Our lives have changed forever. We have had to change not just the way we think of Israel but how we think of Britain. The past month has exposed an ugly underside. We once thought we lived in a tolerant society. Now we are asking: ‘Can we safely share our Jewishness here?’, and ‘do we belong?’
As Jews we are familiar with tragedy, threat and betrayal. ‘Always make sure you have your passport in date’, my mother used to tell me. Fortunately, today we are still very far from escape. But the recent rise in anti-Semitism makes us feel like we have moved another step closer.
In the darkest times, however, is when the embers of the Jewish spirit burn brightest. Amidst the tragic loss of life and bloodshed, there are revolutions starting. There is a revolution of Jewish identity and unity.
Although security threats are at their highest, the synagogues have never been fuller. ‘We’ve not seen our synagogue this full since the Pittsburg shooting’, noticed a friend, with a sad laugh. Charities distribute thousands of shabbat candles every Friday, WhatsApp groups encourage psalms to be recited around the clock and hundreds of women gather each week to bake ceremonial challa bread and pray. One local barber, for the first time ever, vowed to close his shop on Shabbat as a sign of solidarity. Members of the community vow to support his business in return.
‘I have never felt my Jewishness the way I do right now’, said a lady, at the kosher butcher, buying chicken soup: ‘Ironically just when we’re under attack.’ Another ex-colleague reached out to me. She had never embraced her Jewish heritage before but now she feels she has to ‘pick a side’. She feels the pain of being vilified and misunderstood but feels that it is worth it. …
Pressure builds daily as Israel loses global sympathy and the bloody conflict unfolds. Friends in Israel feel supported there and weirdly they feel safer, even when they run into their bomb shelters. Their sense of connection makes them feel alive. The Jewish community’s unity now feels even stronger in contrast to the splintered in-fighting about Israel’s judicial reform that was rampant prior to the attack. This month, these differences have been put on hold. Faith and togetherness are our community’s protection against threat and we have to cling to them with all our might.
 Chana Hughes, “Britain’s Synagogues Have Never Been Fuller,” The Spectator (November 11 2023). https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/britains-synagogues-have-never-been-fuller/