OPINION: What have we done?

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: What have we done?

Benjamin Ellis (low res)
Benjamin Ellis

By Benjamin Ellis, a Keshet UK director

מֶה עָשִׂיתָ;קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ, צֹעֲקִים אֵלַי מִן-הָאֲדָמָה

What have you done?
Hark, your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.

The blood smeared on the pavements of Jerusalem cries out to us. A child is dead and our hearts are broken. Sixteen years old, a life barely begun. Darkness in the city of light. And so we ask ourselves: What have we done?

As Jews, we find ourselves wracked with questions. Did we, knowingly or not, create an atmosphere where hatred was tolerated, but diversity was not? Were we careless in our speech, using language to hurt instead of heal? Did we quietly accept the idea that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were not fully part of our community, when we could have reached out the hand of love, and life? Were we silent and complicit when people dismissed these Jewish souls as an outsiders, instead of raising our voices and holding on tight to our precious children? What have we done?

None of this is to point a finger, for we all could have done more. But an outrage wakes us up, jolts us from the comfort of our lives. Instead of apportioning blame, the Talmud suggests we respond to an ordeal by turning inwards and examining our deeds: could we have been better people? And the spilled blood of a child begs us to do the same.

We must learn from Shira’s example. Her parents spoke about her decision to march in Pride. She went to express her support for her friends’ rights to live as they choose. We Jews know what it is to beg for freedom. Throughout our history, we have become familiar with the Pharaoh’s mean-spirited demand: Who precisely among you will walk? Shira responded, like Moshe before her – we will all walk: our old and our young, our sons and our daughters. It is not enough for the few to be free, for the leaders to be at liberty. For Jews, liberty is indivisible, a communal activity which must embrace all of us – we are only free if everyone is free. Shira Banki woke up one morning and went to march for equality, justice and celebrate her city’s diversity. For this she was killed, and we are left heartbroken.

We did not do enough and we must all do more.

Who, then, will walk in Shira’s steps, will walk with us? Who will support us against fear, hatred and violence? Who are those who will step out, go on a journey and make a difference? How shall we walk together?

Above all, we must banish silence.

We must not waste a single opportunity to talk. Whether we are a rabbi, a communal leader, the family of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person, or simply someone who cares – we must not let silence fall on this moment. Silence breeds fear and mistrust, and we must shatter it with kind words of respect and love. In our schools, and our shuls and around our Shabbat tables we must open our hearts to those who so often have felt rejected by our community.

We must grant a voice to those who have not been given one before, who have been overlooked or even turned away from speaking among us at our events and in our institutions. Instead of talking about people, we should instead talk with them. We must be courageous and be prepared to hear about different lives and different loves, and to hear criticism of our own community’s treatment of our children. We must open our ears to the stories of others, and try to understand the pain and rejection that they have felt. For such is the power of silence.

And we must speak up. No hateful word should go unchallenged, no injustice uncorrected. We must speak up in our schools and in our workplaces, in our synagogues and in our streets. Our voices must be heard so that our leaders are clear that no hatred or homophobia shall be perpetrated in our names.

Above all, we must continue to question ourselves and our leaders: Did we do enough? What have we done?

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: