‘Jews used to feel wel­come. For many that’s no longer true’

Com­mu­nity leader hits out at rising tide of Scots anti-Semitism

The Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Hutcheon

JEWS are “ac­tively con­sid­er­ing” em­i­grat­ing from Scot­land over rising lev­els of anti-Semitism, ac­cord­ing to one of the most se­nior Jewish com­mu­nity lead­ers.

Ephraim Borowski, di­rec­tor of the Scot­tish Coun­cil of Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties has told MSPs some have dis­cussed leav­ing af­ter feel­ing “alien­ated, vul­ner­a­ble and not at home”.

He said: “Mostly the Jewish com­mu­nity used to feel that Scot­land was a good place to be Jewish but for many that has re­versed.”

Jack­son Car­law, act­ing leader of the Scot­tish Tories whose Eastwood seat con­tains a size­able Jewish pop­u­la­tion, said: “Too of­ten con­cerns over the poli­cies of Is­rael are con­flated with open hos­til­ity to Jews res­i­dent, vis­it­ing or study­ing in Scot­land. Ig­no­rance is the cham­pion of much an­tiSemitism and ever has it been.

“Ephraim Borowski’s words are a chal­lenge to all of us.”

ONE of the most se­nior Jewish com­mu­nity fig­ures told MSPs that many Jews are “ac­tively con­sid­er­ing” em­i­grat­ing f rom Scot­land over rising lev­els of anti-Semitism.

Ephraim Borowski, the di­rec­tor of the Scot­tish Coun­cil of Jewish Com­mu­ni­ties (SCoJeC), said that mem­bers of the eth­nic mi­nor­ity have dis­cussed leav­ing af­ter feel­ing “alien­ated, vul­ner­a­ble and not at home”.

Jack­son Car­law, the act­ing leader of the Scot­tish Tories whose Eastwood seat con­tains a size­able Jewish pop­u­la­tion, said: “Scot­land’s Jews are en­ti­tled to feel safe, to feel val­ued and to look for­ward with the same op­ti­mism as any of us.”

A re­cent re­port by the EU Agency for Fun­da­men­tal Rights found that al­most 90% of re­spon­dents across Euro­pean coun­tries be­lieved in­stances of anti-Semitism had in­creased over the past five years

Only a small pro­por­tion of UK-based Jews live in Scot­land, but there have been recorded in­ci­dents of anti-Semitism north of the Bor­der.

Borowski, who was awarded an MBE for his ser­vice on be­half of the Jewish com­mu­nity, made a pre­sen­ta­tion last year to the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment’s Cross­Party Group on Free­dom of Re­li­gion or Be­lief.

The meet­ing took place in Fe­bru­ary, but the con­tents of the dis­cus­sion were not re­ported at the time.

The minute re­counted parts of his con­tri­bu­tion: “The gen­eral mes­sage is not that it is ter­ri­ble be­ing Jewish in Scot­land.

“But in re­cent years there has been a very wor­ry­ing in­crease in the level of anti-Semitism in the coun­try, with the re­sult that many Jewish peo­ple re­port they are ac­tively con­sid­er­ing em­i­grat­ing from Scot­land.”

On anti-Semitism more broadly, he said what was most con­cern­ing was when Jews were “treated dif­fer­ently” to ev­ery­one else and “sin­gled out”.

He cited the Macpher­son re­port, which con­sid­ered racism in the Met­ro­pol­i­tan po­lice force, which he said backed the prin­ci­ple that if a “vic­tim or wit­ness says that a crime was racist then it has to be taken at a prima fa­cie level as racist”.

The minute quoted Borowski adding: “That prin­ci­ple is only chal­lenged in the con­text of anti-Semitism. Peo­ple say­ing that some ac­tion or state­ment is not anti-Semitism.

“This is oth­ers try­ing to de­fine the Jewish com­mu­ni­ties hurt.”

