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UK University Rabbi Forced Into Hiding

by | Mon, Feb 19 2024

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A Jewish university chaplain and his family have been forced into hiding in England following hundreds of profane threats of death and violence. Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch was targeted in an orchestrated campaign against him combined with a wave of anti-Semitism across the Leeds University campus. He has been moved to a safe location along with his wife Nava and two children on the advice of police.

The threats were prompted by the rabbi’s return to Israel following a call-up to serve as an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) reservist. The university’s Jewish student centre Hillel House was targeted with anti-Israel graffiti saying Free Palestine and IDF off campus. Christian Today reports students also held protests against the rabbi on campus.

More than 500 Leeds University alumni called on the the institution to “wholeheartedly condemn the behaviour” which it did saying: “We totally condemn the anti-Semitic abuse and threats directed towards the chaplain and his family. Such attacks on any individual are unacceptable and will not be tolerated from members of the public or our university community.”

“The university is supporting West Yorkshire Police in their investigations and will continue to work with his employer, the University Jewish Chaplaincy, to ensure Rabbi Deutsch can provide the support that is so valued by Jewish students at Leeds and the other universities he serves in the Yorkshire region. We are appalled that our Jewish student community was also targeted by a criminal act at Hillel House and share the concerns expressed for their safety and wellbeing.”

Just days earlier, Jewish students at the University of Birmingham were left “scared” after other students chanted Death to Zionists on the campus and held a banner saying Zionists off our campus. The British Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) denounced the incidents as shameful. “We are committed to supporting all efforts to ensure Jewish students and staff at Leeds feel safe and heard,” it said.

The UK’s Community Security Trust (CST) said 2023 was the worst year for anti-Semitism in the UK since the organisation began keeping records in 1984 with 4,103 incidents in Britain last year — double the amount in 2022 and almost entirely due to the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel. The Times of Israel reports the incidents included threats, hate speech, violence and damage to Jewish institutions and property,

“British Jews are strong and resilient, but the explosion in hatred against our community is an absolute disgrace. This is a challenge for everyone and we condemn the stony silence from those sections of society that eagerly call out racism in every other case, except when it comes to Jew hate, ” CST chief executive Mark Gardner said.

Rabbi Deutsch and his wife both trained for two years at Ohr Torah Stone’s Straus-Amiel Institute for rabbinical emissaries in Jerusalem. They previously worked with the Jewish community in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Photo: Facebook – University Jewish Chaplaincy. Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch and wife Nava with UK Minister for Higher Education Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP (centre)