London terror: No. 30,499 in a series


Commenting on the London attack that killed three and injured 40, acting Deputy commissioner Mark Rowley told the BBC that it was “Islamist-related terrorism.”

A day earlier, on March 21, an Islamist suicide car bomber killed 10 people in Mogadishu.

A day before that, two dozen people were blown up by an Islamist car bomber in a Baghdad neighborhood. 

Two days before that, a mother and her two children were among four people wiped out by three Islamist suicide bombers in Maiduguri, Nigeria.

A day before that, Islamist Shiite rebels fired two rockets into a Sunni mosque in Yemen, killing 34 people during Friday prayers.

On the same day, in Paris, a father and son’s throats were slit by a family member yelling “Allah Akbar” (God is great).

A day earlier, a young child was blown to bits by an Islamist suicide bomber in Bangladesh.

On that same day, March 16, in South Ukkadam, India, an atheist was hacked to death by an angry Muslim over Facebook posts attacking his religion.

I know that its painful to consider the stunning reality that 30,499 deadly attacks could be committed in the name of one religion.

That is just a little glimpse of last week’s terror report from the Third World and elsewhere. Worldwide, since 9/11, Islamist terrorists have carried out more than 30,499 deadly terror attacks, according to the independent watchdog site TheReligionOfPeace.com.

Most of these attacks never make it to CNN or The New York Times or Facebook, because the victims don’t live in places like London, Brussels or San Bernardino. So, on March 15, when Boko Haram members slit the throats of three hostages in Borno, Nigeria, while reciting from the Koran, Wolf Blitzer wasn’t on it. There was no “breaking news” drama on our screens.

Similarly, when a pregnant woman was gunned down by Islamist terrorists on March 16 in Ayati, Nigeria, it made no noise in our world.

In the West, we see a fraction of the carnage done in the name of Islam. No matter how much media attention we give to the attacks on our soil, it doesnt come close to capturing the scope of the global problem.

I know that its painful to consider the stunning reality that 30,499 deadly attacks could be committed in the name of one religion. It challenges our narrative that all religions are pretty much the same, that there’s good and bad in all religions, and there’s no special reason to isolate one in particular. This is a comforting narrative that can lull us into complacency.

Still, theres an aspirational value to that narrative. It gives us something to look forward to. For humanity to succeed, we need it to become true. We need a reformation of Islam so that, one day, the number 30,499 will be reduced to a very low number and we can truly say that the religion is just like any other.

Because right now, its not. Too much killing, too much horror, is done in its name.

Its no longer enough to say, This is not Islam.” For the killers doing the killing, it is Islam. It may be a radicalized, supremacist version of Islam, but theres enough supporting text in the holy Koran to make the killers believe theyre doing Gods work.

Despite our efforts to counter this radical Islam, reform only gets more distant and the violence only gets worse. Defending the faith, accusing extremists of perverting it and engaging in interfaith kumbaya is fine, but it’s not enough. True reform will come not from interfaith but from innerfaith, from the inside, from Muslims taking responsibility for the violence done in the name of their religion. 

It will come from Muslims who have the courage to acknowledge and confront the extremist parts of their texts and reinterpret them in a holy way that will honor their faith.

One such group is the little-known Muslim Reform Movement, a group of Muslim scholars and spiritual activists whose leaders call for “a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam” and reject interpretations that call for “any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam.”

For some reason, this movement has gained little traction among progressive circles, even though its founding declaration sounds like a love letter to progressive values. Going forward, we must ensure that such moderate groups are no longer marginalized by the mainstream, and are empowered to make progress in their supremely difficult mission.

We must pray that their non-violent and tolerant interpretation of Islam will one day take hold throughout the Jihadist world and win over the hearts of the killers, even if it takes a century. We must pray that the number 30,499 will eventually be reduced to zero.

Yes, that would be a miracle for humanity and for Islam, but God is great.

Praying in London


I have spent much of the past six months in London. It is my adopted home and I love it here. I have a tight group of friends and colleagues in this wonderful city. I enjoy every minute that I am blessed to be in London, a city my father loved so much. I walk every day and my favorite route is to walk is across Westminster Bridge then across to the Tower Bridge, passing Shakespeare’s Globe Theater along the way. It is about a 5 mile walk and a treasured part of my time here. I listen to the soundtracks of Bridget Jones movies and am happy.

I do my walk three days a week. Yesterday however, I didn’t go because I was busy and didn’t have time. I never walk at a set time, so it is impossible to know if I would have been on the bridge during the terrorist attack, but I am shaken. I am sad for those who lost their lives, those in the hospital, and the witnesses of this cowardly attack. I am thankful for the first responders who bravely helped. I am also worried for my Muslim friends here, who feel this attack on levels I won’t ever understand. The world is dark and hate is truly powerful.

It is exhausting to hear the hate. It chisels away at my heart and I hear it every day. People in line at the market, on the subway, having coffee. Everyone speaks freely and loudly about how all the problems in the world are because of Muslims. They say it in front of Muslims. They speak of how every terrorist in the world is Muslim and they must all go. I’m not sure where exactly they want them to go, but as a Jew, and an intelligent human being, it breaks my heart and frightens me to hear of the persecution of a group of people based on faith.

I walked again today, but chose a different route, mostly to stay out of the way. I walked through London this morning because life goes on. I am praying for this city and her people as I count down the days until I go home and hug my son. I’m thankful for my amazing readers, who immediately upon hearing of the attack, reached out to see if I was okay, knowing I am often on Westminster Bridge. I felt embraced and comforted. I am grateful for the opportunities that brought me to London and I hope all of us here can keep the faith.

 

Paramedics load a victim into the back of an ambulance as members of the emergency services work on Westminster Bridge, alonside the Houses of Parliament in central London on March 22, 2017, during an emergency incident. British police shot a suspected attacker outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday after an officer was stabbed in what police said was a "terrorist" incident. NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

Israel, British Jewry offer condolences in wake of deadly London attacks


At least two civilians and a police officer were killed in a car-ramming and knife attack outside the houses of Parliament in London.

British authorities are calling the attack a “terrorist incident” as they continue to investigate the motive in the Wednesday afternoon attack.

More than 20 are reported injured, some seriously. The attacker was shot and killed by police after crashing into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then exiting the vehicle brandishing a knife. He stabbed a police officer to death inside the gates of the Parliament building. The attacker has not yet been identified.

The Community Security Trust, the United Kingdom’s main watchdog group on anti-Semitism, called on the Jewish community to be “calm, vigilant and to cooperate with security measures,” a spokesman told the London-based Jewish Chronicle. The CST said there is not believed to be any immediate threat to the community.

Additional police patrols were visible in London neighborhoods with large Jewish populations, such as Stamford Hills.

U.K. Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said in a statement: “Today’s attack, which targeted the very heart of our democracy in Westminster, will serve only to unite us against the scourge of violence and terrorism.

“The prayers of the Jewish community are with the families of the victims and with our security services, who so often selflessly place themselves in harm’s way for our protection.”

In Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in a statement: “Israel expresses its deep shock at the terror attack in London today and its solidarity with the victims and with the people and government of Great Britain. Terror is terror wherever it occurs and we will fight it relentlessly.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the foreign minister’s portfolio, was on an airplane back to Israel from China at the time of the attack.

The European Jewish Congress condemned what it called a “cowardly and barbaric terror attack.” The EJC statement also extended its condolences to the British government and the British people.

“This strike, at the heart of democracy, on the anniversary of the Brussels attacks which claimed the lives of 32 people, once again demonstrates that radical extremists continue to have the ability and motivation to commit mass murder in Europe,” EJC President Dr. Moshe Kantor said in the statement.

“This murderous ideology targets all of Europeans and all of Europe must stand together to fight this scourge.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also condemned the attack.

“On behalf of the United States, I express my condolences to the victims and their families,” he said in a statement. “The American people send their thoughts and prayers to the people of the United Kingdom. We condemn these horrific acts of violence, and whether they were carried out by troubled individuals or by terrorists, the victims know no difference.”

UK Jewish audience challenges Jeremy Corbyn on anti-Semitism charges


Facing questions from a Jewish audience about his party’s anti-Semitism problem, U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn refused to say whether the movement will kick out one of its most often accused offenders, former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Corbyn spoke about Livingstone and other issues connected to allegations of anti-Semitism on Sunday during a debate with Owen Smith, who is challenging Corbyn for the party’s leadership, at London’s JW3 Jewish community center. It was one of the most public appearances by Corbyn at a Jewish forum in recent years.

Hundreds of people attended the debate. Despite some jeering at Corbyn, it went off without incident.

Corbyn has faced allegations that his pro-Palestinian politics and endorsement of radical anti-Semites has encouraged hate speech against Jews. Livingstone sparked outrage in April when he said in an interview that Adolf Hitler was essentially “supporting Zionism” when he called for the expulsion of Jews in 1932.

When asked by a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews whether Labour intends to expel Livingstone, Corbyn was circumspect.

“OK, Ken Livingstone was suspended for the remarks he made, he’s under investigation, due process will follow,” Corbyn said.

Smith then said he suspected Livingstone will be allowed back into the party.

Dozens of Labour members have been suspended and several expelled from the party since February, when the British media began scrutinizing the proliferation of anti-Semitic incidents within Labour after the election last year of Corbyn. In 2009, Corbyn called Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends,” a comment he later walked back. He has also called for boycotts against Israeli settlements.

Last month, British Jewish leaders dismissed an internal party report about the problem as a “whitewash” and accused Corbyn of rewarding the author by appointing her as a lawmaker.

Shami Chakrabarti, a human rights activist and Labour member, was recommended by Labour for peerage – a term that means being appointed to the House of Lords — last month. In her report, she asserted that while there is  an “occasionally toxic atmosphere” against Jews in Labour, anti-Semitism is not prevalent in the party’s ranks. Peerage is ultimately given by the Royal House.

Corbyn reiterated during the debate his commitment to opposing all forms of racism.

US citizen killed, Israeli among injured in London stabbing attack


The woman killed in a stabbing attack in London was a U.S. citizen and one of the injured was an Israeli, police told reporters.

The attack early Thursday does not appear to be terrorism-related, however, according to Assistant London Police Commissioner Mark Rowley.

“The woman who was murdered was an American national. Those injured were Australian, American, Israeli and British,” Rowley told reporters outside police headquarters in central London, according to Reuters.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed to Israeli media that an Israeli was among the injured, but did not provide any more details.

The Israeli victim was injured in her hand and has been discharged from the hospital, Ynet reported. She was later identified as aYuval Labkovsky, 18, who was visiting London with her grandfather. She is set to enter the Israel Defense Forces next week.

The attacker, a Norwegian citizen of Somali origin, is believed to have mental health issues.

“We believe this was a spontaneous attack and that the victims were selected at random.

“So far we have found no evidence of radicalization that would suggest that the man in our custody is in any way motivated by terrorism,” Rowley said.

The area of the attack, Russell Square, reportedly is a busy area for tourists, including hotels, cafes and souvenir shops.

Rowley told reporters there would be an increased police presence in London in the wake of the attack to “provide reassurance and safety.”

 

As London prices climb, Manchester beckons Jews from far and near


When Yitzchak Horwitz’s family opened one of the first Jewish businesses in this leafy suburb of Manchester — a bookstore that also sold Judaica items — it served a small Jewish community that had only recently moved there from the downtown area.

“The center was run-down after the war, living conditions deteriorated, we had to get out,” said Horwitz, a man in his 80s who runs and owns the Judaica World store that his family opened here in 1960. “A few Jewish families, a small synagogue and that was pretty much it.”

Nevertheless, Horwitz stuck it out. And half a century later, his business is among dozens of Jewish shops servicing thousands of people from the Jewish community of the Manchester area, some 200 miles north of London. Now this community is among the fastest growing in Western Europe, providing Horwitz income from selling Jewish and Hebrew holy books, textbooks and stationery.

At a time when many Jewish communities outside London are dwindling, the one in the Manchester area is growing almost beyond its own capacity due to the high birthrate of its haredi Orthodox nucleus and an influx of Jewish newcomers. The latter is drawn here by the excellent infrastructure for observant Jews and a cost of living that is roughly half that of pricey London.

“People in London seem to think they earn loads more money,” said Selena Myers, a Liverpool-born observant Jewish in her 20s who works at a local Jewish newspaper. Four years ago she moved from London to Manchester, where she lives with her husband. “In fact, the cost of living is maybe three times higher than in Manchester,” whereas the salaries are not. London, she said, “doesn’t make financial sense.”

London is the world’s most expensive city in which to live and work, according to a study published in March by the Savills international real-estate agency. Accommodation for the average Londoner – calculated as a total of housing and office rental costs – comes to $105,000 a year, putting London ahead of New York ($103,000) and Hong Kong ($96,800).

A view of Manchester’s Victoria train station. (Wikimedia Commons)

Not only is renting in Manchester half the cost of what it is in London, but the average price of a home in the greater Manchester area is $144,000 – a full fifth of the average price in London.

Cost of living is especially important for Orthodox families with many children, like that of Simon Rudich, a Rome-born property investor and lawyer who has raised eight children in Manchester with his British wife.

“If you want to live in England as an observant Jew, which I do, then you have two main options: London or Manchester,” said Rudich. “But you only have one sensible option, which is the one I took.”

The only downside to living in Manchester, he said, “is living without sunshine.” Manchester gets 256 rainy days annually and 34 inches of precipitation – respectively 30 and 21 percent more than London.

When the sun does shine, however, Prestwich is bustling with activity by Jews of all denominations. It has five kosher supermarkets near its center. One features a sushi bar where customers line up for freshly prepared glatt kosher rolls.

There are clothing shops catering to the modest standards of observant women, several kosher butchers, a vegetable shop with exotic produce like gooseberries and mangos from Israel, and a French-style kosher patisserie.

According to a 2011 census by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, greater Manchester in the previous decade saw a 15 percent growth in its Jewish population, to 25,013. Conversely, the city of Manchester itself lost 463 Jews. It is home to Britain’s second largest Jewish population after London, where most of the country’s 250,000 Jews live.

