In a City Gripped by Shock, Manchester Jews Unite in Sorrow and Determination After Concert Suicide Bombing
Manchester’s Jewish community joined with the rest of their city in sorrow and disbelief on Tuesday, following the devastating terrorist atrocity outside a pop concert on Monday night in which 22 people lost their lives and more than 50 were wounded.
“I was very distressed this morning, I was quite tearful,” Manchester-born Rabbi Benjamin Simmonds told The Algemeiner. “The mood here today is somber, but very determined. People are very resilient.”
A few children from the Jewish community had attended the concert by US pop star Ariana Grande, but none were reported to be among the casualties, Simmonds said. Volunteers from the Chabad movement were out on the streets of Manchester after the blast, bringing hot food and drinks to emergency workers and survivors.
Simmonds, the rabbi of the Stenecourt Synagogue on the edge of Manchester’s city center, recalled that he himself had walked past the Manchester Arena — the site of the suicide bombing attack carried out, police say, by-22 year-old Salman Abedi, reportedly born in the UK to a Libyan immigrant family living in the city — only a few hours before the explosion.
“I was on my way to an event to promote community harmony,” he reflected sadly.
Jewish organizations in the UK were in a heightened state of alert the day after the bombing, which ISIS claimed responsibility for. On its website, the Community Security Trust (CST) — a volunteer organization that works with police in providing security to the UK Jewish community — said that it “stresses that there is no specific information indicating a planned attack against British Jews at this time, but all Jewish locations have been asked to ensure that security measures are fully implemented.”
The Jewish Representative Council in Manchester released a statement on Tuesday calling for a united front in the face of the attack.
“Our commitment is to unite and remember that Manchester is a great city made up of many communities,” the statement said. “A city that has faced adversity over the years. A city that has always recovered because of the resilience of all its communities.”
Rabbi Simmonds — who came to national attention in 2007, when he spoke out forcefully against antisemitism after being violently assaulted by an antisemitic gang — emphasized that relations between local Jews and police were close. He noted that the police had been very supportive of the community during the Gaza War of 2014, when BDS protesters attempted to shut down the Israeli Kedem cosmetics store in the city center.
About 25,000 Jews live in Manchester, which has the second largest Jewish population outside of London in the British Isles.
Rabbi Simmonds warned against reprisals or abuse directed towards members of the Muslim community. “We don’t want a backlash,” he said.