Golders Green rabbi: Britain tolerant despite anti-Semitic attacks

A Golders Green rabbi has praised Britain as a “tolerant” nation despite hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks being committed across the country last year.

The Community Security Trust (CST), a Jewish charity which monitors such crimes, recorded 639 incidents of violence, threats and abuse during 2010.

This figure included 114 assaults – 47 of which involved the throwing of objects such as eggs at visibly Jewish people, many of which happened in north London.

But retired rabbi Michael Binstock, who was previously based at Golders Green Synagogue, said that while such attacks were terrible, they were infrequent and often isolated.

He said: “If I was the victim of a physical attack I’d feel frightened and vulnerable. It’s terrible and it happens, but you move on.

“You just have to live with it because the sad reality is that Jews, throughout our history, have had to endure that. And it’s been a lot worse than it is now.”

Recalling the horrors that his grandparents escaped from when they fled the Russian pogroms and the persecution his wife’s family experienced in Nazi Germany, the 69-year-old rabbi added: “So what goes on here is insignificant in comparison and the Jewish community does protect itself as much as it can.

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“We’re not the only minority suffering discrimination and in many ways this country is extremely tolerant compared to many of its European neighbours. I’m glad to be born in Britain.”

The CST survey stressed that none of the assaults recorded involved a threat to life or grievous bodily harm. But 13 of the victims were identified as Jewish schoolchildren or teachers.

One London rabbi told how he and his two sons were attacked by a group of white men and a white woman, who verbally abused them before punching the rabbi to the ground. He required 12 stitches for a serious head wound he suffered.

Many of the categories in the CST survey saw a drop from 2009, when the number of anti-Semitic incidents peaked at 926.

These high levels were said to have been triggered by the conflict in Gaza. But the figure for 2010 is still the second highest since the CST began recording crimes against Jewish people in 1984.

This year’s report also shows that there were 83 instances where Jewish property was intentionally damaged, including the desecration of synagogues with swastikas and the targeting of 35 Jewish homes.

In addition, it showed there were 32 anti-Semitic threats made and 385 incidents of abusive behaviour.

In London alone there were 87 anti-Semitic incidents in Barnet, which has the largest Jewish population in the capital, 22 in Camden and 33 in Westminster.

CST spokesman Michael Gardner said: “North london’s various Jewish communities are thriving and vibrant places, but anti-semitism can still be a problem: especially so at times of tension overseas. We welcome the statistical fall from last year, but the figures remain worryingly high, and CST will keep working in close partnership with police and Jewish communities.”