While most of the ultra-Orthodox residents of the North and South London neighborhoods affected by the recent rioting in the city have heeded rabbinic directives to stay indoors and out of harm’s way, some young Hasidic men did not last Saturday night. And what they were doing has given rise to some nasty finger pointing against the Jewish community.
Were these Yeshiva bochers out burning buildings, torching cars or looting stores? No, they were standing on the streets of Tottenham handing out bread (Challah, reportedly) from cardboard boxes to people around them.
But someone filmed this activity and posted it — oddly set to classical music — on YouTube, under the title “Tottenham Riots Conspiracy.” Then, as might be expected, anti-Semitic vitriol started flowing in the comments section. The poster of the video insinuated that these Jewish men were literally feeding the burning anger of the rioters. “Why are Jewish community members giving out fresh bread to the rioters? Why are they encouraging more violence and fuelling them?” he or she wrote.
One commenter suggested that the guys had just gone out after Shabbos and bought some food to sustain the news crews working all night to cover the mayhem. That, of course, provoked responses about the Jews supporting the “Jewish-controlled” media. Then someone jumped in and clarified that a local kosher caterer, who was no longer able to use the food because the event it was meant for was cancelled due to the riots, was merely trying to prevent it from going to waste. This explanation, however, did nothing to stop the tens of ensuing hateful comments.
Fortunately, no synagogues have thus far been destroyed in the violence, and only a small number of Jewish properties have been affected. However, it would probably be a good idea for England’s Jews to stay safe and off the streets at this time. And better to let some leftover Challah get old than to have it generate some new anti-Semitic vituperation.