[Blog] Antisemitism must not come to define us

Rabbi Charley Baginsky
13 September 2017

The latest study from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research – with its headline statistic that more than a quarter of British people hold at least one antisemitic view – is already causing a stir.

Antisemitism has preoccupied our British Jewish community for quite a while, and so it is very interesting to see a report that tries to set out the figures so clearly.

Perhaps the most important quantitative reminder for the Jewish community is one lost in the headlines. The study found that we are well liked, especially when compared to other minorities, and that levels of antisemitism in Great Britain are among the lowest in the world.

Of course, that does not mean there have not been issues. It is clear that there are areas in Britain where the levels of antisemitism have grown, or at least where people have felt more comfortable to express them.

Liberal Judaism is probably unique among the religious Jewish movements in the UK in that, predominantly, our synagogues and communities are not in large Jewish areas.

Often our members find that their children are the only Jewish child in the school and that they work in environments where there aren’t other Jews.

Certainly the majority of messages we have from congregants and congregations, of their involvement in the wider communities they inhabit, is overwhelmingly positive, with many playing roles in interfaith and education.

That said, anecdotally we find that their experiences, if any, of antisemitism come from ignorance from those they encounter and that they are held responsible for any actions of the Israeli government that are deemed cruel or unjustified.

As a movement, we feel a responsibility to give our congregants the confidence to tackle both casual antisemitism and to help people identify what is criticism of the Israeli government and what is antisemitic.

However, we remain passionate that antisemitism does not come to define us and that we continue to celebrate our positive interactions with society at large.

We must continue is to educate and interact, to be more outward facing and open to discussion.

Of course we must tackle antisemitism head on, and we must draw attention to it when it rears its ugly head in both the corridors of power and on the streets, but it would be a sad reflection of the overwhelmingly positive Jewish experience in the UK if that was to become the main focus of conversation.
Rabbi Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships

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