By B. Cohen
A prominent rabbi in the northern English city of Manchester has spoken out publicly about the spate of anti-Semitic attacks that has targeted his community – and vowed that the bigots will not win.
Rabbi Arnold Saunders, of the Higher Crumpsall and Higher Broughton Synagogue, told Britain’s ITV network that he himself had experienced a number of assaults, including being punched in the face by a man who then fled the scene, being verbally abused by a teenage boy, and being pelted with eggs.
Data collected by the Community Security Trust (CST), the UK Jewish community’s official security body, revealed that the Salford area of Greater Manchester, home to over 7,000 Jews, has been the site of the highest number of anti-Semitic attacks in the region in the first half of 2014. Of 98 incidents that occurred between January and June, 43 were in Salford.
There were four assaults, seven incidents of damage and desecration of Jewish property, one threat and 31 incidents of abusive behaviour, said the Manchester Evening News.
Rabbi Saunders was adamant that victims should report anti-Semitic attacks to the police. “Even if you’re not going to get the perpetrator, it’s still important that the police can log the incident,” Rabbi Saunders told ITV. “I was threatened by someone who said ‘I’m going to kill you’. But I thought ‘I’m not going to let you win’.”
A well-known figure in the local community, Rabbi Saunders previously made the news in 2008, when his alleged resemblance to the late Malcolm Glazer, the controversial American Jewish owner of Manchester United Football Club, drew a range of responses from Manchester United supporters.
“Despite the fact that he’s about 30 years older than me, I guess there is a bit of a resemblance. We both have glasses and beards, although his is a bit more ginger than mine,” Rabbi Saunders said at the time. “Most of the time the comments are good-hearted or people want to have their picture taken with me. On one or two occasions I have experienced some very ugly behavior ranging from very strong language to having a can of beer poured over me.”
Rabbi Saunders’ current experiences do not, however, leave much room for humor. As he told ITV, “People will shout things about the Middle East, or ‘Hitler should have finished the job,’ or ‘Dirty Jew.'”
A young Jewish father of two children interviewed by ITV said of the violence and abuse, “I’m worried. I don’t know where we are going from here.”
At a meeting in early November with British Home Secretary Theresa May, UK Jewish leaders emphasized that the 314 incidents recorded across the country as Israel confronted Hamas terrorism in Gaza meant “that the community had never before expressed such a widespread feeling of being under severe pressure, with attendant fears for the future well-being of the community.”
The “pressures and fears” faced by British Jews, the delegation told Mrs. May, “combined experiences and perceptions of open antisemitism, but also deep concerns about the worsening nature of anti-Israel rhetoric and protest, especially pro-boycott actions that have included violence, criminal damage and intimidation of members of the public and shop workers.”