As Rosh Hashanah approaches I wanted to update you all on the Community Security Trust’s (CST) perspective on the current situation. As the Chairman of CST I also wanted to explain how I view the situation facing our Jewish community, and will tell you what CST is doing about it.
During this summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas, many British Jews of all ages and backgrounds stated that they had never felt under such pressures, nor been so concerned about antisemitism both here and in nearby Europe, France in particular. Our community rightly turned to CST for protection, reassurance and guidance.
With the immediate conflict having ended, the levels of antisemitism and anti-Israel intimidation are thankfully declining. We must however all remain vigilant.
In recent years, CST has invested millions of pounds in physical security enhancements at Jewish schools, synagogues and other venues. We have also recruited and trained over one thousand CST volunteers. These measures were fully tested this summer, with CST staff and volunteers working tirelessly to protect our community. Crucially, CST gives our community the confidence to continue its Jewish life, whether that be children returning to schools, or congregants attending synagogues over Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
In July and August, CST was literally on the front-line, securing dozens of public communal protests and counter-demonstrations, especially at flashpoints of repeated confrontation, such as the Kedem Israeli products store in Manchester city centre.
Hundreds of antisemitic incidents and security alerts were reported to CST’s offices. July was the worst single month ever recorded by CST, with over 300 antisemitic incidents alone: the same number as reported from January to June 2014 inclusive. Every report and call needed a fully professional response, from speaking with distressed victims, to ensuring Police investigation, or delivering immediate security provision and advice.
CST worked with Police at local, regional and national level, explaining our communal concerns and conducting joint visits and patrols to Jewish shops and other venues. Security at communal locations and events was under constant review, with additional personnel being provided, whilst security upgrades were granted urgent funding.
Numerous meetings were held in which senior CST staff briefed members of our community, ranging from rabbis to youth workers. Government was also fully briefed throughout this time, especially via CST’s longstanding partners in the Home Office, and the Department of Communities and Local Government.
In a time of crisis, communications are vital. CST did its utmost to ensure that the situation was reported objectively and accurately, without panic or undue alarm. CST spokespeople, statistics and information were repeatedly utilised by local, national and international media; and also by senior Jewish communal figures, Government and Police.
Now, moving forward, you have my assurance that CST will continue to remain focussed upon its key security task. Only last month, the UK’s national threat level was raised to ‘severe’, mainly due to the number of British Jihadis now in Syria and Iraq. The threat is clear, as is the continuing need for a strong and visible security response delivered by CST, with crucial support from Police and Government.
Politically, it is also clear that British Jews must not be held perpetually hostage to overseas events. This is well understood by Government, and in recent weeks, Prime Minister David Cameron, Home Secretary Theresa May and Chief Whip Michael Gove have all strongly condemned antisemitism, and its implications for both Jews and Britain. They have stressed our community’s right to hold its opinions, without suffering racist bullying and intimidation. These are British values that we all stand for.
CST has been a charity since 1994. We have long understood the problems that came to such prominence this summer; and we have planned and acted accordingly. We will continue to do so. It is what our community expects, needs and deserves.
Finally, as you attend synagogue this Rosh Hashanah, you will see the security that is provided by CST, working in partnership with each of our local communities. It is truly a team effort, and I thank each and every member of our community for the part that they play in it.
I wish you, your family and friends a very happy and peaceful Rosh Hashanah and well over the fast.
Gerald M Ronson CBE, Chairman of Trustees, CST