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August 11, 2011 9:29 am

Jewish Reaction to London Riots

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Rioters and police in Croydon. Photo: Raymond Yau.

The Algemeiner reached Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, chief executive of The Lubavitch Foundation in England midday (London time) on Wednesday, his first response when asked about British rioting over recent days, was gratitude. “Thankfully none of our (Chabad) shluchim have been hurt, although there have been a few incidents of rioting in very close proximity to the residences of some during the first night of the rioting. Even on that night, during the height of the riot, ey’cha, the Tisha B’Av service, continued and concluded according to schedule. Rioting was, however, very close to the home of one the schilichim in Birmingham.”

“Life is pretty much back to normal, commented Sudak. “There are a few hot spots, a few riots here and there.  Other than that, people have returned to normal life.” Emphatically, he said, “they are not living in fear… London is now the safest place in England, with 16,000 police on the street.”

The Algemeiner was told that on Tuesday evening, that London pretty much shut down early, and “thankfully, the enhanced police presence worked. London seems to have returned to normal… We are working on security plans for Friday evening services in vulnerable areas, together with the CST. We anticipate that Shabbat dinners and services can go ahead without hindrance.”

If the rioters revealed some of the worst in English social behavior, the outpouring of volunteer helping to clear the streets presented the polar opposite. By Tuesday, social media messages were being used to call Londoners to the streets – this time to clean up the riot’s devastation.  People swept cleaned and fixed, trying to repair some of the damage done by their countrymen during the weekend.

“In England,” said Sudak, “what’s beautiful is the good side of things.  If anything, the massive cleanup and demonstration that has followed the destruction – all orchestrated through the same social networking tools is amazing.  It can be used for good! The reaction of the people is just amazing. The British have responded in a very positive way.”

Asked about damage to Jewish owned businesses, Rabbi Sudak was emphatic in saying that Jewish businesses in the path of the rioters suffered the same destruction as others area establishments. “These riots targeted the stores. People were looking for free stuff,” he said.

Asked about the reaction of Jewish youth and how the young people had been prevented from joining the protests, the rabbi responded saying “Thank god the youth is being kept busy. Summer camp is keeping the kids safe.”

In England, two organizations are involved in enhancing the security of the Jewish community. The Shomrim an organization similar to the one active in Jewish neighborhoods in New York, and the Community Security Trust, known as the CST are on alert. The CST as a large, professional security organization that works closely with police and the authorities. The group, which has volunteers in every city, also put its hotline into immediate action.

As could be expected, members of the Israeli press had some sharp commentary about their English colleagues coverage of the conflagration. Ma’ariv, the daily newspaper, had its editorial tongue stuck rather firmly in its proverbial check, suggesting that had Israeli police used tactics similar to those employed by the British police (including trained dogs), the English media would have raised “an outcry against Israel, regardless of the circumstances of the case.” Says Maariv, “We will not file a claim against (the commander) at the international court in the Hague, neither will an Israeli court issue an arrest warrant against him.”

“It is not easy to see the nation that gave democratic principles and Western morality to the world letting loose against other Britons. But don’t worry, we promise not to resort to collective punishment because of the actions of your government. We will not prevent British lecturers from teaching in Tel Aviv and we will not boycott Cadbury’s chocolates at the Hebrew University cafeterias. You are also welcome to study here, whatever the results of the recent wave of violence that is sweeping your country.”

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