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Oxford groups show solidarity with Jewish community after latest attack

The Chabad Jewish Centre has been the target of two attacks in one week

The Oxford Labour Muslim Network (OLMN) has condemned last week’s two “racist attacks” against Oxford’s Chabad Jewish Centre, “in the strongest possible terms.”

OLMN posted a scathing condemnation of the onslaughts on their Facebook page after the Oxford Jewish Student Centre suffered the second anti-Semitic attack on their premises in one week.

The post read: “An attack on one is an attack on all.”

The emergency services were called to the Chabad Jewish Centre after an unknown white substance was thrown over the bins last Wednesday, and another anti-Semitic note was found on the vehicle gate on 23rd May, the Jewish holiday of Shauvot.

The police cordoned off the street in fear of a chemical attack before they discovered the substance to be talcum powder.

The 24th May attack follows one four days earlier, when two offenders left anti-Semitic notes outside the Chabad Centre on Cowley Road before setting fire to the building at around 4am on 19th May. The fire burned out within a few minutes without causing any injuries or major damage to the property.

The police have not connected the two attacks.

OLMN said in their post: “There has been a surge of hate crime in Britain since Brexit, and in Europe since the Great Recession. In Europe, forces representing virulent anti-semitism and Islamophobia are marching hand-in-hand. Racists and fascists in this country are attacking synagogues and mosques in increasing number.

“The only way we oppose this is through unity and solidarity.”

The post commended Councillor Tom Hayes, whose St Clement’s ward includes the centre, for his “strong condemnation” of the attacks.

OMLN’s post concluded: “We call on the Oxford & District Labour Party to express a commitment to defend all of Oxford’s communities, and to begin urgent work on anti-racist organising.”

A spokesperson for OMLN told Cherwell: “A horrific racist anti-Semitic attack in our city must not pass without condemnation. Fascist and racist ideology and attacks affect the daily lives of Muslim, Jews and others on a daily basis across Europe.

“We in the OLMN felt it vital to make a public declaration of support and call to action. Progress will only be made through our collective voices and actions.

The spokesperson added: “We must not be complacent and we must also ensure that we as a society understand staying silent is not an option. We are devastated that this attack has taken place in our city and we will continue to stand in open solidarity with all communities.”

In response to the attacks, co-director of Chabad of Oxford, Rabbi Eli Brackman, told Cherwell: “[Some] trickle down anti-Semitism […] may have fostered an environment that lingers today whereby elements of society feel it may be legitimate to go ahead and attack a Jewish centre as happened last weekend.

“A number of events have taken place to create a better understanding of what is acceptable and what is cloaked anti-Semitism and much confidence and trust has been restored.”

He maintained that “Jewish life at Oxford is vibrant and growing” and that “we have come a long way since the events of 2016 that shook the university Jewish student community.”

He called for “the urgent and complete implementation of the Chakrabarti report” in order to “to eradicate anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and hate from political discourse in the UK, student or otherwise.”

President of the University’s Jewish Society, Jacob Greenhouse, told Cherwell: “The anti-semitic incident which occurred last week shows that antisemitism still exists in the United Kingdom and we are relieved that nobody was hurt.

“The community remains ever vigilant.”

The Chabad of Oxford is the more religious of the two Jewish centres connected to the University. It offers students kosher food, prayer services and religious ceremonies, as well as hosting a guest lecturers.

1,000 out of the 12,000 students in Oxford are Jewish, and membership of Chabad of Oxford is over 500.

On their website, they say that they are mainly “dedicated to providing exciting and stimulating programs for Jewish students studying at Oxford and Brookes University, whatever their affiliation, so as to strengthen their attachment to their Jewish roots.”

An Jewish student at the University told Cherwell: “Whatever your stance on the recent actions of Israel’s government, the UK Jewish community should not suffer.

“Anti-semitism is not taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination in a left-wing institution.”

MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Layla Moran, offered her solidarity to the Jewish community: “It is shocking and deeply distressing to hear reports of an attack on the Oxford Jewish Centre.

“I wholly condemn this attack; we cannot tolerate anti-Semitism of any kind in Oxford.”

Oxford city councillor for St Clement’s, Tom Hayes, said: “Oxford Chabad is a hub of Jewish life in the city and the people of St Clement’s are proud that the student centre has made its home here.

“We deplore every act of anti-Semitism and stand with our Jewish community.”

The investigating officer, Detective Sergeant George Atkinson, said: “Hate crimes are serious offences and something we will not tolerate in the Thames Valley.

“We are conducting a thorough investigation and have several lines of enquiry.”

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Police on 101.

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