TWO VOICES: How can British Jews help tackle institutional racism?

TWO VOICES: How can British Jews help tackle institutional racism?

Two Voices
Two Voices

This week’s Two Voices asks : how can British Jews help tackle institutional racism?

Two Voices


Rabbi Lea Mühlstein says…

Lea Mühlstein
Rabbi Lea Mühlstein

Since the end of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the UK press has gone largely quiet about institutional racism. The only context, in which the term still regularly appears in our news, is when we hear about police violence against black people in the US. One might be tempted to say that institutional racism should no longer be a concern for the UK.

However, readers of Israeli and Jewish newspapers will have seen the coverage of the beating of an Israeli soldier of Ethiopian origin by Israeli police. The incident led to violent and non-violent protests in the streets of Tel Aviv, which put a spotlight on the fact that institutional racism seems to be widespread within Israeli institutions directed not only against Arabs and Palestinians, but also Jews from Ethiopia and other African countries.

Months before it became a major topic in the Israeli news, the Israel Religious Action Centre had already started to think about the danger of racism within Israeli society. Realising it is a growing problem, which affects many of the vulnerable groups within Israeli society, Jewish or not, IRAC began working on a programme to raise awareness and combat racism. A talk by Anat Hoffman, IRAC executive director, at the Liberal Judaism Day of Celebration in London on Sunday, will be a unique opportunity to learn more about racism within Israeli society. We should care.

Lea Mühlstein is rabbi of Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue

Gabriel Webber 23
Gabriel Webber

Gabriel Webber says…

I was recently on March of the Living, an inspiring Holocaust education trip. I learnt something that deserves to be more widely known: students at Leiden University in the Netherlands went on strike in 1940 over the Nazi-ordered sacking of a Jewish professor.

It’s standing up that counts, and racism usually works such that only those not being discriminated against can do the standing. Jewish staff at Leiden University were drummed out of their workplace by sinister, racist forces. What a difference the support of hundreds of colleagues and students – at great risk to themselves – must have made to them.

We still have institutional racism in modern Britain. Muslims, Eastern European immigrants and – as denounced in a court ruling last month – Irish travellers are all routinely discriminated against.

It is the same in Israel, where Arabs live with a substantial disadvantage. This will be a major discussion point at Liberal Judaism’s Day of Celebration on Sunday, with delegates hearing from activist and executive director of IRAC, Anat Hoffman.

The racial wrongs of today’s society are not perpetrated by Nazis or anything like them, and not against Jews.

But it is during the times when we are not the target that are exactly when we should stand up: our values and our history point in the same direction.

Gabriel Webber is a LJY-Netzer movement worker

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