As Israel continues to be attacked by Hamas, and to defend its citizens - Jewish and non-Jewish - as best it can, we wanted to inform you of recent developments that might affect you.

Firstly, we have organised a security briefing for the entire community online on Sunday 23rd May at 7.30pm. That briefing will be given jointly by Alex Webster of CST and Susie Gordon, COO of the LJRC. You are all invited to join us. Please register at https://ljrc210523.eventbrite.co.uk and the log in details will be sent to you.

Secondly, we are aware that there have been particular incidents at some schools that have caused concern. We can assure that, on the best information available, rumours of protests outside schools, are just that. We have been in touch with the relevant MPs and local councillors, who have been extremely supportive and have in turn contacted schools. We are able, through CST, to liaise with the police and we are also in touch with the local authority. No one in any position of authority wants the schools to become places of confrontation, either amongst pupils or between parents.

We are aware that some schools think it sensible to organise discussion of what is happening as part of the school day. That is a decision for them, and it may well vary from school to school. The source we suggest for such discussions is an organisation called Solutions Not Sides (https://solutionsnotsides.co.uk). We are aware that some schools have proposed to source material from Amnesty International. In our view, that material is unlikely to be fair or balanced. Obviously, these are matters for the school in discussion with parents, but it may be sensible to stress - especially in schools with smaller numbers of Jewish children - that it is inappropriate to expose a small group of children to the responsibility of representing Israel.

Any parent concerned about events at your child’s school should first, contact the school, which is best placed to deal with your query or concern. Obviously, if you are concerned about a particular incident you should feel free to contact CST. Councillor Cohen is also prepared to assist you, for which we are extremely grateful. If you are concerned that your child is either not being adequately catered for by the school, or is being subject to difficulties outside the school grounds, please make your own decision about whether to send them to school. Please be aware that CST is not a political organisation. It can deal with issues of antisemitism but it does not exist to deal with political contention surrounding Israel. If you require further assistance please contact the LJRC. It would also be helpful if you could let the LJRC know - by email - of anything that has happened or any action you have taken. That is because we are regularly in touch with the local authority and our councillors and members of Parliament. The more information you provide us with, the better we can brief people and represent your concerns. The email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Thirdly, we are aware that there are concerns about events in London over the weekend being replicated in Leeds. We have no reason to believe that this is likely. You might have heard that the people in London came from Bradford, but, that is inaccurate. We understand that the people responsible for the antisemitic abuse drove to Bradford from elsewhere to join a supposedly peaceful convoy organised from Bradford, then drove to Manchester and then to London. We are all too aware that rumours spread easily and it is important not to become concerned on the basis of rumour and supposition - our own mental health is too important to let that happen. We are also aware that the attack on Rabbi Rafi Goodwin has concerned many of you who know him and his family. Thankfully, Rabbi Goodwin is making good progress and, although his attackers (who have been arrested and charged) appear to have made racist remarks to him, the probability is that the incident was a road rage incident, rather than a specifically antisemitic attack. We wish him and all the family well, and they are in our prayers and our thoughts.

Fourthly, we have been asked whether we can stop pro-Palestinian demonstrations. The answer is no. Freedom of speech is an important part of any functioning democracy. That includes the freedom to say things that we do not like hearing. Not only would attempts to curb that right not succeed, but it is wholly wrong to make any such attempt.

The LJRC is a non-political body and we realise that you will have different opinions about what is happening, as do Israelis. There is no political “line” in the community and we are all the better for that diversity. You may think that, if you wish to take action in support of Israel, the best idea is to engage in civilised and polite debate with your non-Jewish friends, and explain to them the danger that Hamas poses to Israeli and Gazan civilians, and the almost impossible position Israel is in when it attempts to stop rocket attacks aimed at its civilians (not its army), in circumstances in which Hamas - a proscribed terrorist organisation in the UK, whose Charter refers to Jews and forbids peace with Israel - sites its rocket launchers in and around homes, schools and hospitals, effectively making its own unprotected civilians into human shields. We are also setting up interfaith dialogue, which you could join to explain the position to engaged non-Jewish individuals and groups. There is an App called Tzofar Red Alert, that enables you to experience what it is like to live under rocket attack in Israel in real time - it may be a useful tool to help people empathise with Israelis, as many of us instinctively do. Another option is for you to give to a charity of your choice and to remember those at risk in your prayers.

We hope that this is helpful and informative. We will continue to keep you all updated as information comes to us. We look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday evening. Although we have turned off comments for this post - we are not hosting a debate - we are happy for you to share this information with your families and friends if you feel it would help. Please, insofar as you can, do not disseminate information without checking whether it is accurate - it is too easy for people to become distressed without good cause, at a time when everyone is worried for very good cause. You can do your bit to stop that happening.

Finally, we join with all of you in praying for a peaceful settlement that allows everyone to live together and no one to live in fear of military action, and we think of the injured and the bereaved and pray that they know no more sorrow.

Be well,

 

From the LJRC

 

Lisa Baker, Simon Myerson QC, Judge Lawrence Saffer, Alan Dunwell, Simon Phillips