Chief con­demns anti-gay abuse

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

THE CHIEF Rabbi has said ho­mo­pho­bic graf­fiti daubed on a ban­ner at a Jewish com­mu­nity cen­tre is “un­ac­cept­able”.

An ad­ver­tise­ment for the “GayW3” fes­ti­val at JW3 in north-west Lon­don was de­faced in the early hours of last Thurs­day morn­ing.

The per­pe­tra­tor, who was caught in the act by a se­cu­rity cam­era, scrawled the word “SHAME” on the poster.

The video of the in­ci­dent has been passed on to the po­lice.

Rabbi Mirvis said: “As I have made clear pre­vi­ously, ho­mo­pho­bia is un­ac­cept­able and we must have zero tol­er­ance for it.

“There is no ex­cuse for van­dal­ism. Seek­ing out con­flict is di­vi­sive and de­struc­tive — noth­ing pos­i­tive can come of ag­i­tat­ing for pub­lic protest and dishar­mony.”

GayW3 is a fort­night-long fes­ti­val look­ing at is­sues re­lat­ing to be­ing gay and Jewish. It fea­tures films and a cabaret evening.

In a Face­book post, Ray­mond Si­mon­son, JW3 chief ex­ec­u­tive, said he was “sad­dened and dis­gusted” by the in­ci­dent.

“We’ve had dozens of ban­ners out­side our build­ing in the past cou­ple of years” he wrote.

“None of them have been van­dalised or dam­aged. The first time the word ‘gay’ goes up, we have our first ex­pe­ri­ence of this kind of hate crime.”

Mr Si­mon­son said he had added letters to the graf­fiti in or­der to change it to a pos­i­tive mes­sage — “unashamed” rather than “shame”.

Speak­ing to the JC, Mr Si­mon­son made it clear the cen­tre had “no agenda” and was aimed at serv­ing everyone in the com­mu­nity, no mat­ter what their re­li­gious level.

He said: “If there’s some­thing that peo­ple don’t like about other peo­ple’s lifestyles or what they do, it’s not the Jewish way to re­act with ha­tred or by stir­ring up in­tol­er­ance.”

He added: “We’re not try­ing to con­vince any­one to change their opin­ions or beliefs or any­thing like that. We’re not pro­mot­ing one kind of cul­ture over another. We’re putting on pro­gram­ming, the di­ver­sity of which re­flects the di­ver­sity of the com­mu­nity, and we ex­pect peo­ple to be tol­er­ant.”

In his Face­book post, Mr Si­mon­son pub­lished a mes­sage which he said had been cir­cu­lat­ing on­line in Or­tho­dox groups.

It re­ferred to “GayW3” as a “ter­ri­ble two week event un­der the ban­ner of ‘Ju­daism’ in sup­port of To’eva lifestyles.”

The word To’eva, used in the Bi­ble to de­scribe ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, means “abom­i­na­tion.”

Mr Si­mon­son said among the “hun­dreds” of mes­sages of sup­port the cen­tre had re­ceived, there had also been many from the Or­tho­dox com­mu­nity, which he de­scribed as “amaz­ing”.

He said: “They might not come to a single event, and I to­tally re­spect that. But they sent mes­sages of sup­port say­ing that they don’t stand up for bul­lies.”


The daubed ban­ner at JW3 in Lon­don

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