Ac­cord­ing to the minute, the SCoJec di­rec­tor also said that the small num­ber of re­ported in­ci­dents did not “nec­es­sar­ily” mean Scot­land was more wel­com­ing, not­ing that the coun­try only has about 2% of the UK’s Jewish pop­u­la­tion: “Mostly the Jewish com­mu­nity used to feel that Scot­land was a good place to be Jewish but for many that has re­versed.

“Many Jews ac­tively dis­cuss leav­ing Scot­land be­cause they feel alien­ated, vul­ner­a­ble and not at home.”

The claim re­flects the fig­ures in the EU Agency for Fun­da­men­tal Rights re­port, pub­lished last month, which found that 38% of Jews sur­veyed said that they had con­sid­ered em­i­grat­ing from their coun­try over the past five years, with the high­est pro­por­tions found i n Ger­many, France and Bel­gium.

The sur­vey also found that three-quar­ters of Jewish peo­ple in the UK per­ceived anti-Semitism to be gen­er­ally a very big or a fairly big prob­lem, with 29% hav­ing con­sid­ered em­i­grat­ing.

Asked by The Her­ald on Sun­day how wide­spread the emi­gra­tion view is in the Jewish com­mu­nity in Scot­land, Borowski pointed to SCoJec re­search f rom 2015 in which one- third of re­spon­dents ex­plic­itly talked about a height­ened level of anx­i­ety, dis­com­fort, or vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

He also said that, as part of the sur­vey, five peo­ple told SCoJec with­out be­ing prompted that they were con­sid­er­ing leav­ing Scot­land.

The row on anti-Semitism in the UK last year fo­cused heav­ily on the re­sponse by the Labour party to al­le­ga­tions of anti-Jewish sen­ti­ment, with var­i­ous mem­bers ei­ther be­ing sus­pended or ex­pelled.

Leader Jeremy Cor­byn, who apol­o­gised for the hurt caused to Jewish

Mostly the Jewish com­mu­nity used to feel that Scot­land was a good place to be Jewish but for many that has re­versed

peo­ple, was also crit­i­cised for his party’s ini­tial re­fusal to en­dorse in full an in­ter na­tional code on anti-Semitism.

Cor­byn had orig­i­nally backed the In­ter­na­tional Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Al­liance def­i­ni­tion, but not all of its as­so­ci­ated ex­am­ples. He later per­formed a U-turn.

Mark Gard­ner, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions at the Com­mu­nity Se­cu­rity Trust, a char­ity set up to en­sure the safety of the Jewish com­mu­nity in the UK, said of the Borowski com­ments: “This is an ac­cu­rate summary of the fact that de­spite the many pos­i­tives of Scot­tish Jewish life, many Jews are still con­sid­er­ably more ner­vous about the state of anti- Semitism, pol­i­tics and so­ci­ety than was the case 10 or 20 years ago. A sim­i­lar trend can be seen in Jewish com­mu­ni­ties across Europe and, in this con­text, Scot­land and in­deed the UK as a whole r emain r el at i vely bet­ter t han else­where.”

Lib­eral Demo­crat MP Christine Jar­dine said: “It’s truly hor­ri­fy­ing that more and more Scot­tish Jews do not feel wel­come in their own coun­try, and would ac­tu­ally con­sider mov­ing away.

“The Scot­land I love is an open, tol­er­ant and wel­com­ing place for peo­ple of all re­li­gions and none.

“There should be no place in our so­ci­ety or pol­i­tics for anti-Semitism or racism. Politi­cians of all par­ties must be vo­cal in con­demn­ing the dis­turb­ing rise of anti-Semitism.”

Ex­treme right-wing graf­fiti on a re­cent SNP cam­paign poster

Clock­wise from left, Rab­bis from the UK and over 300 peo­ple from the Glas­gow Jewish com­mu­nity at­tend a spe­cial ded­i­ca­tion cer­e­mony Gar­nethill Syn­a­gogue, Ephraim Borowski re­ceiv­ing an MBE for his ser­vices to the Jewish com­mu­nity in Scot­land, far-right marchers and the stun­ning in­te­rior of Gar­nethill Syn­a­gogue Pho­togr­pahs: Jamie Simp­son Getty Images

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