In Manchester, as elsewhere in Western Europe, Jewish families that once lived in middle- and working-class areas of the city have moved into the suburbs, partly to improve their quality of life. Another reason for moving has been the arrival of poorer African and Arab immigrants to neighborhoods that often saw an uptick in crime and, more recently, anti-Semitic harassment.

“I chose Manchester because I’m from South Africa,” said Dianna Schwartz, an observant mother of four. She immigrated five years ago to Prestwich from Cape Town because of what she described as “a deteriorating security situation after 1994,” the year apartheid ended.

“I can’t live in a London apartment, I need space and green. That’s how I grew up,” she said. “But getting that in a part of London that is near a proper Jewish school is just impossible for us.”

Manchester’s Jewish influx has left its 12 or so Jewish schools and kindergartens in need of more space and staff, which has helped generate work, particularly for women.

“When I first moved here, people immediately assumed I was a teacher,” said Myers, the newspaper office worker. “They’d ask me straight away where I teach.”

While Manchester remains significantly cheaper than London, the influx is nonetheless driving up prices and creating a housing shortage in the city’s heavily Jewish areas.

“You’re already seeing new Jewish presence in areas around Prestwich, which used to have no Jews in the past,” Myers said.

Manchester is not the only affordable city in northern Britain with an active Jewish community; Liverpool, Leeds and Bristol all have them. Yet Manchester emerged as the largest because it retained an observant and haredi nucleus, which over time produced community institutions that cemented it as the epicenter of Jewish life outside London, according to Rabbi Hillel Royde of the Manchester Beth Din, or rabbinical court.

Thus Manchester is the only city in northern England with a large haredi school. Myers and her siblings attended school in Manchester for that reason even when they were living in Liverpool, she said.

British lawmaker Luciana Berger meeting members of the Jewish Representative Council of the Manchester area, May 8, 2016. (Courtesy of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region)

This inbound traffic is “creating some problems that are nice to have, but they are nonetheless problems,” Royde said.

His rabbinical court is one of the community’s main tools for solving those problems. Established in 1902, when heavy industry attracted thousands of Jewish immigrants from Europe to the area, the court served 30 butcher shops, supervising ritual slaughter across the region.

Over time it has taken over kashrut supervision for the large food producers in the Manchester area, including the cereal giant Kellogg’s. Supervision fees from such companies are invested back into the community and used to open new schools and fund projects that make Manchester even more attractive for observant Jews — like setting up eruvs, symbolic boundaries that allow observant Jews to carry objects on Shabbat.

In 2014, the Manchester suburbs became the site of Britain’s largest eruv, a 13-mile perimeter that includes Prestwich, Crumpsall and Higher Broughton. Without an eruv, haredi families with children would effectively go into weekend curfews. But setting them up is an expensive and complex process that requires city permits and installing braces, strings and poles to discreetly cordon off the area. Work is ongoing on another eruv in the Manchester suburb of Hale.

These improvements have made life easier for thousands of haredi Jews and are attracting thousands more. And that is changing the nature of a community that, according to Myers, is losing its middle ground.

“Nowadays it’s either you’re very observant or almost not at all,” she said. “It didn’t used to be like that.”

Have we taken leave of our senses?


As a British Jew in London, I got a rude awakening on the morning of June 24. Looking at my phone at 7 in the morning, I could hardly believe what I was reading in the notifications from the news sites I subscribe to.

I am rabbi to a congregation of more than 3,000 members, and barely anyone who had spoken to me about the European Union referendum campaign had indicated that they were going to vote to leave. Over the past few weeks, I had been part of a two straw polls in which people indicated how they were likely to vote, one at our Assembly of Rabbis, one among a large studio audience at a television debate on an unrelated religious issue on which I was a panelist. Both times, the indication was a large majority wanted to remain. The national polls had been saying that the result was likely to be close, but close in favor of Remain, not Leave. While sermons had been preached on the issues as how they might affect the Jewish community at our civically engaged synagogue, the synagogue had not taken a line on which way to vote as we knew that there was a small amount of diversity in opinion that had to be respected.

At 7 in the morning of June 24, I had to face the screaming evidence that I did not know my country. Britain, up to that point, felt safe for Jews to thrive in a multicultural outward looking, welcoming society. It was one where we felt connected to the rest of the world through our membership in the powerful and open European Union. Now it feels horribly uncertain. For the country to split so evenly on such a big issue is worrying, and the Jewish community is largely on the losing side of the argument. 

The statistics provide very strong evidence for this. Nationally, the Leave vote was 51.9 percent, the Remain vote was 48.1 percent. It means half the country’s citizens in a vote with a high 72 percent turnout do not agree with the other half. The Jewish community in Britain is concentrated in London. Of 264,000 of us, according to the 2011 census, more than 75 percent live in London, where the vote to remain was the substantial majority. In the area where almost all of the members of my synagogue live, and which is the area of the highest concentration of Jews in the country, the Remain vote was more than 80 percent.

On the afternoon of the announcement of the results, the conference of our national Movement for Reform Judaism began. It meant that I was now together with Jews from all around the country and, informally, this confirmed for me that most Jews had been on the Remain side.

Speaking to people around the conference, Brexit was, of course, a major topic of conversation. People’s reasons for voting Remain had been those of Britain’s middle class in general: the ability of their children to find employment if they wished throughout Europe; the ability of their companies to trade widely and easily; a comfort with immigration to Britain as a benefit to the economy and cultural richness of the nation.

But there were also more Jewish issues among the reasons for Remain: a strong discomfort with the far right-wing stance of some in the Leave camp whose success might encourage other similar groups across Europe that include Jews among the groups they reject; a sense that a Jew must be able to live elsewhere in case of emergency, a reality lived one or two generations previously by those with Jewish refugee ancestors; the knowledge that the European Union had enshrined the cessation of regular war between European nations within which Jews had been scapegoats in the past; and, from a more positive perspective, the unity of the European Jewish community, demonstrated in our European Union for Progressive Judaism, the Orthodox Council of European Rabbis and many other cooperative institutions and, of course, family and personal relationships across Europe.

Yet our country had rejected this. Many Jews have been talking about how little we know the parts of Britain that must feel economically disenfranchised, that feel under threat from the free movement of European people, that feel safer closed in.

At our Reform Movement conference, speaking privately with members of a synagogue in one of the northern cities that voted more than 70 percent to leave the EU, I heard they were sure their community in that city had voted with the majority. They experienced the disenfranchisement and disillusion with the EU just as much as their fellow citizens and felt that any Jewish community arguments to remain were of lesser value when you have lived for decades with uncertain employment and a low-wage, local economy.

Leaving the EU — and the process of leaving — will undoubtedly have an effect on the Jewish community. We expect it to be harder to raise funds for Jewish community life as the uncertainly of the economy makes our members naturally cautious. The British Jewish community has been thriving, with great new institutions and synagogues being built, especially in London, but our ambition may now be on hold.

