the economy is shaky and people are scared about their future, we know this is rife territory for antisemitism to grow.”

Danny Stone

The antisemitism guru, who placed third on this year’s list, added: “I also worry that the more time people are spending online, the more they are encountering hate material. We have seen numerous examples of COVID-related antisemitism: people blaming Jewish people for either inventing COVID or seeking to attack Jewish people with COVID.”

More than 250 people joined the popular panel session, held over Zoom and hosted by former Labour MP and Top Forty under 40 winner Luciana Berger.

Mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin, who ranked top of the list, urged the community to refocus attention on “young people’s mental health and wellbeing,” warning that issues of addiction and suicide remained taboo subjects.

Jonny Benjamin

Yet the former JFS pupil also expressed optimism that “young people are more motivated and outspoken” than when he attended school. The 32-year-old remarked that the students he meets are “more open about sexuality, mental health and the activism they are undertaking.”

“This makes me feel positive about the future,” he added.

The panel also recounted what they had missed during the lockdown. Jonny Benjamin movingly described his pain at being unable to hug his nieces, whilst Danny Stone longed for the return of competitive wrestling and Rachel Riley for the “banter without harm” that is football.

Danny Stone concluded the discussion: “The 40 under 40 list shows you can be a successful civil servant, educator or whatever you want to be. Hopefully this will inspire young people to see the diversity and potential they have.”


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