One of Britain’s leading rabbis this week warned that the Jewish community is on a path to “self-destruction”, following a torrent of abuse aimed at a group that recited Kaddish for Gaza’s dead.
Widespread revulsion greeted news that 50 mainly young British Jews had held a public show of mourning in Westminster, despite knowing that 52 of the 64 victims were Hamas terrorists.
Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said: “Something very disturbing is happening in our community that has the potential for self-harm and damage. In fact, it is already doing damage. It is the abuse that people from all sides – left and right – are getting.”
In recent days, messages of abuse aimed at those who attended the Kaddish have included “You’re a traitor, I wish the same fate the other traitors of our nation received on you,” “You are a mentally unstable Jew,” “I wish you would commit suicide” and “You are like a racist”. The names and photos of protesters have also been posted online, some incorrectly, leading those identified to receive hate mail.
“People like this have broken the rules of decency that our community has to keep to,” said Janner-Klausner. “The longer we have this situation in Israel and the more divisive people feel it is, the more careful we have to be.” The leader of Reform Judaism added: “We have spent so long focusing on other people attacking us, we have internalised that and are now turning it on each other.
“I am concerned that when one Jew wishes another dead, we are over the boundaries of decency and we are now into violent, harassing, bullying behaviour that we, as a community, have to come back from, because it’s a path to self-destruction.”
She said young Jews were “disengaging, revolted by what’s happening, they don’t want anything to do with it,” adding: “I see it happening. We are losing Jews from loving Judaism.”
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In recent weeks abuse has been directed at others, including the Board of Deputies for issuing what some felt was a one-sided statement on Gaza, and towards Sir Mick Davis, who wrote in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that he did not think live-fire was the IDF’s only option.
Janner Klausner, whose daughter was incorrectly accused of being at the kaddish for Gaza on Wednesday, said: “People will stop being brave. We need to reel back from loose, cruel behaviour, not just towards the left but across the spectrum. What is happening is so self-destructive I am actually really frightened.”
She called on other Jewish communal and religious leaders to help set the tone for debate and call out those who repeatedly over-step the mark by posting abusive messages and “cause hurt in an unfettered, irresponsible way that does not befit the Jewish community”.
She said: “Judaism teaches that one of the most serious things is to humiliate someone in public, which is as though you have shed blood.
“We need rabbis and Jewish leaders to turn round and say ‘no more, this is not happening in our community.’ If people repeatedly abuse others online and cannot self-censor, we need the community to come together to spell it out to them. It’s OK to disagree, but do not use abusive, disgraceful, disgusting language to do so.”
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