We are concerned about Brexit encouraging the far right across Europe and possibly leading to continental European countries facing the same disunity Britain has just shown. A community so dedicated to bringing up our next generation is worried that our children’s future, their options for work and residence, and their ability to study abroad has just been constricted. Above all, we are worried that we didn’t really know how the rest of the country thinks.

Rabbi Mark Goldsmith is rabbi at Alyth Synagogue in Golders Green, London. He was ordained at Leo Baeck College in London in 1996 and is past chair of the Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK and the Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism.

Ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone accuses Israel of ethnic cleansing, but not Nazism


Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone told a Parliament committee that he does not believe Zionism or the policies of the Israeli government are at all analogous to Nazism.

Livingstone also reiterated that he regretted saying Adolf Hitler supported Zionism because of the furor his remarks sparked, not because he disavows them.

“I therefore do regret raising the historical points about Nazi policy in the1930s when the specific issue of Hitler was raised by (reporter) Vanessa Feltz,” Livingstone said in a written statement filed with the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee hearing on anti-Semitism. “I regret it because there was an hysterical response from opponents of the Labour Party and of its current leadership, which will not have aided Labour’s campaign for the 5 May elections. I am horrified by the way my remarks have been interpreted and twisted. I cannot think of a worse insult than to be called a racist or an anti-Semite. And I am sorry if what I said has caused Jewish people, or anyone else, offense. That was not my intention.”

In a radio interview in April with the BBC, Livingstone had said, “Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism.”

He made the remarks in defense of Labour Party lawmaker Naz Shah, who was suspended a day earlier over a Facebook post in 2014 suggesting that Israelis should be moved en masse to the United States. Days later, Livingstone was suspended from the party for the remark.

In recent months, Labour has suspended at least 20 members, including at the senior level, for anti-Semitic or vicious anti-Israel invective that critics say party leader Jeremy Corbyn had not done enough to curb.

The inquiry into anti-Semitism was launched in April to determine whether anti-Jewish prejudice has increased in the U.K. and to assess the particular dangers facing Jews.

Livingstone objected to the fact that in its questioning, the committee dwelled on the BBC interview in which he made the Hitler remarks rather than asking him about anti-Semitism and racism because of what he called his “long track record” of fighting both.

“Instead, the overwhelming majority of questions asked of me were about my views on the history of Germany in the 1930s, Hitler, the Nazis, Israel, Zionism and the Labour Party. Committee members seemed to be obsessed with these issues,” he wrote.

Livingstone also wrote: “To avoid any other misunderstanding, I do not believe that Zionism or the policies of Israeli governments are at all analogous to Nazism. Israeli governments have never had the aim of the systematic extermination of the Palestinian people, in the way Nazism sought the annihilation of the Jews.”

He did accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, continuing: “However Israel’s policies have included ethnic cleansing. Palestinians who had lived in that land for centuries were driven out by systematic violence and terror aimed at clearing them out of what became a large part of the Israeli state.”

Livingstone served as mayor twice, from 1981 to 1986 and from 2000 to 2008.

Swastika posters left in north London playground 4 consecutive days


Police are stepping up their presence in a charedi Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of London after swastika posters were placed in a playground there four days in a row.

London’s Jewish Chronicle reported Friday that local police have increased patrols in Stamford Hill and are investigating the matter.

The local branch of Shomrim, the Jewish volunteer security group, first reported the posters to police Monday, and they have appeared every day since then. The playground is next to a Jewish senior home, many of whose residents are Holocaust survivors.

Stamford Hill Shomrim’s Shulem Stern told the Chronicle the posters have sparked “a sense of anxiety and fear amongst local parents.”

“The daubing of Nazi symbols in a place where Jewish children study and play is an act of racism intended to spread fear and alarm,” Marie van der Zyl, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, told the Chronicle.

The northeast London neighborhood is home the largest charedi Orthodox community in Europe, according to the Chronicle.

 

Rescued haredi Orthodox teens donate $7,000 to British town’s lifeboat team


Haredi Orthodox teenagers from London have donated more than $7,000 to the lifeboat team that rescued them from the water.

Thirty-four boys from Stamford Hill in North London were rescued Monday from the beach at Dover by a helicopter and lifeboats after they were trapped by a tide that rolled in quickly. The 14- to 17-year-olds had guided the rescuers, including 40 volunteers, to their location using the flashlights on their cellphones.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution lifeboat station located in Dover, a town in the English county of Kent, reportedly relies on donations to operate.

A letter from the Ahavas Yisrael Community Centre in Stamford Hill to the station operations manager read: “The centre, together with our entire community, would like to extend their warmest gratitude and appreciation to you and your colleagues for the swift action and heroism of the Dover RNLI station, which ensured the safety of our boys.

“Following the incident you referred to the boys being in high spirits. I can assure you that this is in no small measure due to the care that the boys received from your team at the scene.”

The letter added that immediately after the accident, the families of the boys began raising funds for the station and would hold more fundraisers over the summer, the Kent online news website reported Thursday.

Suspicious car outside London’s Israeli embassy prompts police action


Police in London carried out a controlled explosion across the street from Israel’s embassy in the city after a suspicious vehicle was spotted there.

Hundreds of commuters were evacuated from the surrounding area, and police temporarily shut down a nearby section of Kensington High Street, according to the Daily Star.

Police determined that the car, a Volkswagen Passat, contained no explosives. London’s Jewish Chronicle reported that embassy staff “looked shaken upon leaving the building.”

In 1994, a car bombing on the western London embassy injured 20 and was followed several hours later by another one outside the London office of the United Jewish Israel Appeal. Two Palestinians, Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami, were convicted in 1996 of “conspiracy to cause explosions” and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Botmeh was released in 2008 and Alami in 2009. Both insisted they were innocent and, according to the Jewish Chronicle, the current Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, advocated for their release.

75th anniversary of Baghdad pogrom to be commemorated in 4 cities


The author of a work on the Nazi-era massacre in Baghdad believed to have precipitated the Jewish exodus from Iraq is commemorating its 75th anniversary with candle lightings in four cities.

Edwin Black, who in 2010 published “The Farhud,” about the June 1-2, 1941 massacre of at least 180 Jews in Baghdad, will convene candle lightings on Tuesday in the morning on Capitol Hill and in the afternoon at the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in New York.

On Thursday, there will be a candle lighting in London, which has a large Iraqi Jewish community, and then on June 6 at the Knesset in Jerusalem.

The pogrom, set off by the collapse of a popular pro-Nazi government in Baghdad, is seen as a turning point for Iraqi Jews. A series of subsequent decrees and attacks emptied the country of its ancient Jewish community by the early 1970s, with barely 100 Jews remaining.

In each city, 27 candles will be lit for the 27 centuries that Jewish life thrived in what is now Iraq.

Among the groups sponsoring the events are the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, StandWithUs and the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.

Anti-Semitism charges stir the calm waters of bucolic Oxford


For a city that has made headlines recently for its anti-Semitism problem, Oxford has a pretty laid back Jewish scene.

On a recent Friday night, dozens of recognizably Jewish families and students wearing kippahs were enjoying the afternoon sun as they strolled to one of Oxford’s two synagogues.

