A senior Scottish Rabbi has told MSPs at a meeting in the Scottish Parliament about an antisemitic attack on him in front of his family last month.
Rabbi Yossi Bodenheim, the Jewish Chaplain for Scottish Universities, said that the incident occurred near the Scottish Parliament last month, when we was walking with his wife and children.
He said: “My wife and I took our four young children for a walk in this beautiful city. However, as we were walking, a woman pushed my wife aside, grabbed my kippah [Jewish skullcap], threw it on the ground and ran away. That took place less than a mile from here, in front of my young children. You can imagine how distressed they were.”
Nicola Livingston, Chair of the Jewish Student Chaplaincy Scotland, added: “I know the family were quite traumatised, it’s quite a difficult thing to speak about publicly, you don’t want to be seen as too vulnerable. The Scottish Government needs to condemn such incidents when they happen.”
Moving on to speak about antisemitism on Scottish campuses, Rabbi Bodenheim said: “Chessed is kindness, empathy and support for others. That hatred is the very opposite of chessed. As Scotland’s Jewish student chaplain, my role is to bring chessed to Jewish students and to make sure that they are comfortable on campus, whether it is ensuring their welfare, providing social and educational events, or just being a listening ear. I also have to help them cope with antisemitism, because unfortunately it is an issue on campus as well.”
In the past year, reports from Scotland have shown antisemitism gathering pace. One report found that it was becoming relatively common for Scotland’s 5,887 Jews to keep their Judaism secret, and that many of the 400 Israelis living in Scotland hide their nationality and do not speak Hebrew in public. Noting that a growing number of Scottish Jews could name nothing positive about being a Jew in Scotland, the study reported that some Scottish Jews were considering leaving Scotland due to rising antisemitism. Some respondents told researchers that they had stopped attending synagogue services due to fear of antisemitism, were the victims of antisemitic jokes or social media posts and felt victimised for being Jewish. Jewish students in particular have reported a rise in antisemitism and statistics from Police Scotland have shown that Scottish Jews are bearing the brunt of racism online.