What Impact Does the London Bridge Attack Have on the Jewish Community?

LONDON -
Impact, London Bridge Attack, Jewish Community
People attend a vigil to remember the victims of the attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, at Potters Field Park, in central London, on Monday. (Reuters/Hannah McKay)

The U.K. has been shocked by two significant terror attacks in the space of two weeks. For a few days, following the Manchester attack, the threat level for terror was raised from “severe” (where it has been since August 2014) to “critical” — meaning that an attack is not just “highly likely” but “imminent.” The government put in place Operation Temperer, which deployed soldiers to some locations normally guarded by police, in order to release police officers for counter-terrorism duties. Public places such as shopping malls enacted security measures such as making customers park farther away from the building than normal, and checking bags and people on entry.

However, within a few days, the level was returned to “severe” and even following the outrage on Motzoei Shabbos, it was not raised again. Members of the Jewish community were repeatedly reassured by the police and the Community Security Trust (CST), an organization that monitors anti-Semitism and arranges security for Jewish institutions, that there is no specific threat against the Jewish community. Lord Bourne, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for faith and integration, has phoned Rabbi Avrohom Pinter, a well-known askan in the chareidi kehillah in Stamford Hill, after each of the recent terror attacks, to reassure him that the government is looking after the kehillah, and to ask him to pass on a message of solidarity to the community. In the most recent call, on Monday morning, Lord Bourne thanked the kehillah for their support of social cohesion.

Although it would seem that Jewish targets might be high up on the terrorists’ lists, ch”v, in fact, the targets chosen recently have had minimal — if any — connection with the Jewish community.

Dave Rich, deputy director of communications at CST, confirmed this, saying, “We know that our community is a particular target for these terrorists, but as we’ve seen recently, they will attack anyone, anywhere.”

Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE, president of Shomrim NE London, told Hamodia that it seems that the terrorists are attacking the places which will create the most publicity. Westminster Bridge is very close to the Houses of Parliament, the concert in Manchester was attended by thousands of people and London Bridge and the restaurants and bars in Borough Market are a very popular destination for both tourists and locals, particularly on a summer Saturday evening. They all represent aspects of the Western lifestyle which IS hates — democracy, music and socializing over a drink. Rabbi Gluck continued by saying that since IS has suffered setbacks in the Middle East, they want to encourage their followers elsewhere to carry out high-profile attacks in order to show that they are still a major force.

The British Government has been very sensitive to the needs and concerns of the Jewish community. For the last few years, they have given very significant funding, in the region of $15 million, to the community, overseen by CST, to pay towards security guards at Jewish schools. CST has been responsible for ensuring that communal buildings have adequate levels of physical protection, such as fences, security cameras and shatterproof glass. They also provide patrols in Jewish areas on Shabbos and Yom Tov, as well as extra reassurance patrols when necessary, for example, outside Jewish schools on the day after the Manchester bombing.

Mr. Rich said, “The Government and police have been warning for some time that the terrorist threat to the U.K. had increased significantly, and with so many terror attacks and plots in such a short time frame we really are now in a new situation. All CST’s work in protecting Jewish buildings, working with commercial guards and training thousands of people in security awareness has been to prepare for this, but most of all what we need right now is for people to step up and join CST as security volunteers.” He acknowledged that on the whole, while we must not be complacent, in general, the community is better protected than the general public.

Both Rabbi Gluck and Mr. Rich repeated the widespread message that the kehillah, in common with the rest of the British public, should continue to be vigilant and should try to avoid congregating in public places, for example outside shuls after davening. Rabbi Gluck added his tefillah that the Ribbono shel Olam should continue to look after His people.