They converged at a modern building that houses a Jewish community center, complete with a kosher kitchen and a shul with a tall, sloped ceiling of white plaster that evokes the feeling of standing between the pages of a giant book. The same building has separate halls for Progressive congregants (Conservative and Reform) and Orthodox prayer, where services are held simultaneously.

Across Britain and Western Europe, worshippers more commonly cover their kippahs with a hat on the way to synagogue, where they are inspected or questioned – and sometimes even frisked – at the entrance by police or military. And while the Oxford Jewish Centre has some security, visitors can often walk in no questions asked.

It’s part of living in a city with hardly any violent anti-Semitic incidents, says Jake Berger, a third-year psychology student from Manchester.

“I definitely feel safer walking around with a kippah here compared to Manchester,” Berger said.

Yet despite the rarity of physical attacks on Jews, anti-Semitic rhetoric and hate speech against Israel in Oxford has invited scrutiny and cast an ugly shadow on this bastion of the British left. A picturesque university town of 160,000 residents 60 miles northwest of London, Oxford is internationally famous for its scholastic excellence and for churning out leaders in a variety of fields. The University of Oxford was ranked as the world’s fifth best in the Center for World University Rankings this year.

Students fill the many affordable pubs here until deep into the night. On weekends, lovers and hikers walk or sail along the Oxford Canal, which intersects the city’s center and stretches for 80 miles.

Especially for Jews who are openly supportive of Israel, Oxford is “an Eden with a dark underbelly,” according to Richard Black, a fourth-year history student and former member of the local JSoc, the Oxford University Jewish Society. As a pro-Israel activist, he has been called “baby killer” several times in Oxford.

He says he overheard a classmate explaining that Jews exploit the memory of the Holocaust while committing their very own Holocaust against Palestinians, adding that Jews control American finance and media. After an argument on Israel, Black recalls, a member of the academic faculty told him that the Hebrew Bible was “genocidal” and that Black provided “the best advertisement for anti-Semitism.”

Black also recalls that at one event in 2011, a pro-Palestinian activist told him that “Adolf Hitler was a good man.” She was holding a banner supporting Palestinians and speaking with Black calmly about the factors that led to Israel’s existence, including the Holocaust.

“I was shocked back then, but I have grown accustomed,” Black said.

Like many Jewish students at Oxford, Black cites the increasingly popular pejorative of “Zio” as proof of widespread but covert anti-Semitism. Short for Zionist, “it’s shorthand, used by people who hate Jews as cover for what they’re really saying: ‘Dirty Jew,’” Black said. “The true meaning lies in context: Zio media, Zio lobby – You overhear this sort of thing here.”

Last year, African rights activist Zuleyka Shahin, during a failed campaign for president of the Oxford Union, wrote on Facebook that “Judeo-Christian white men” and “Zio white men” are “complicit in the funding of wars and the social genocide of my people.”

In February, a non-Jewish Oxford student had enough of anti-Semitic chatter. Alex Chalmers, a co-chair of the university’s Labour chapter, resigned his post over the chapter’s passing of a motion endorsing Israel Apartheid Week, explaining that he no longer wanted to be associated with a framework that has “some kind of problem with Jews.”

The word “Zio,” he wrote in an op-ed explaining his move, “was part of the [Labour] club’s lexicon.” The song “Rockets over Tel Aviv” was a favorite among a certain faction of the club. Concerns of Jewish students “were ridiculed,” Chalmers added.

His resignation triggered an internal probe by Oxford’s Labour chapter which found that the Oxford University Labour Club is not institutionally anti-Semitic, but faces “difficulties” that must be addressed, the Jewish Chronicle reported Tuesday.

More significantly, it also started a chain reaction, exposing the left-wing party to intense media scrutiny in Britain that generated one of its worst public relations fiascoes in years. Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn – himself branded untrustworthy by Jewish community leaders over his support for the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah – was forced to suspend at least 20 of the party’s members for making hateful remarks or statements on Jews and Israel.

Among those suspended this month were former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who said Hitler supported Zionism in defending a Labour lawmaker who had been suspended earlier for making a similar statement.

Earlier this month Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, told The Times of London that Jewish students at British universities, including Oxford, face a “wall of anti-Zionism, which they feel and know to be Jew hatred.” He is scheduled to speak later this month at the Oxford Union.

For some Jewish students and faculty, the storm is “just brouhaha,” said Jonathan, a former computer science student who graduated in 2013.  He returns to Oxford regularly for JSoc activities and to attend lectures.

Jonathan, an observant Jew who did not want his last name mentioned, said: “The ones who experience anti-Semitism are the hacks,” meaning people active in student or university politics.

Most Jews in Oxford “enjoy a very good situation of safety and a robust Jewish community with excellent facilities that are actually far better than what one finds in many other British universities,” said Berger, the psychology student from Manchester. Even Black – a supporter of the Conservative Party – said that “for every negative experience” with non-Jews in Oxford, he has had “a hundred positive ones.”

While the recent scandal exposed widespread hate speech at Oxford, it also reinforced growing rejection of anti-Semitism “by the vast majority in Oxford” who understand “how criticism of Israel spills into anti-Semitism,” Black said.

Last month, four of Oxford’s six delegates to Britain’s National Student Union said their university should disaffiliate from the union following the election of Malia Bouatia as its president. Bouatia, a student at the University of Birmingham, is accused of justifying violence against Israelis and opposing a motion to condemn the Islamic State terror group lest it stigmatize Muslims. She also blamed the “Zionist-led media” for oppression in the global south.

Two British universities, Lincoln and Newcastle, this month disaffiliated with the union, citing lack of confidence in its leadership. Oxford is set to hold a disaffiliation referendum in the coming weeks.   

As for Israelis living in Oxford — there are hundreds of them, mostly students and researchers — they say they suffer no discrimination or abuse for their country of origin.

“It’s a very international place, many languages spoken, very tolerant,” said Lior Weizman, 36, a father of four who moved to Oxford last year to work as a post-doctoral fellow at Oxford specializing in medical imaging of the brain.

“I’m not a political person,” he said. “But if there are situations of people being singled out in Oxford because of their country of origin, I haven’t encountered them.”

London’s Muslim mayor reaffirms plan for Israel trip


Sadiq Khan, who was sworn in as London’s first Muslim mayor last week, reiterated plans to lead a trade delegation to Israel.

In an interview with London’s The Jewish News published Monday, Khan, the first Muslim mayor of any Western capital city and London’s first Labour Party mayor in eight years, also said he believes it is important to improve Jewish-Muslim relations in the UK capital.

During his campaign, Khan criticized Labour for not doing enough to confront anti-Semitism among some of its members. Accusations of anti-Semitism have roiled his party in recent months, with dozens of members suspended in the past few weeks allegedly for making anti-Semitic remarks. London’s former Labour mayor, Ken Livingstone, was suspended for anti-Semitic remarks in late April following a series of interviews in which he claimed that Adolf Hitler had supported Zionism.

A self-described moderate Muslim, Khan took office on Saturday. He attended a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony with British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis the following day in his first official appearance as mayor.

