The disturbing rise of anti-Semitic incidents in the UK was initially received by the Jewish community with a bleak and weary sort of recognition. The community was hesitant to react to an overwhelmingly unruly crowd, after all their safety was threatened. But as the danger grew, with no sign of slowing, UK Jews began to question the lack of action on the part of major Jewish organizations. Where was the British Board of Jewish Deputies? Who was working to protect the Jewish community?
Eventually, a group of anonymous UK Jews issued a full-page ad in the Jewish Chronicle, addressed to the “elected” Board of Deputies of British Jews and “self-appointed” Jewish Leadership Council. The ad “demanded action after months of silence and bland assurances of “work behind the scenes” which few are buying.”
It continued to ask, “What are you actually doing about this situation? Apart from issuing the odd press release,” and then for direct action such as large-scale rallies protesting anti-Semitism.
It would be wrong to say that no positive elements developed from the leadership void. One of the most significant developments has been the founding of new grassroots Jewish groups, a new generation of Jews becoming socially active, getting involved in leadership issues.
An example of this would be the recent Manchester rally against anti-Semitism, which was organized by the grassroots North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI).
The rally brought together around 2,500 people, a diverse crowd that took to the streets with signs proclaiming that anti-Semitism and racism are totally unacceptable. NWFOI organized the rally alongside an active social media campaign, as well as a huge publicity campaign targeting schools, synagogues, shops, and the press.
Ralphi Bloom, co-chair of NWFOI says that the group “was formed on the back of the boycott protests outside the Kedem shop in Manchester over the summer of 2014. It started off as a group of individuals who wanted to take action to counter the lies and the anti-Semitism that was going on outside the shop. It has since grown into a more organized body with a committee and voluntary roles, with a pro-active agenda moving forward.”
Here’s what I’m taking from the situation. The North West Friends of Israel is a group working outside of major Jewish organizations. There was a need and a void that they filled- one that the more established Jewish organizations failed to address. And while the major organizations do need to step up to the plate and become more active, it’s a positive development to see a new generation of Jews become involved in social activism.