UK

We Must Defend Britain's Jews, Says Theresa May As Former Chief Rabbi Warns Of Growing Fear

18/01/2015 13:38 GMT | Updated 18/01/2015 21:59 GMT

Theresa May has insisted efforts to wipe out anti-Semitism in the UK must be redoubled, amid safety fears among the Jewish community.

The Home Secretary said she never thought she would see the day when Jews living in Britain would say they were fearful of remaining in the country. Speaking at an event to commemorate the Jewish people who died during the terror attacks in France, May said: "The dreadful events in Paris are a reminder of the serious terrorist threat that we face.

"The attack on a Jewish supermarket, where four people were killed, is a chilling reminder of anti-Semitism, not just in France but the recent anti-Semitic prejudice that we sadly have seen in this country.

"I know that many Jewish people in this country are feeling vulnerable and fearful and you're saying that you're anxious for your families, for your children and yourselves.

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Jewish men walk along the street in the Stamford Hill area as police announced they will increase patrols in areas with large Jewish communities

"I never thought I would see the day when members of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom would say they were fearful of remaining here in the United Kingdom. And that means we must all redouble our efforts to wipe out anti-Semitism here in the United Kingdom."

She told the event in London: "In Europe, of course, we have seen large numbers of Jewish people emigrate and others are questioning their future.

"There have been other attacks as well, the like of which we never thought we'd see again in Europe - in Brussels, of course, where four people were shot and killed at a Jewish museum and in Toulouse, where three children and a teacher were murdered at a Jewish school.

"So I want to say this: Jewish people have long been an important and integral part of this country, we cherish the contribution you make, not just in the past but today and every day. Following those attacks in Paris we saw a tremendous expression of unity as people came together in solidarity with the victims of France, people in countries all over the world repeating 'Je suis Charlie', 'Je suis Ahmed', 'Je suis juif'.

"But the most important quote I heard I think was from French prime minister Manuel Valls, who said: 'If 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be French, the French Republic will be judged a failure.' It is a sentiment I well understand, one that holds true for Britain.

"Without its Jews, Britain would not be Britain, just as without its Muslims, Britain would not be Britain - without its Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and people of other faiths, Britain would not be Britain."

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Her comments came as former chief rabbi Lord Sacks told the Sky News that people were asking: "Will I be safe going to synagogue or going to a Jewish shop? Will my children be safe in a Jewish school?"

He said: “And that kind of thing is absolutely inevitable, I hope it will dissipate soon but there can be no doubt that there is an anxiety now among British Jews which is pretty much at a record high within my lifetime.

“However hard you try to eradicate the virus of hate it kind of mutates and it hangs around. It is very disturbing because after the Second World War, after the Holocaust, the whole of Europe engaged in a massive anti-racist campaign, a Holocaust education campaign, a community cohesion interfaith dialogue campaign and that these attitudes still persist must be a worry.”

But Lord Sacks said he defended the work of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists to be offensive as "the price of a free society".

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Theresa May at the event

"We are free to say things so that my freedom let’s say to be a Jew or to be a Muslim has to be an equal freedom for all and that must mean that people are free to be critical of Jews and Muslims, I think that is the bargain that freedom for any of us means freedom for all of us," he continued, adding that it was "good point" when asked if Pope Francis should "turn the other cheek".

"The truth is I think we have to have enough confidence to say that in the long run, freedom for any of us depends on freedom for all of us. That may mean that I have to put up once in a while with something I find very offensive. But I do understand Muslim sensitivities and they are real," he added.