9 November 1938 will forever remain indelibly etched into the consciousness of world Jewry. For on that day the “night of broken glass”, Kristallnacht, was launched throughout Germany and Austria. Synagogues were burned to the ground, thousands of Jews arrested, many more beaten in the streets and humiliated. But most of the world, witness to the destruction of Jewish life, did nothing to alleviate the violence.
“It is an internal affair of the German government” was the mantra of the day. With the world’s passiveness and inability to respond to the impending demise of German and Austrian Jewry, the tools were put in place for the first steps towards the Final Solution.
Belsize Square Synagogue will not forget that night. Our guest for Friday night’s service on 11 November will be Jonathan Arkush, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Jonathan has been a courageous and visionary leader, almost single-handedly taking on the anti-Semitic outrages of the Labour Party, unafraid to address attacks against our Jewish past and attachment
to Israel, and challenging Mr Jeremy Corbyn on his failure to understand the stain of anti-Semitism. We are honoured to have him join us and I look forward to welcoming him. Our thanks to Robert Sacks and Eric Moonman, our Board representatives, for arranging this.
The onslaught against Jewry has not gone away. It is just repackaged differently, centred round Zionism and Israel. The BDS boycott movement and UNESCO’s resolution on 13 October denying any Jewish link to Jerusalem, especially the Temple area, was frightening and hateful. I hope you will all protest to your neighbours and MPs that erasing Jewish history is just the latest example of the 3,500-year-old obsession with Jew hatred. It’s real.
Only six countries voted against it: Estonia, Germany, Holland, Lithuania, the UK and USA. We should express our gratitude to them for their sanity and resistance to base anti-Semitism in the United Nations. There were 33 in favour, including France, Russia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, and 17 abstentions. Many other countries not on the governing board, including the Czech Republic, solidly denounced the vote.
Two other points of interest: Irina Bokava, UNESCO’s director, disavowed the vote and called it a disgrace to the world’s nations and the UN. And a Jewish member of Mexico’s UNESCO delegation, on the point of resigning in protest at his government’s support for the resolution, stayed on to fight at the urging of Israel’s delegate. Oddly, Mexico renounced its earlier support but fired its courageous Jewish delegate.
There is so much else going on this month, notably the US Presidential election, where we pray the winner will help our troubled world. But we still have a full programme with Shabbat UK, Adult Discussion on philosophy and Bar Mitzvah services. Come to our services and activities and become part of the Belsize miracle! Wishes for a joyous month of learning, goodness, mitzvot, reading and friendship.
Rabbi Stuart Altshuler