How the rise in anti-Semitism is being confronted in Kingston

Britain has seen a 537% increase in recorded anti-Semitic hate incidents since Hamas launched a series of attacks against Israel on October 7, in which over 1400 were killed, and Israel subsequently launched attacks on Gaza.

The 1,000+ hate incidents that occurred in the 28 days following October 7 is the highest number recorded in Britain for nearly 40 years and has put many British Jews on edge. 

Hate offences against Muslims more than doubled after the Hamas attacks.

In London, approximately 100,000 people marched against anti-Semitism at the end of November, including a congregation of nearly two dozen from Kingston Liberal Synagogue, and high-profile attendees like former Prime Minister Boris Johnson and actresses Tracey-Ann Oberman and Maureen Lipman. 

Despite the barrage of news stories about hatred and division, co-Chair of Kingston Liberal Synagogue Rebecca Singerman-Knight stressed that “the vast majority of people” in Britain remain supportive of the Jewish community. She said she was “overwhelmed” by shows of support from locals.

Last month, Kingston Liberal Synagogue held an interfaith civic service that involved representatives from local Christian and Muslim communities. Additional attendees included local MP and Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, and the mayors of Elmbridge and Kingston.

Earlier this month, thousands gathered for a vigil against hate directed at both Jews and Muslims.

Singerman-Knight says the local Jewish community have enhanced security measures since October 7, and she says she is thankful for the government’s “strong” response against anti-Semitism. This includes an increase in funding for the Community Security Trust – a charity “which helps to keep the Jewish community safe”. 

In 2018, Kingston council unanimously voted to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

For allies of British Jews in and around Kingston, Singerman-Knight encourages them to get in touch and organise a visit to her synagogue. While they will face security checks, she assures they will receive a “warm welcome”. 

When it comes to learning about the Israel-Hamas conflict, and the history of Israeli and Palestinian people, she urges people to “seek out those with moderate and nuanced views and don’t listen to the extremists on either side. 

“If you feel safe to do so, call out any bigoted comments you hear about Jews or Muslims,” she added.

“Do what you can to create harmony and understanding in your local communities”. 

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