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December 28, 1990 - Image 27

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

BACKGROUND

HELEN DAVIS

Foreign Correspondent

T

he British season of
peace on earth and
goodwill toward all
men was rudely interrupted
last week by the head
teacher of the largest Jewish
school in Europe who was
given time on network tele-
vision to express her concern
that "anti-Semitism is alive
and well and flourishing in
England today."
According to Mrs. Jo
Wagerman, principal of
London's Jewish Free
School, there is growing,
broad-based anti-Semitism
in Britain and, in particular,
an increase in anti-Semitic
attacks on Jewish
schoolchildren.
"My experience as a
teacher over 34 years," she
said, "leads me to believe
that anti-Semitism is
endemic in British society
and is now undergoing a
resurgence."
Mrs. Wagerman accused
teachers in the state school
system of being in the
vanguard of the movement
by "reflecting and passing
on the views of an increas-
ingly hard left — that Jews
are racist, hostile to Afro-
Caribbeans and that they
are responsible for the
persecution of Moslems in
Palestine and Lebanon."
Jews, she said, are
perceived as "moneyed Tory
capitalists and as being anti-
feminist and anti-gay . . . It
is safe to be anti-Semitic
again because Jews can be
seen to be opposed to the
three great platforms of the
educational left."
Most distressing of all,
however, is the fact that
Jewish children are being
singled out for attack by
other children:
"Pupils who join us from
other schools tell of every
kind of anti-Semitism to
which they have been sub-
jected — everything from
abuse and hassle to the very
worst kind of attack.
"What worries me," said
Mrs. Wagerman, "is how
(British) schools react to
these attacks. Their re-

'10

Artwork from Newsday by Gary Viskupic. Copyright° 1990, Newsday. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Anti-Semitism
Is The Spoiler

Faced with a rising incidence of hatred, England's
Jewish community seems torn between confronting
the evil and hoping it will just go away.

sponse is very varied, but
they seem entirely ineffec-
tive. If the Jewish pupil, who
is the victim, leaves that
school, one cannot resist the
impression that there is a
great sigh of relief."
Pupils at the Jewish Free
School wear a distinctive
uniform and are easily iden-
tifiable. As such, she said,

they are subjected to
systematic harassment,
ranging from verbal abuse
on buses and trains to
physical abuse that is
"violent, frequently sexual
in nature and demonstrates
a degree of hatred that is
terrifying to a small child."
She described how one 13-
year-old girl arrived at

school last month after being
attacked on a train taking
her to school by a girl her
own age who had clawed her
face after declaring, "We
hate Jews."
Her school, she said, also
witnesses regular gang in-
vasions:
"We once had as many as
200 chanting, shouting

schoolboys marching into
the playground, but gangs of
six or seven 16-year- olds
hurling bricks, stones and
bottles are more common."
Officials at the Board of
Deputies of British Jews, the
umbrella body for all Jewish
organizations in Britain and
the central monitor of such
incidents, decline to provide
statistics on anti-Semitic in-
cidents.
One senior official,
however, conceded that the
number of attacks on syn-
agogues, cemeteries, Holo-
caust memorials and on
Jews themselves had in-
creased substantially this
year.
At the same time,
however, there is growing
concern within the British
Jewish community about the
apparent ineffectiveness of
their representative body to
deal with the problem, with
charges that the Board of
Deputies is attempting to
suppress manifestations of
anti-Semitism.
The most conspicuous
failure of the Board has been
its inability to persuade
Britain's legal authorities to
prosecute those responsible
for disseminating anti-
Semitic literature, most of
which is imported from the
United States.
According to legal sources,
court action would be self-
defeating. At present, they
say, only a very small
number of people are even
aware of the literature, aim-
ed mostly at attempting to
deny the Nazi Holocaust. In-
dictments would likely at-
tract publicity and greatly
increase the numbers who
are exposed to the material.
Dr. Lionel Kopelowitz,
president of the Board, in-
sists that there is no inten-
tion of playing down or
covering up acts of anti-
Semitism but, he adds, it is
also not the policy of the
Board to generate fear —
and, unwittingly, to provoke
further copycat atacks.
"In any free society," he
says, "there will always be
an element of anti-Semitism,
what I would call a dislike of
the unlike. I'm concerned
about incidents that occur in

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

27

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