Anti-Semitism is on the rise, according to the spiritual leader of Belfast’s Jewish community.
Rabbi David Singer spoke about the problem during BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence yesterday morning.
The Birmingham-born Rabbi pointed to the vandalism of Jewish graves, offensive graffiti and what he termed ‘suspicious emails’, although he also spoke about the support the Jewish community has received from the majority of people in Northern Ireland.
Rabbi Singer said: “Yes, anti-Semitism is on the rise. Let me tell you about four things - first of all is [what is] in the process of being cleaned up right now. It is graffiti in town where what is written is the ‘F word’, a picture of a swastika and it says, ‘gas the kikes’.
“On the synagogue walls there is graffiti. I am not going to read it out - it is really very unpleasant. I am receiving very suspicious emails and this is very recent.
“If we add these things together – the graffiti in town, the smashing of the gravestones, suspicious emails, and the graffiti on the synagogue wall – yes, I would say things are on the increase.”
The Jewish community is among Ulster’s oldest ethnic and religious minorities.
During the 1860s, a small number of German-Jewish merchants arrived here and began to export linen products across Europe.
They built their first synagogue in 1871, on Great Victoria Street, and the community’s founder, Daniel Joseph Jaffe, is commemorated by the drinking fountain located at the entrance to the Victoria Shopping Centre.
Despite recent anti-Semitism, Rabbi Singer had kind words for the wider community: “My impressions of the people in Northern Ireland haven’t changed over the years that I’ve been here.
“The vast majority of people are very friendly, warm, welcoming and whatever we see and experience as far as anti-Semitism is concerned, it tends to bring in a flood of letters, emails and telephone calls of support for the Jewish community and the Jewish people and an expression of abhorrence.
“I am appalled that these things happen but I am humbled at the response.”