OPINION: Antisemitism shows why safeguarding needs to protect everyone 

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OPINION: Antisemitism shows why safeguarding needs to protect everyone 

The impact may not always be immediate, but the gradual erosion of self-confidence and mental health is part of the dehumanisation process, writes Claudia Mendoza

Pro-Palestine demo Oct 28 central London
Pro-Palestine demo Oct 28 central London

Everybody in the Jewish community has been affected by the huge increase in antisemitism since Hamas attacked Israel.  

Between 7 October and 31 December, CST recorded 2,699 antisemitic incidents across the UK.  This is a staggering 589% increase from the 389 incidents reported during the same period in 2022. As a community, we continue to thank and support CST for everything they do to keep us safe.

We want to ensure all community organisations have the resources and support they need to safeguard all their people. The JLC has worked with Faithguard to create a unique resource for Jewish organisations, providing a single webpage for key safeguarding information and advice.

A key part of the messaging is that every organisation has safeguarding responsibilities – not solely those organisations that work with children or adults at risk.

For charities, the Charity Commission is clear that trustees must take reasonable steps to protect from harm anybody who comes into contact with the charity. This includes adult staff, volunteers, beneficiaries and anybody else, even if they would not normally be considered as ‘vulnerable’.

Antisemitism shows why this broader approach to safeguarding is right.  Students on campuses are now at constant risk of verbal or physical abuse, especially those who show visible signs of being Jewish. Jewish buildings are graffitied.

Jewish workplaces, or Jews in non-Jewish workplaces, may be on the receiving end of hate mail – or hate speech – via both physical and electronic means.  In some cases, this hatred can even originate from within their own organisation.

The impact may not always be immediate, but the gradual erosion of self-confidence and mental health is part of the dehumanisation process. It also makes us less likely to ‘stand upright and call out venomous slurs and abuse wherever we encounter them’, as Stephen Fry implored everyone to do – whether Jewish, Jew-ish, or non-Jewish – in his excellent alternative Christmas message on Channel 4.

All of us need to think about how our organisations keep everyone who comes into contact with us safe. This means not only implementing proper policies and procedures, but also reviewing them in light of our changing circumstances – including the current increase in antisemitism.

For those who already think carefully about safeguarding, the additional steps required may not be significant: it might be something as simple as ensuring staff have somebody that they will feel comfortable with to talk about their psychological wellbeing.

Many people talk about the amazing unity of the Jewish community during this very challenging time. Part of this unity stems from our genuine care and concern for one another. This care and concern should motivate us to get safeguarding right – including taking the right steps to protect all those who are at risk – whether they have traditionally been considered as vulnerable or not.

Claudia Mendoza is the CEO of the Jewish Leadership Council 

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