Orthodox Jews pledge to guard London mosque


An Orthodox Jewish patrol group in London said it would protect a mosque after a rise in hate crimes against Muslims.

The Shomrim patrol group accepted a request for protection by the North London Community Centre in Cazenove Road, an Islamic institution situated in the heavily-Jewish Borough of Hackney in northern London.

The deal was brokered at a recent meeting coordinated by Ian Sharer, a member of the local council, the Hackney Gazette reported this week.

It came following a rise in anti-Muslim attacks after the slaying of a British soldier on May 22 in London. The suspect, a 22-year-old Muslim extremist, was filmed holding a large knife over the soldier’s decapitated body. A second suspect was charged with attempted murder and is believed to have acted as an accomplice.

Tell Mama, a watchdog on hate crime, recorded 212 incidents in the nine days that followed the murder, including 120 online. In 2012, the same group documented 12 anti-Muslim incidents per week on average and 624 in total.

Sharer, who is Jewish, told the Gazette that he was asked by “Muslim friends to chair the meeting. The meeting was a great success. The Shomrim patrols have agreed to include the local mosques and other buildings as part of their routine patrols.”

The local Shomrim group, numbering 22, was set up in 2008 in part as a reaction to anti-Semitic incidents, the Gazette reported. Members of the 24-hour patrol group have been trained by Hackney police and have neighborhood patrol badges and uniforms.

Chaim Hochhauser, 33, one of two Shomrim supervisors said the request from protection came from the Muslim community through Sharer. “We told them what we could do. We are pleased the Jewish community wanted to help.”

London Orthodox, non-Jews face off over planning laws


Non-Jewish residents of the heavily haredi Orthodox-populated London neighborhood of Hackney have launched a campaign to prevent Orthodox Jews from changing city planning regulations.

A group named Hackney Planning Watch recently produced a flyer warning: “Your neighborhood is in danger! Want your neighbor to extend their home to cover the whole of their back garden? Want to wake up and find a school has moved in next door?”

The flyer is part of the group’s fight against the bid of a largely haredi Orthodox rival group named Stamford Hill Neighborhood Forum to receive control over planning in the neighborhood, which is home to a rapidly-growing community of 20,000 Orthodox Jews and to non-Jews as well, according to the British daily newspaper The Guardian.

The two groups, Hackney Planning Watch and Stamford Hill Neighborhood Forum, are vying for control over planning regulations as part of the government's “big society” policy of handing planning control to local communities.

The Stamford Hill Neighborhood Forum – which is led by haredim and some non-Jews – seeks to approve major extensions to lofts and to build over gardens to house a rapidly growing population.

But the Hackney Planning Watch, which reportedly is led by secular academics and trades unionists, is seeking to block such changes. Jane Holgate, a leader of Hackney Planning Watch, said she has been accused of anti-Semitism for her opposition to the plans; a claim she rejects.

A Stamford Hill Neighborhood Forum leaflet accused Hackney Planning Watch of double standards, showing a loft extension built in the street where some of its leaders live. It asked: “Is it one rule for themselves and one rule for the ethnic communities?”

Any planning forum must be approved by the local council of Hackney.

Suspected arson reported at London-area Jewish school


Police in the London area reportedly are investigating a suspected arson attack at a Jewish primary school.

The fire at the Talmud Torah Toldos Yakov Yoser school in Hackney, a northeastern London borough, occurred on the night of Sept. 28 and did not result in any injuries, The Jewish Chronicle reported.

The paper quoted Nick Bull, an agent of the Violent Crime unit in Shoreditch, as saying that “an investigator at the London Fire Brigade confirmed that no accelerant was used but believes that the fire was started on purpose, because two separate fires in two separate rooms were started at the same time.”

Security cameras did not cover the area. Police are appealing for witnesses and information about the attack, the report said.

The Hackney website says it is home to a large haredi Orthodox Jewish community concentrated within a tight geographic area in the borough’s north. According to the site, a study in 2007 estimated the community's population at approximately 15,409, or 7 percent of Hackney residents, while other estimates are somewhat higher.