UK Jewish groups urge members to ‘play their part’ to help black communities

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UK Jewish groups urge members to ‘play their part’ to help black communities

As unrest sweeps across the USA in wake of the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd, Holocaust educational groups and communal leaders make call to fight 'entrenched racism'

George Floyd (Credit: Twitter)
George Floyd (Credit: Twitter)

British Jewish organisations have urged members to “play their part” in support of black communities this week after anger over the killing of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis spread far beyond the United States.

The Holocaust Educational Trust said the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer who knelt on his neck for nine minutes was “a searing reminder of how entrenched racism remains across the world”.

The HET said: “In moments like this it is not enough to watch on from the side-lines. It is up to all of us to understand our role in speaking out and never to stand by when we witness hate”.

The Community Security Trust (CST), charged with protecting Jewish life in the UK, highlighted the “dehumanisation underpinning” Floyd’s killing, which it said was simply “the latest in a long and awful list of African-American people who have died in similar circumstances”.

The CST said this “reveals just how deeply racism and racist culture can reside in cultures and societies… As Jews, we know this to be true”.

A Dallas police officer stops and gets out of his car to talk and take photos with a group of demonstrators gathered at Lake Cliff Park as protests continue after the death of George Floyd on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Dallas. . (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

The Union of Jewish Students said “anti-Black hate still exists in society and will not go away on its own,” adding that Jewish students had a duty not to remain silent.

“Educate yourself, ask questions and start discussions, use the countless resources available at your fingertips and take action wherever you can help.”

The Jewish Labour Movement said it was “wrong to assume that the UK is immune to racism,” citing the Windrush scandal and the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

“We encourage our members donate to organisations supporting protesters and victims’ families, and working to dismantle racism,” it said. “The Jewish community in the UK can and must do more to stand in solidarity with Black Jews and the Black British community.”

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman said she had been watching events and felt “impotent and unsure of how to help, but what I am doing is educating myself, and I encourage others to do the same”.

She added: “We know that learning about the Holocaust is essential to understand and educate about antisemitism today. As Jews, we must similarly learn about the history of racism against Black people, so we can stand with them.”

A protester raises her hands as police start to arrest demonstrators refusing to get off the streets during an imposed curfew while marching in a solidarity rally calling for justice over the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in New York. . (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Rabbi Nicky Liss, chair of the United Synagogue’s Rabbinic Council, described Floyd’s killing as “racist, shocking and despicable,” saying: “We stand in solidarity with black communities.”

He added that “the dream of Martin Luther King – that one day his children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skins but rather by the content of their characters – is yet to be realised”.

Likewise the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) said: “The underlying issues are not limited to the United States. It is an international problem, not least in the UK.

A 2017 parliamentary report by Black Labour MP David Lammy found that Black, Asian and ethnic minority Brits had little faith that the country’s justice system would treat them fairly and equally, and JCORE said the Government was “sitting on the findings,” which risked tensions in the US being imported into the UK

“There needs to be transparent procedures for dealing with allegations of racism in all institutions,” it said. “There is a role for civil society in supporting this, in which the Jewish community must play its part.”

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