A drunken mob stormed into a London synagogue where worshippers were marking the end of the Sabbath early Sunday, shouting “Kill the Jews,” attacking people, vandalizing the building and stoking fears of rising anti-Semitism.
Jews inside the Ahavas Torah synagogue used chairs as shields as they beat back the throng, which assaulted at least one man and smashed windows. Scotland Yard said six people, including two women, were later arrested in connection to the attack, which came amid increasing anxiety in Europe’s Jewish community.
“After what happened in Paris, you are beginning to get British Jews asking, ‘Will I be safe going to synagogue or going to a Jewish shop? Will my children be safe in a Jewish school?’ ” Britain's former chief rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks, told Sky News.
“After what happened in Paris, you are beginning to get British Jews asking, ‘Will I be safe going to synagogue or going to a Jewish shop? Will my children be safe in a Jewish school?’"
- Lord Jonathan Sacks, Britain's former chief rabbi
Reaction in Britain to Israel’s war against Hamas last summer contributed to a record number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom last year. Some 1,168 incidents of anti-Semitism were recorded during the year, according to the Community Security Trust’s annual report issued for publication on Thursday.
Part of Sunday’s frightening incident in the city’s Stamford Hill section was captured on video. Still, police and synagogue elders, including Rabbi Maurice Davis, said they did believe the 1:20 a.m. incident was anti-social, and not simply anti-Semitic.
Meir Taub, a member of the local Shomrim, a Jewish patrol set up to counter violence against Jews, told the Telegraph he was called to the incident shortly after it began.
"I came down and there was a huge group of people, men and women, trying to force their way into the synagogue,” Taub said. "The window had already been smashed. Teenagers were shouting abuse. It was blatantly anti-Semitic, they came and attacked a synagogue."
Jewish leaders said they turned over footage of the incident, which captured violence as well as the chants of “Kill the Jews.”
"I have clear footage which I'm going to show to the police, which clearly shows there were anti-Semitic chants," Taub said.
Police said the mob had left a nearby party and tried to break into the synagogue, sparking the confrontation.
"The disturbance began when a group of drunk males, believed to have walked to the area from a house party nearby, tried to gain access to the synagogue,” said a Scotland Yard spokesman.
Sacks later told BBC Radio that the most recent survey showed an overwhelming number of Jews in Britain feel safe. But following the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris, in which Islamist extremists killed 12 in an attack on a satirical magazine, and anti-Semitic incidents elsewhere in Europe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned European Jews they may only be truly safe in Israel.
In February, a man attacked a synagogue in Copenhagen, killing a Jewish man guarding the building during a Bat Mitzvah celebration. Hours earlier, the same man attacked a cultural center where a debate on blasphemy and freedom of expression was taking place, killing a man and injuring three police officers. Also in February, hundreds of Jewish graves were desecrated in a cemetery near Strasbourg, France. And last May, a man shot and killed four people in a Jewish museum in Brussels.
Many, if not most, of the anti-Semitic incidents over the past year in Europe have been driven by Islamist extremism, however, while Sunday's attack did not appear to involve religious extremists.