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Heather Fletcher's speech on anti-Semitism

28 June 2015

On Sunday 28 June 2015, Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester & Region in partnership with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council organised an all-day seminar about the Jewish community for local councillors in the Manchester area.

The Forum's Co-Chair Heather Fletcher was a member of a panel discussing anti-Semitism. She has given us permission to publish below her prepared remarks.

Heather Fletcher's prepared remarks

Anti Semitism has unfortunately been rife in this country for many centuries. In 1190, the Jewish community in York sheltered in Clifford’s Tower to escape the baying mob outside and many decided to kill themselves rather than be killed by those who despised them.

The CST [Community Security Trust] recorded 1,168 anti Semitic incidents in 2014 which was more than double the number of incidents in the previous year. The previous highest record for anti Semitic incidents occurred in the year 2009.

So there is a direct correlation regarding the rise of anti Semitic incidents and the sad conflicts in the southern Israel/Gaza region given that the highest number of anti Semitic incidents was initially recorded in 2009 after a conflict in this region and the highest number to date was recorded in 2014 following last summer’s 50 day conflict.

Last summer there was also the unfair boycotting of “Kedem”, a Jewish owned cosmetics shop in Manchester city centre .It was evident that there were anti Semitic chants from some protesters outside the shop and a local politician even stated that the scenes in the street were reminiscent to that of the streets in Nazi Germany. Whilst I believe that there were a number of protesters who were truly anti Semitic, I also believe that some of them were “professional protesters” and they had been seen on anti fracking demonstrations in previous weeks and that others just “jumped on the bandwagon” and thus were not really anti-Semitic. 

So how can we combat anti-Semitism?

There is a small bigoted minority of people who will probably always be anti-Semitic and you will never change their mind. There is another small group who cite policies of the Israeli government to justify their anti Semitism. However, I also believe that there are other people who appear intolerant towards Jewish people because they are very unfamiliar with Jews and their culture and I think that it is this lack of education, ignorance and fear which causes suspicion and intolerance which can lead to anti Semitism. I therefore advocate both education and much more Interfaith dialogue and  communities mixing together .The Jewish community is very small and standing in isolation is unhelpful and counter productive so we must reach out and build bridges with other communities.

Our Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, of which I am the Jewish Co-Chair, has just celebrated our 10th Anniversary. In the past decade we have organised 75 diverse events including annual picnics, Lawyers events, business networking, big concerts and meals out together. We have done what we set out to do which was to “develop social and cultural ties between Muslims and Jews in Greater Manchester” and we have made it quite normal for Muslims and Jews in this area to be good friends which is contrary to common perception.

Before our Forum there was very little interaction between these two faith communities but now we have 500 people on our mailing list. We have helped each other take on far right groups and helped each other when our ancient practices, such as circumcision and such as our way of killing animals without stunning them to provide kosher and Halal meat, are attacked. We can work together even more so to combat the twin evils relating to the current rise of Anti Semitism and Islamophobia.

In view of the recent rise in hate crimes against  and the rise in anti Semitism I think it is very important that fair minded people of all faiths stand together against irrational hate filled people who seek to divide us.

It is also important to note that the vast majority of people are tolerant and that the UK in particular is one of the most tolerant countries in the world. However, we must make sure that the voices of the often silent majority speak up more loudly against the bigoted minority.

I  believe that communities mixing together and learning about each other’s faiths and cultures is the best way to achieve community cohesion because it is understanding each other and bonding together which creates harmony and will in turn hopefully lead to a reduction of all hate crimes and anti Semitism.

 

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Established to develop the cultural and social ties between the Muslim and Jewish Communities of Greater Manchester

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