In what ways have you experienced antisemitism in England? (Not being passive aggressive, genuinely curious)
This is obviously just a set of my own, personal experiences.
- When I was 13, an Iraqi Muslim refugee girl came to my school and ended up in my class part-way through the year. She was told to sit beside me, and my table of students was asked (in private, by the teacher) to help her with her English skills. She became a friend very quickly, and weeks passed normally, until I complained (of course) about preparing for Pesach at home. She didn’t know what Pesach was, so I explained as best as I could. She asked if I was a Jew and I told her that I was. She then called me “dirty” and asked to be moved to sit somewhere else. She never spoke to me again.
- When I was 16 at my first job with a clothing retailer, an Arab woman was angry that I couldn’t give her money back on some clothes (because of some store policy), called me a “thieving Jew” and stormed out.
- I’ve had friends become ex-friends because they found out that I was Jewish, and they said that I “manipulated” them by not admitting that I was Jewish in the first place.
- I’ve had ex-friends say that they wouldn’t have been friends with me in the first place because “Jews always want something in return.”
- When I was 17 and worked at a jewellery chain store, I was serving an Arab man until he noticed the Magen David around my neck. He cursed at me in Arabic and demanded that my manager serve him instead. When she tried to show him the jewellery that I had brought out to show him, he wanted a discount because of “the Jew’s filthy hands.”
- In the same job, there was a Muslim woman that I worked with that joined me outside for cigarette breaks. She always begged to make sure we were right down an alleyway so the main street wouldn’t see us. I asked her why she was afraid of being seen, and she told me that others from her mosque might see her. I then asked if it was forbidden for her to smoke, and she told me that it was, but it would be worse if her family found out she was talking to a Jew and she didn’t want to risk it. She begged me to deny that we were friends if any Muslim or Arab asked me if I knew her.
- My boss at the same job made a point to remind me that the safe had security cameras surrounding it, because she said she knew what “you people” were like. When I faced antisemitism from customers, she demanded that I stop wearing my Magen David so I wouldn’t “antagonise” them.
- When I had to transfer to a different jewellery store due to moving away to university, I had a different Muslim co-worker. For context, if two people worked together to make a sale, they were supposed to “split” the sale on the computer, as each staff member had a daily quota for both item value and insurance that we were supposed to sell. I did most of the sale, and he said he would help put the sale through the machine, as the customer thought she might buy something else, too. After she was gone, I found out that he’d stolen all of the sale from me. I confronted him, and he told me that “Jews have enough money.”
- When I was 20, I went to court with my family because of (non-related to our Jewishness) harassment against us from our neighbours. Our court-provided lawyer was a friendly Muslim woman. She sat with us and helped us prepare for being in court, as we’d never been before. My mother has a nervous habit of fidgeting with her jewellery, and the lawyer stopped part-way through a sentence when she noticed her Magen David (for clarification - none of us have “obviously Jewish” names), made an excuse that we were prepared, then left us. In court, she hardly asked any questions unlike the defence lawyer, and after the case finished (it was short, thanks to those behind the harassment being repeat offenders) when we wanted to ask her about what happened next, we were all completely ignored and she refused to shake any of our hands, even after we’d seen her shaking with the defence lawyer.
- I had a Christian roommate at university tell me that she would “forgive me” for “killing Christ” if I accepted Jesus as my saviour, and was angry when I refused.
- In a taxi with an Arab driver, he was friendly and asked me if I was doing anything for Christmas. I told him that I was Jewish so wasn’t celebrating, but would probably go to a friend’s Christmas party. He then asked me what I thought about what was happening in Palestine, and I said that the situation was a horrible mess, and that all we could do was hope for peace. He then said, “Jews are baby-killers” and accused me of being racist.
- When I went to pick up some kosher items from the local supermarket, an Arab family spotted me in the aisle (as kosher, halaal, Polish and “speciality” non-refrigerated items were along the same aisle) and followed me around the store as I picked up the rest of my shopping, laughing in Arabic, and then spat on me. When I went to a staff member to tell them about what happened, he accused me of being an Islamophobic racist and told me that if I didn’t leave the store, he would call security.
- A different Arab taxi driver, on a journey back home, asked me if I was Jewish. When I told him that I was, he asked threatening questions about “how many Jews” lived with me and when we’d all be home together. I was frightened, I admit, and I gave him the wrong address and hurried to the first person that was outside their house, asking them to take me in because I was worried. I called home, obviously, but the driver stayed outside for over half an hour and only left when the stranger I was with went outside to ask what he wanted, where he apparently said that he was “making sure I (as in, me) was home safe.”
- I went to buy cigarettes from a corner shop using my debit card. The machine declined it for some reason, although I had more than enough money to cover it. I asked the owner to put the card through again, and he shouted that “Your Jew money’s no good here” and demanded that I leave.
- I’ve been called a “babykiller” and a “Zionist bitch” when a man spotted my Magen David.
- My synagogue’s windows have been vandalised, smashed and there has been excrement shoved through the letterbox and smeared on windows and we have to organise an extra police presence during festivals. Over recent years, all signs saying that the synagogue is in fact a synagogue have been removed.
- When preparing for an inter-faith walk of peace, a priest visited our synagogue and called us “obstacles to peace” and “selfish” for saying that we couldn’t walk on a Saturday morning, when we’re supposed to be in the synagogue praying.
I’ve been spat at multiple times, I’ve had antisemitic slurs thrown at me multiple times. I stopped using Facebook a few years ago because of random rape and death threats sent into my inbox and written when I commented or liked anything to do with Israel or Judaism. My mother has had the same. We have to do our best to protect my brother from the same, and have told him never to tell anyone that he’s Jewish, because that would be far too dangerous for him.
Obviously this isn’t even mentioning the abuse that I’ve had on this site, where I’ve been called a Nazi, I’ve been told to kill myself, asks with antisemitic slurs (not dark jokes, but actual abuse), because whilst I do post some, there are quite a few that I’ve just deleted without comment to block whichever anon has been sending them.
So when I talk about antisemitism, I’m not just someone that happens to be Jewish and is against antisemitism because it’s anti-Jewish as some out-there concept that I’m against, it’s because I’ve been there, I’ve done that, been through it, keep going through it.
It’s very real, and it can be incredibly frightening. That’s why I take it so seriously. And that’s also why I criticise Jews for claiming that some things are antisemitic when they’re clearly not, because I want others to see how horrendous antisemitism actually is so that they take it seriously, too.