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July 28, 2022 1:53 pm
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UK’s Anne Frank Trust Promises ‘Action’ After Invite to ‘Antisemitic’ Workshop Speaker

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Anne Frank. Photo: Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam.

The Anne Frank Trust UK said on Thursday that it will make improvements to fix a “real problem with due diligence and vetting processes,” after backlash over antisemitic remarks made by a speaker invited to lead a workshop for young people.

The UK-based charity launched an internal investigation after revelations over past social media posts by the poet Nasima Begum — including comments claiming that Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinians, comparing Jews to Nazis, supporting Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, and writing to a pro-Israel activist, “death to you Zionist scum,” according to the Jewish Chronicle.

On July 14, Begum led a one-hour online creative writing and storytelling workshop for 23 participants between the ages of 10 and 15 in the organization’s Youth Empowerment Program.

Responding to criticism the Trust has received for hosting Begum, CEO Tim Robertson said in a statement on Thursday, “I understand why, against a backdrop of growing antisemitism, people are seeking assurances about our values and ethos. Our failures have left us vulnerable to loss of trust.”

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“We are now committed to having a full external review of our programs, looking especially at their impact on antisemitism, and to explore how we can strengthen our connection with the Jewish community,” he added. “We will invite partners and interested parties to contribute their views and publish the findings and resulting action plan.”

He also revealed that the group’s board of trustees will formally adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, requiring staff and contractors to sign onto it, and will hire more Jewish staff members and trustees.

“Overcoming a profound and complex phenomenon like antisemitism requires different approaches on different levels,” he said. “Above all, my hope is that all that the mistakes we have made recently will not detract from this vital work. May I once again apologize most sincerely for the distress we have caused. I assure you I am listening, and we will set things right.”

In a statement earlier this month, the Trust said that staff who organized the workshop led by Begum “did not carry out appropriate due diligence,” partly due to their “haste” in delivering the workshop before the end of the school year. The charity added: “Of particular concern was the offense caused, especially to the Jewish community, by the choice of facilitator. We apologize unreservedly for this.”

The Anne Frank Trust UK said its aim is to “empower 10- to 15-year-olds to challenge all forms of prejudice, inspired by the life and work of Anne Frank.”

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