“We’ve got to accept there are some people who say they’re Muslim, some people of the Jewish faith who don’t like the fact I’m here, that I’m sitting next to the chief rabbi,” he told The Jewish News.

“My message to those people is we live in the greatest city in the world and have to go get along. I’m the mayor of London, the most diverse city in the world, and I’ll be everyone’s mayor. No preferential treatment ,but I have a role to build bridges. My signing-in ceremony was deliberately designed to show the sort of a mayor I’ll be and I started as I mean to go on.”

Asked when he will fulfill a campaign promise to visit Israel, Khan said, “I’ve not even had my first Monday at work to be fair, I’ve had six hours sleep since Wednesday. But I’m keen to make sure I’m the most pro-business mayor we’ve ever had and that means going on trade missions, including to Tel Aviv.”

Hundreds of anti-Israel posters hung in London subways


Hundreds of posters in support of the Palestinians and calling Israel an apartheid state were hung in London’s Underground subway system.

The ads were being removed Monday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Commuters first saw the signs during that morning’s commute after they were put up overnight.

Transport for London, which runs the subway system, told the London-based Jewish Chronicle that the ads were “unauthorized acts of vandalism” and would be taken down.

London Palestine Action, a pro-Palestinian activist group, claimed responsibility for the ads, saying they are part of the group’s Israeli Apartheid Week campaign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director Dore Gold, who is in London for talks with his British counterpart, to demand the immediate removal of the ads.

Some of the ads call the BBC’s coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict biased toward Israel, while others are emblazoned with the headline “Apartheid is Great Britain.” The posters also claim that British-made arms were used to “massacre” Palestinians during Israel’s 1994 Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza.

Russia’s Putin probably approved London murder of ex-KGB agent Litvinenko


President Vladimir Putin probably approved a 2006 Russian intelligence operation to murder ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 in London, a British inquiry concluded on Thursday, prompting a row with Moscow.

Russia, which had declined to cooperate in the inquiry, cautioned pointedly that it could “poison” relations. Britain accused the Kremlin of uncivilised behaviour but did not immediately signal it would take any stronger action.

Litvinenko, 43, an outspoken critic of Putin who fled Russia for Britain six years to the day before he was poisoned, died after drinking green tea laced with the rare and very potent radioactive isotope at London's Millennium Hotel.

An inquiry led by senior British judge Robert Owen found that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun, carried out the killing as part of an operation probably directed by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the main heir to the Soviet-era KGB.

“The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin,” Owen said.

“I have concluded that there is a strong probability that when Mr. Lugovoy poisoned Mr Litvinenko, he did so under the direction of the FSB. I have further concluded that Mr Kovtun was also acting under FSB direction,” he said.

The death of Litvinenko marked a post-Cold War low point in Anglo-Russian relations, and ties have never recovered, marred further by Russia's annexation of Crimea and its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“The conclusion that the Russian state was probably involved in the murder of Mr. Litvinenko is deeply disturbing,” interior minister Theresa May told parliament.

“This was a blatant and unacceptable breach of the most fundamental tenets of international law and of civilised behaviour.”

The opposition Labour Party spoke of an “unparalleled act of state-sponsored terrorism”.

POLONIUM TEA

The image of Litvinenko lying on his bed at London's University College Hospital, cadaverous and having lost his hair, was emblazoned across British and other Western newspapers and later shown to the inquiry. He took over three weeks to die.

From his deathbed, Litvinenko told detectives he believed Putin – a former KGB spy who went on to head the FSB before winning the presidency – had directly ordered his killing.

The Kremlin has always denied any involvement but the claim that Putin directly ordered a killing of an opponent with a radioactive isotope in a major Western capital provoked immediate censure from Moscow.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said what it called Britain's biased and opaque handling of the case had clouded relations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such inquiries risked poisoning relations and pointed out that the inquiry relied on unpublicised information from the intelligence services.

The judge said he was sure Lugovoy and Kovtun had placed the polonium 210 in a teapot at the Millennium Hotel's Pine Bar on Nov. 1, 2006 when they met Litvinenko for little more than 30 minutes. Litvinenko said he had only drunk three or four mouthfuls of the cold green tea made with lemon and honey.

High polonium contamination was found in the teapot and the hotel bar, and traces of the highly radioactive substance were left across London including offices, hotels, planes and Arsenal soccer club's Emirates Stadium.

Owen also concluded the two men had unsuccessfully tried to kill Litvinenko two weeks earlier at a meeting at a London security firm, and said it was “entirely possible” Lugovoy was planning to target him back in 2004.

The British government summoned Russia's ambassador Alexander Yakovenko, demanding the Kremlin provide answers and extradite the two main suspects.

RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE

Both Lugovoy and Kovtun, who declined to participate in the six-month British inquiry, have previously denied involvement and Russia has refused to extradite them. Lugovoy, now a Russian lawmaker, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the accusation was absurd.

Owen cited several reasons why the Russian state would have wanted to kill Litvinenko, who was granted British citizenship a month before his death on Nov. 23, 2006.

The ex-spy was regarded as having betrayed the FSB by accusing it of carrying out 1999 apartment block bombings that killed more than 200 people in Russia and which the Kremlin, launching an offensive to restore control over the southern region of Chechnya, blamed on Chechens.

The FSB also had information Litvinenko had started working for Britain's foreign intelligence agency, MI6.

Litvinenko was close to leading Russian dissidents and opponents of Putin and his administration, whom he had accused of collusion with organised crime, and had made highly personal allegations about the Kremlin chief.

“There was undoubtedly a personal dimension to the antagonism between Mr Litvinenko on the one hand and President Putin on the other,” Owen's report said.

Some of the inquiry was held in secret and evidence from the British government and spy agencies has not been publicly disclosed.

Litvinenko's widow, Marina, whose persistence led to the inquiry being held, called for Russian spies to be kicked out of Britain and for sanctions against Russia.

“I'm … calling for the imposition of targeted economic sanctions and travel bans against named individuals, including Mr Patrushev and Mr Putin,” she told reporters outside London's Royal Courts of Justice. Patrushev serves as secretary of Russia's Security Council.

Kuwait Airways, ordered to stop refusing tickets to Israelis, drops NYC-London flight


Kuwait Airways is eliminating service between New York and London after the US Department of Transportation ordered the carrier to stop refusing to sell tickets to Israelis.

Namrata Kolachalam, a spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, announced the airline’s decision, USA Today reported Tuesday.

On September 30, the department announced that the airline had acted illegally when it refused to sell a ticket to Eldad Gatt, an Israeli citizen, in 2013. On October 29, the department ordered the airline to “cease and desist from refusing to transport Israeli citizens between the U.S. and any third country where they are allowed to disembark,” USA Today reported, citing a letter from the department’s assistant general counsel for enforcement.

The newspaper reported that Kuwait Airways explained its refusal to sell Gatt a ticket by saying it needed to comply with a Kuwaiti law barring citizens from agreements “with entities or persons residing in Israel, or with Israeli citizenship.”

 

The airline filed a counter suit against the department on November 24, which it has not yet withdrawn. If it prevails, it may resume the New York-London flights.

