North London rabbis seek help in protecting synagogues as anti-Semitism rises

Mike Freer MP outside Golders Green Synagogue. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Mike Freer MP outside Golders Green Synagogue. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

A record number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in the UK last year has led to calls from rabbis and MPs for the government to do more to protect Jewish buildings.

Hate attacks doubled to exceed 1,000 in a single year for the first time in 2014, with Barnet and Camden the worst-affected areas in London.

Last week the Community Security Trust (CST) – a charity that monitors anti-Semitism and provides security for the Jewish community in Britain – reported that it had recorded 1,168 anti-Semitic incidents across the country in 2014, more than double the 535 recorded in 2013 and the highest annual total CST has ever noted.

Incidents increased by 137 per cent in Greater London and by 79 per cent in Greater Manchester.

A third of the incidents in Greater London (194) were recorded in Barnet while neighbouring Camden saw the next highest figure (69).

The most common single type of incident involved verbal abuse randomly directed at visibly Jewish people in public.

Jews in Golders Green, the report said, were also particularly targeted by people throwing objects at them out of the windows of passing cars. In October, a man was also jailed for shouting that he would “burn the Jews” while on a bus bound for Golders Green.

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Some 81 incidents were violent anti-Semitic assaults. One incident in London, classified by the charity as “extreme violence”, saw the victim called a “Jewish c***” and then hit with a glass and a baseball bat.

The CST told the Ham&High that while increased awareness of its work and easier ways of reporting incidents may have had “some” impact on the rise in numbers, there remained a definite spike associated with events in the Middle East over the summer.

Following publication of the report, MP for Finchley and Golders Green, Mike Freer, asked the prime minister for more help to protect Jewish buildings.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday, Mr Freer said: “[The prime minister] has been admirably robust at combating anti-Semitism.

“However, 120 community buildings are now at risk of a terrorist attack of the type we saw in Paris.

“Will he commit to looking at creating a counter-terrorism fund to help maintain the security measures at these buildings?”

In reply, David Cameron committed to maintaining next year a £2.3million schools security grant to protect Jewish schools, adding: “In my view, we need to do everything we can to help this community feel safe and secure.”

Police and the CST temporarily stepped up security patrols in Jewish areas like Golders Green in the wake of January’s terrorist attacks in Paris

But Rabbis in the area welcomed Mr Freer’s calls for a more permanent arrangement to help with security needs.

Rabbi Shlomo Levin, of South Hampstead Synagogue, said: “For many years, a huge amount of our budget has been spent on providing security. Sometimes we have three private security guards here at a time and during big events we’ve hired about 16.

“Given we’re not the cause of the hatred it seems very unfair. Thankfully, we’ve not yet had an incident.”

Rabbi Altshuler, of Belsize Square Synagogue, added: “We have increased the security here since the attacks in Paris, so we would welcome any further assistance.

“It is unfortunate that a place where people come to pray and learn has to spend its money on protection like this.

“But I don’t want to be alarmist – we still have faith in the community and the police, who have been absolutely fabulous.”

Rabbi Belovski, of Golders Green Synagogue, said: “I am delighted, and indeed touched, that Mike Freer and other MPs have taken the issue of security for the Jewish community so seriously.”

On Monday, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Against Anti-Semitism published its report into the recent rise in incidents.

Noting a ten-fold increase in online anti-Semitism over the past three years, it suggested repeat offenders be blocked from social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

But it also said the past decade had seen “considerable success” in establishing national frameworks to combat anti-Semitism”.

It concluded: “We have better data collection systems, better Holocaust education, better policing and security measures and better community partnerships.

“This has put Britain far ahead of Europe but we cannot relax.”