An update from Barnet Council on community safety issues arising from conflict in the Middle East
Friday 10 November 2023
One month on from the 7 October attacks and Barnet Council has shown that it is standing firmly with the borough’s Jewish communities. The council’s leadership believes that we cannot allow hate to triumph by stepping to one side and has pledged to do all it can to help residents to live safely and freely.
In the immediate aftermath of the initial attacks, the council showed its support for the victims by flying the Israeli flag from Hendon Town Hall and illuminating the building at night. A minute’s silence has been held at council events, including at October’s Full council meeting. Cabinet members and other councillors have attended vigils and synagogue services for kidnap victims. Barnet is twinned with the Israeli town of Ramat-Gan and a letter of support has been sent to the mayor, Carmel Shama.
In taking local leadership, the council has engaged extensively with community leaders and other representatives to form close-knit working partnerships to counter the large rise in antisemitic hate crimes and associated concerns about the local impact of the crisis in the Middle East. This has included holding a ‘listening’ roundtable with more than 60 Jewish community leaders. The Leader of the Council, Cllr Barry Rawlings, has spoken to the Chief Rabbi, Sir Ephraim Mirvis KBE and meetings have been held with leading Rabbis from across the community.
Councillor Rawlings has made it clear he does not hold all the answers and it is only through sharing experiences, views and ideas can a meaningful and effective response be achieved.
The issue of the safety of Jewish schoolchildren is a foremost concern. Cllr Rawlings has highlighted the threat to the safety of Jewish children in non-Jewish schools as a critical safeguarding issue to be addressed. In October, the Chief Executive of council-managed Barnet Education and Learning Service (BELS), wrote to the borough’s headteachers to provide information and resources from the Board of Deputies of British Jews on recognising different forms of antisemitism, advice on dealing with incidents and occurrences, and giving support to Jewish children – especially for those in mainstream schools. Information packs and other resources have been circulated for teachers on how to speak to pupils about the conflict and invitations have been sent to educators to online workshops for tackling hate crime.
BELS has also issued support and advice for headteachers of schools welcoming Jewish children arriving from Israel.
The council is working closely with the Metropolitan Police to ensure that there is a visible presence of patrolling police officers and council community safety officers at sensitive locations, such as synagogues. The council is also working with organisations including the Community Security Trust and Shomrim to protect communities both on the street and online.
Online safety and the spreading of hate material is a paramount concern. The Police’s Prevent programme is addressing this through its Counter Terrorism Referral Unit’s public reporting tool. You can anonymously report any online content that you deem to be illegal or harmful via the Public Referral Tool