A month-long study within part of London’s ultra-Orthodox (Charedi) Jewish Community has revealed the shocking racist abuse suffered daily by the most visibly-identifiable Jews in Britain. The results are said by Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, President of Stamford Hill Shomrim, which carried out the research, to be “the tip of the iceberg”.
Over the course of years of abuse, during which there have been sparse convictions, reporting of antisemitic crime against North East London’s Charedi community has been extremely low, making it very hard to accurately gauge the true extent of antisemitic crime.
For the first time, Shomrim’s study offers a unique insight into the shocking abuse suffered on a daily basis by ultra-Orthodox Jews, including young children, as they go about their lives on the streets of London. Shomrim carried out the study in the month leading up to National Hate Crime Awareness Week, and there was no campaign to increase reporting.
Describing the month as fairly typical, Shomrim recorded 32 antisemitic incidents at a rate of 8 incidents per week, dwarfing official police statistics of 2-3 crimes per month, but still only representing a fraction of the unreported antisemitic crimes perpetrated against London’s most readily-identifiable Jewish community. The incidents included three assaults, two threats to kill, eight threats of violence, eighteen cases of verbal abuse and one incident of criminal damage.
In one incident, a 28-year-old mother boarded a bus with her two children, aged 6 months and 4 years old, when another woman deliberately blocked her path, telling her: “I’m not going to move for you, you Jewish people are selfish, you Jewish people are bad”. In another, an 11-year-old boy was surrounded by youths and told to remove his skullcap. He was then told that he would be beaten up if he did not comply. In yet another incident, a 55-year-old Jewish women was asked whilst praying on the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) if she covered her hair because Hitler had shaved it off, before the perpetrator made a Nazi salute. On another occasion, three Jewish women were chased, terrified, through the street whilst a gang of teenage girls shouted “the Jewish people are rich, horrible Jewish people, give us your money”. At a synagogue, as a 38-year-old man left Shabbat services, a passerby grabbed his religious hat (shtreimel) and threw it to the ground. The youngest victim was an 8-year-old boy who was assaulted near his home by a male who told him he was a “stupid Jew”.
According to Shomrim’s statistics, the average age of the victims was 29.5, with the youngest victim just 8 years old, and the oldest 57 years old. 26 of the perpetrators were male, 3 were female, and 3 were of unknown gender. 23 of the perpetrators were described as adults, 6 were children, and 3 were of unknown age. 7 of the perpetrators were described (by the victim) as white, 8 were black, 11 were Asian, 2 were Middle Eastern, one was East Asian, and 3 were of unknown ethnicity.
Stamford Hill Shomrim supported all of the victims whilst ensuring that all of the crimes were reported to the Metropolitan Police Service, and assisting with the arrest of a suspect who was subsequently charged with an antisemitic offence. In the past five weeks, Shomrim has been directly involved with securing the convictions of three males in three separate antisemitic crimes.
This is the first time that antisemitic crime against ultra-Orthodox Jews has been so meticulously recorded. Shomrim does not regularly log and record antisemitic incidents in such detail due to lack of funding, meaning that the vast majority of antisemitic incidents against ultra-Orthodox Jews are not recorded, especially when victims do not wish to contact local police directly.
Recent Metropolitan Police Service figures show that on average 10 antisemitic hate crimes per month were recorded in the area covered by this study. In the Home Office’s most recent Hate Crime Action Plan, published in July, it was noted that “Jewish people from the [ultra-Orthodox] Charedi community are less likely than other sections of the Jewish community to report hate crimes to the authorities”.
Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, President of Stamford Hill Shomrim said: “It has long been said that antisemitism is under-reported in the Charedi Jewish community, which is the most visible segment of the Jewish community, but these figures are nevertheless shocking, even more so since this is only the tip of the iceberg. The Home Office must take urgent action to work directly with Stamford Hill Shomrim concerning the Charedi Jewish community, a community with a distinct ethos, sensitivities and structures, to enhance and improve the reporting of hate crimes.”
This meticulous month-long study by Shomrim shows the shocking extent to which members of the Jewish Charedi community, including very young children, are being singled out and targeted for racist assaults and abuse. Under-reporting of antisemitism in the Charedi community is largely due to the perception that nothing will be done, and that is why the work of Shomrim is so important, working closely with victims and the police to ensure that incidents are investigated and prosecuted.
Shomrim have been deservedly praised by the Metropolitan Police Service as the model for community engagement, yet their work is often frustrated by a failure to prosecute, and by light sentences when perpetrators are convicted. This makes the Jewish community less likely to report antisemitic crimes, and emboldens the perpetrators who often repeat their crimes. Shomrim operates a volunteer-run proactive neighbourhood watch scheme covering some of the largest populations of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who live predominantly in the boroughs of Hackney and Haringey in an area covering two square miles.
We were pleased that our call and Shomrim’s call for the Home Office to engage directly with Shomrim was adopted in the Hate Crime Action Plan, and this must now happen. Shomrim’s unique contribution to the fight against antisemitic crime is more potent and cost-effective than the police working alone, and so there is a strong case for Shomrim’s work to be extended with the help of a Home Office grant.
Last year, our National Antisemitic Crime Audit revealed that antisemitic crime reached a record high with a 26% increase in crime and a 51% leap in antisemitic violence against Jews. There is no more visible target than the Jewish Charedi community and as the intensity of antisemitic crime rises, now is the time for decisive action to strengthen Shomrim and extend their work.