In London’s Jewish heart, planned neo-Nazi rally provokes outrage


Like many European Jews, Stephen Lever has mostly stopped wearing his yarmulke on the street in recent years.

A Londoner, Lever said he fears joining the hundreds of Jews accosted annually in his native United Kingdom, often by Muslim or Arab extremists seeking to exact retribution for Israel’s actions. More than 1,000 anti-Semitic attacks were recorded in Great Britain last year — an all-time record and a number even higher than that of France, which has roughly double the Jewish population.

The exception, however, is in Golders Green, the heavily Jewish neighborhood in northwest London that is considered the epicenter of British Jewry. Roughly one-fifth of Britain’s 250,000 Jews live in the surrounding northern borough of Barnet.

Along the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare, Golders Green Road, dozens of shops feature signs with Hebrew lettering.  The neighborhood is home to several Israeli-style cafes, kosher food purveyors and an outpost of the Israeli bookstore Steimatzky. After the conclusion of the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday night, one of the neighborhood’s institutions, Carmelli Bakery, stays open until the wee hours of the morning as a diverse cross-section of British Jews leave their cars double parked outside its neon sign while they pop in to buy rugelach, kichlach and pita bread.

Lever said he considers the neighborhood a “safe haven.” Which is why he was outraged to discover last month that, for the first time in decades, several dozen neo-Nazis were preparing to rally in the neighborhood on July 4 at an event that their leader — the self-described Fascist Joshua Bonehill — promised would feature “Jewish book burning and Jewish flag destruction” to protest “Jewish privilege.”

Despite requests from local Jews, the police declined to ban the rally, which some see as an effort to intimidate Jews in the heart of their community. David Cameron, the British prime minister, said in parliament earlier this month that the neo-Nazis had a right to free expression, though he also condemned the rally and said any “harassment or threatening behavior …. should be prosecuted.”

“The far-right isn’t a big concern, much weaker than it used to be in the 1980s,” Lever told JTA late on Saturday as he waited to buy pastry at Carmelli. “But it’s still upsetting because it builds on the anti-Semitism that’s already out there, and compounds that aggression by Muslim extremists.”

At the bakery, three activists from Campaign for Truth handed out fliers for a counter-protest to inbound customers, whom the activists invited to wear blue and white — the colors of the Israeli flag. Hundreds, if not thousands, are expected to show up for the counter-protest. Ambrosine Shitrit, one of the group’s coordinators, said the rally is a “troubling sign of growing intimidation against Jews and other supporters of Israel in Britain.”

Golders Green is testament to the confidence that has for centuries characterized the only large European Jewish community to be spared the horrors of the Holocaust. In the 1930s and 40s, thousands of refugees from mainland Europe arrived in the area, followed later by an influx of Sephardic Jews from India, Iraq and Syria. Unlike other London Jewish neighborhoods where the haredi Orthodox set the tone, Golders Green is wildly diverse, with all the major streams represented – including some less mainstream ones.

In Golders Green, affluent Reform Jews live in close proximity to Yiddish-speaking haredi families whose tally of children is in the double digits. They also often cross paths with thousands of Israelis who call the neighborhood home.

Elsewhere in Europe, heavily Jewish areas are less visibly Jewish and more visibly protected – including, in Paris, by armed soldiers following the Charlie Hebdo killings and the murder of four Jews at a Jewish supermarket in January. Still, “there is a growing atmosphere of fear” among British Jews, according to Laura Marks, former vice president of the Board of Deputies who cited figures from the Jewish community’s security unit showing that 1,168 anti-Semitic attacks were reported in England last year — even more than the 851 recorded in France.

Marks said the fear is “changing the priorities of British Jewry, even as it experiences a cultural renaissance.”

In an E.U. survey published in 2013, 41 percent of 1,260 British Jewish respondents said they experienced anti-Semitism at social events in the previous 12 months, and 19 percent said they had suffered anti-Semitic harassment in that timeframe. Still, only eight precent said they avoid being identified publicly as Jews all the time, compared to 34 in Sweden and 29 in France.

Sharon Klaff, another Jewish campaigner against the rally, said some of the fear comes from harassment “that you can’t put your finger on as anti-Semitic, but that’s nonetheless happening to Jews because they are Jews.” She cited robberies where Jews are targeted and shouts from moving cars on heavily-Jewish streets and vandalism against Jewish property.

British police are informed regularly of such incidents and make efforts to detain and deter perpetrators, but the community remains divided over whether they should step in and ban the neo-Nazi rally altogether. Yet to Keith Harris-Kahn, a London-area Jewish sociologist and editor of the Jewish Journal of Sociology, the event is shaping up as it should: “A neo-Nazi event that will be dwarfed by a far larger counter protest … It’s just one of the unpleasant aspects one needs to deal with in a democratic society.”

Jewish candidate quits UK race after saying Israel should kidnap Obama


A Jewish candidate for the British Parliament has withdrawn after suggesting that Israel should “do an Eichmann” on Barack Obama.

Jeremy Zeid of the United Kingdom Independence Party, or UKIP, quit his campaign on Thursday in response to the blowback to a Facebook post in which he suggested that Israel should “[k]idnap the bugger” and “lock him up for leaking state secrets,” according to the Jewish Chronicle. Zeid was outraged over the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran.

Zeid, a decorator, was running in a northwest London district with the second-highest number of Jewish voters of any constituency in Britain, at approximately 17 percent, according to the Chronicle. He denied that the UKIP, a right-wing party defined by its anti-immigrant positions, had pressured him to resign.

Zeid was replaced on the ballot by Dr. Raymond Shamash, a dentist who served as a medical officer in the Israeli army during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Shamash, in turn, told the Jewish Chronicle that he is “fearful” of Muslims, though he denied being Islamophobic.

“There are 2.8 million people [in the United Kingdom] who are ideologically and religiously opposed to us,” he told the Chronicle, referring to the U.K.’s Muslim population. “I am fearful of a minority that sees us Jews as a potential target for attack.”

6 arrested after forcing their way into London synagogue


Six men were arrested after they forced their way into a synagogue in north London.

The men, who were drunk, attempted to enter a synagogue in the largely haredi Orthodox-populated neighborhood of Stamford Hill late Saturday night, the BBC reported Sunday. Synagogue security staff removed the men, the Metropolitan Police told the BBC.

“The incident is being treated as an anti-Semitic incident due to remarks made by one of the group,” a police spokesman told the BBC. “However, there is nothing to suggest that it was a planned or targeted attack.”

video of the incident shows some 10 members of the synagogue having to defend themselves with chairs and makeshift clubs as the men attempt to enter a room in the synagogue, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported. They are seen in the video threatening the worshippers who are preventing them from entering the room.

Police told the BBC that it had increased patrols in the neighborhood.

Shifting sands of truth unravel in ‘The English Bride’


As the play “The English Bride” begins, the audience is immediately thrust into a near cataclysm with a burst of police sirens and an announcement over a loudspeaker: “Attention! Attention! All passengers on El Al flight 1540 to Dusseldorf and Tel Aviv. The flight is canceled.”  

