London’s Jews reflect the diversity of London: as well as being Charedi, Orthodox, Masorti, Reform, Liberal and secular, Jews are young and old, male and female, heterosexual and LGBT, able-bodied and disabled.
LJF recognises, represents and celebrates this diversity. When we talk about the needs of Jews, we always mean it to be understood that these are not monolithic, they reflect this diversity. It is all the more telling therefore that on issues of community safety and antisemitism, there is complete unanimity.
The need for security and the threat of anti Jewish terrorism is sadly an integral part of Jewish life but should not overshadow or impede the many positive aspects of Jewish life in London.
The Jewish community has a highly developed security organisation, CST (Community Security Trust), that works to ensure community safety, provides essential advice to communal organisations and the police on combating physical threats from terrorism and antisemitic hate crime. CST’s close cooperation with the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and with all levels of local and national government is central to their work protecting the Jewish community and tackling antisemitic hate crime. CST provides a third party hate crime reporting service and essential advice to communal organisations on security matters.
Defending London from Terrorism
Unfortunately, terrorism still poses a deadly risk to everybody in London, but London’s Jewish community faces an additional risk from terrorist groups who specifically target Jews. This was demonstrated by the recent conviction of a group of would-be terrorists for plotting a letter-bomb campaign which included amongst its targets the Mayor of London, the London Stock Exchange, St. Pauls Cathedral, and two Rabbis at their synagogues. The government’s Counter Terrorist strategy, CONTEST, argues that this threat ought to be confronted both by the physical protection of vulnerable locations, and by tackling the radicalising ideologies and processes that lead to terrorism. CST works closely with the MPS regarding the security arrangements at Jewish buildings and events, while funding from the Department of Education now ensures that all Voluntary Aided Jewish faith schools have security guards. In addition, CST and the Board of Deputies of British Jews have been involved in national consultations on Prevent, and have given evidence to parliamentary inquiries on radicalisation and de-radicalisation policies.
The Jewish community will use its experience to advance the concepts contained within the latest Prevent strategy at a Borough level by, for example, seeking opportunities to engage with minority faith communities considered at risk. Continued support and cooperation from the MPS and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in these areas are essential for the continued protection of London’s Jews from antisemitic terrorism.
Tackling antisemitism and all forms of hate crime
LJF works with the CST, and London councillors/MPs, local Jewish community organisations, businesses and trade unionists to help ensure the diverse needs and experiences of the community are understood at both Greater London Authority and Borough levels. We regard community safety from antisemitism as matter of priority. The continued problem of antisemitic attacks are of grave concern to the entire Jewish community in London, wherever they occur. LJF appreciates the solidarity shown by London leaders who have spoken out against the acts of violence directed against Jews and Jewish communal targets.
We are proud of the record of CST in advising other communities in London – both faith communities and others – regarding security at their communal buildings, supporting victims and recording and reporting hate crime, whether as a community-based NGO or a Third Party Reporter. Most recently, CST has assisted mosques in London that were threatened by anti-Muslim demonstrations and advised the new Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks project which is funded by CLG under the Government Plan to Tackle Hate Crime.
LJF, alongside CST and the Board of Deputies, is committed to working to tackle all forms of hate crime and to developing partnerships, not solely in the faith communities, to do that more effectively. We recognise that perpetrators of hate often target several communities, and structures, policies and practices should reflect that. We recognise that members of the Jewish community may face compound forms of discrimination and hatred.
The new Neighbourhood Forum structures arising from the localism legislation, together with Safer Neighbourhood panels, the process for recruiting to the new Neighbourhood Forums should be inclusive of Jewish and other minority community diversity to encourage greater local participation and more culturally appropriate, equitable service delivery. We would encourage diversity monitoring of these bodies and will advise on building local Jewish participation.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has yet to announce the successor to the Metropolitan Police Authority Hate Crime Forum. We would urge a successor body focussing on all forms of hate crime to be developed, and would wish to ensure full Jewish participation within it.
We endorse and support the findings and recommendations in the recently published Government Plan to Tackle Hate Crime, Challenge it, Report it, Stop it. In particular, its focus on raising awareness of the law on hate crime with communities at risk; supporting the work of True Vision; identifying further opportunities to develop a programme of work with partners to tackle hate crime in sport; supporting victims of antisemitic hate crime; and promoting alternative disposals, such as Restorative Justice schemes, for perpetrators of hate crime.
Hate Crime on London’s University Campuses
Jewish students take an active part in University life across the many Higher Education and Further Education colleges in London. However, on occasion antisemitic incidents take place on campus which can severely affect the sense of well-being and belonging of Jewish students. In December 2011, for example, a Jewish student from the London School of Economics was the victim of a serious antisemitic assault by one of his fellow students on an LSE ski trip. Other problems have arisen when external speakers with extreme views have given talks on campus without the necessary safeguards being put in place in terms of student welfare, security presence and monitoring of comments made during the talk. Jewish students and academics are also adversely affected by the public support by some London-based academics for an academic boycott of Israel. Such a boycott, if implemented would have a detrimental impact on, for example, any students wishing to pursue Jewish studies or Israel studies, particularly at postgraduate level.
The Equality Act 2010 places certain obligations on Universities to protect their students from harm or harassment. The Jewish community will try to ensure that Universities and colleges uphold this obligation and would welcome support from the Mayor and the Greater London Authority in this, and in opposing any efforts to promote an academic boycott of Israel at any London colleges.
Considering Jewish diverse needs in assessing impact and developing policy
The presence of Jewish residents and Jewish institutions varies enormously even between neighbouring boroughs. For boroughs where there are no Jewish businesses or synagogues, reaching the Jewish community is more challenging, but no less necessary. In Islington for example, where there are no institutions or shops, many of the large supermarkets have Kosher sections, clearly indicating a presence.
It is important to ensure that the needs of Jewish residents and institutions are fully considered in any community impact assessment. Census data may not be adequate for this task. LJF acts as a broker to connect expert agencies in the Jewish community with Greater London or local authorities should they require assistance in developing policy/action plans.
Encouraging and Supporting Pan-London Interfaith and Diversity
The Jewish community has been in the forefront of interfaith activity. It engages with Christians through several London branches of the Council of Christians and Jews, as well as through bilateral relationships between synagogues and churches. In recent years we have reached out to other faith communities and close relationships now exist between
Hindu and Sikh communities either via the Board of Deputies or the Indian Jewish Association, founded to foster cultural and social links between Jews, Hindus and Sikhs. The Board of Deputies has particularly close clinks with the Hindu Forum of Britain. The London Jewish Forum represents the community at the Faith Forum for London. There are also many good examples of Jewish Muslim dialogue and cooperation such as the Three Faiths Forum and the Coexistence Trust.
There is a concern that diversity structures are overly focused solely on Faith based communities, with other protected characteristic-based communities left out of existing networks. This means that opportunities to build inter-community understanding, partnership and hence greater cohesion are being missed.
The Jewish community will continue to play an active role in pan-London interfaith and diversity networks, but will place particular emphasis on bilateral relationships between our community and other faith communities. We would encourage better integration of protected characteristic based communities in Pan-London networks that foster better understanding through cooperation