The play, now being presented at the Road Theatre in North Hollywood, is based on a foiled 1986 plot to bomb an El Al Airlines plane flying some 375 passengers from London to Tel Aviv. The original incident involved Jordanian Nezar Hindawi, who, unbeknownst to his pregnant fiancee, hotel chambermaid Anne-Marie Murphy, had planted a bomb inside the suitcase she was carrying on the flight to Israel, believing she was going to meet his family before their wedding. Hindawi had apparently told her to travel ahead of him, claiming that he, as an Arab, would need some time to get a visa. After he left her at Heathrow, he learned Israeli security personnel had discovered the explosive in her luggage, so he went to the Syrian embassy for help, then inexplicably turned himself in to the police soon afterward.

Playwright Lucile Lichtblau, who won the Susan Glaspell Prize and the Israel Baran Award for “The English Bride,” said she has long been haunted by the Hindawi affair. “I kept thinking about it over the years and finally realized that I had to write about it. What kept me going back and back to it was the idea of betrayal. I wanted to be able to understand, or at least conceptualize, how a man could make love to a woman, impregnate her with his child and then plot to kill her in cold blood.”

Lichtblau’s play follows many of the facts surrounding the 1986 case. There is a would- be Arab terrorist, Ali Said (Steven Schub), who has planted a bomb in the suitcase of his unsuspecting pregnant lover, Eileen Finney (Elizabeth Knowelden), before she is scheduled to board an Israeli airliner bound for Tel Aviv. Much of the story is told in flashback through scenes between the lovers, in monologues addressed to the audience and in sequences where the lovers are interrogated separately by a Mossad agent known as Dov (Allan Wasserman), the one character who, according to the playwright, is entirely fictionalized.

“There may have been an Israeli agent involved in the original (event), probably there was, but I never read about one,” Lichtblau said. “My Dov is a complicated person. He really wants to know, much as I wanted to know, how such a thing as this betrayal could happen. Of course, he also has an official job to do. He wants straightforward, factual information, and he has a political job to do, because he wants to pin this incident on Syria. He is caught between wanting to understand, wanting to know and wanting to manipulate.

“Eileen became more and more complicated as I wrestled with writing her. She was pathetic at first, then garrulous, needy, funny, charming and, finally, a survivor.”

Lichtblau continued: “Ali is the hard one to pin down. He is secretive, a liar without question —  so are they all — but even he changes as the play develops. He may even fall in love with Eileen, it’s hard to say for sure, but he is trapped in his own plot and is unable to stop it from happening.”

While the bare facts of the scheme are clear, the motivations are constantly in question, and many statements by all three characters are later contradicted. For example, Finney claims in a speech to the audience that she was a virgin prior to her affair with Said. Later, she tells Dov that she got the money to move to London before meeting Said, after sleeping with a man she met in the pub where she worked and then taking his wallet.

Lichtblau explained that the sands in her story are constantly shifting. “I look on this play as a kaleidoscope in which you see the characters one way, and then as you turn the scope you see them another way. Your point of view changes as the scenes change and as the play progresses,” she said. 

She added that, though her play deals with a very specific incident, she is also examining universal issues.

“First of all,” she said, “I think we all lie to some extent, not only to other people, but also to ourselves. This makes getting at the truth of any situation extremely difficult.  

“Betrayal is also universal. At a talkback in Philadelphia, the director of the play asked how many women in the audience had been the victim of a betrayal by a lover. Virtually every woman’s hand shot up — including the director’s.”

Lichtblau described herself as a practicing Jew who goes to synagogue every Saturday morning with her husband. “The two of us are part of a group that leads the Torah service, a job I love,” she said. “My family was not very involved in Judaism as I was growing up. I did go to Sunday school, however, and my identity as a Jew was forged in my grandmother’s kitchen where my relatives gathered on a nightly basis to drink coffee and discuss Hitler and the growing menace in Europe. We had relatives in Poland that they were worried about. I never knew who these relatives were, but I do remember when my uncle got a letter saying that they had made it successfully to England with the money our family had sent.” 

Lichtblau concluded by saying that she hopes audiences leave her play “with an understanding of the complexity of human relationships, and an understanding that each of us is the sum of our contradictions, our needs and our desires.”

The English Bride,” The Road Theatre on Magnolia, NoHo Senior Arts Colony, 10747 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Performances through April 26. Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m.

Tickets: https://roadtheatre.secure.force.com/ticket/#details_a0OG000000FYxa6MAD

North London bus rider gets prison sentence for ‘Burn the Jews’ rant


A passenger on a London bus who shouted anti-Semitic epithets was given a 16-week prison sentence.

Ian Campbell, 42, of London pleaded guilty last month to a racially aggravated public order offense. He was sentenced in Magistrates Court in Hendon last week, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported Friday.

He also was sentenced to four weeks in prison for a separate theft offense, according to the newspaper.

Campbell said during the Sept. 16 incident that “I am going to burn the bus and the Jews,” scaring the children on the bus operated by the Arriva company, the Chronicle reported. The driver allowed the passenger to get off the bus and then reboard.

The bus was driving through the heavily Jewish-populated Golders Green neighborhood of London.

Judge Mark Jabbit said Campbell used “grossly and offensive threatening language,” and his crime was “in no doubt serious,” according to the Chronicle

Winehouse statue features Star of David


A statue of Amy Winehouse in London has the iconic blues singer wearing a Star of David.

The unveiling Sunday in the Camden Town neighborhood, where Winehouse lived, marked what would have been Winehouse’s 31st birthday and was attended by her parents.

The statue, by Scott Eaton, casts the singer, who was Jewish, mostly in gray striking a typical pose – one hand on hip, the other clutching a miniskirt – topped by a bouffant hairdo stuck with the statue’s only burst of color, a red rose.

Around her neck is a Star of David set in a circle.

“It is incredibly emotional to see Amy immortalised like this, but Scott has done an amazing job in capturing her,” her father, Mitch Winehouse, was quoted as saying by New Musical Express. “It is like stopping her in a beautiful moment in time.”

Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at 27.

 

London theater will host Jewish film fest after all


A London theater that refused to host a Jewish film festival because of the event’s Israeli government funding has reversed course.

The Tricycle Theatre decided to continue serving as a venue for the UK Jewish Film Festival after the theater’s initial refusal earlier this month sparked criticism, The Telegraph reported.

The Tricycle earlier said it would not host the UK Jewish Film Festival, which it has hosted for eight years, unless the annual festival eschewed funding from the Israeli embassy, which the theater described as “party to the current conflict” in Gaza.

Festival organizers said the demands were “entirely unacceptable.”

On Friday, the festival and theater issued a joint statement saying that the Tricycle’s initial decision “provoked considerable public upset” and that the theater has “invited back the UK Jewish Film Festival on the same terms as in previous years with no restrictions on funding from the Embassy of Israel in London.”

The ban had divided the artistic community, with opponents branding the theater “anti-Semitic,” according to The Telegraph.

Jewish Flash Mob in London


Pro-Israel flash mob demonstrations are spreading like brushfire. On