A little more than two weeks ago, I wrote to all the staff in our organisation to allay any anxiety they may have been feeling as a result of reports of increased antisemitic activity and hate crimes in some areas of North London where our services are based. I urged them to remain vigilant and to report any hostility to the CST.
Fast forward to last Thursday afternoon when we were forced to follow our advice after our social media accounts were compromised by content posted by a third party relating to tensions in the Middle East. The CST and JLC were on hand immediately to support our team managing the aftermath. We were inundated with messages of support from other charities, community organisations and members of the public, many of whom could only ask why.
That’s a question we are unable to answer. We aren’t known for posting political content. Our strapline proudly proclaims us to be “the UK’s largest Jewish charity” and, as several of our channels were targeted in coordination, we can only conclude that the breach forms part of the wider picture of antisemitism.
As a British charity, our duty is to support vulnerable members of the British Jewish community and beyond, and, as such, we condemn as abhorrent all hate crimes, whomever the target. Far from projecting divisive, hateful rhetoric, Norwood stands for inclusivity regardless of our differences and we work to ensure people with learning disabilities and autism and children and families facing challenges are supported to live their best lives.
Whatever your views about tensions in the Middle East or any point of politics, importing those tensions to the social care sphere is unjustifiable and to target a charity such as ours is as incomprehensible as it is counter-productive in serving your cause and that of the vulnerable people we support, who will always remain our reason ‘why’.
We were especially gratified by those members of the public who took the opportunity to draw focus back to our work, sending messages of support and sharing links to our website’s donation page, widening our circle of support and donations beyond the UK and as far afield as Canada and the US. For the past 225 years, Norwood has played a central role in the community, supporting some of its most vulnerable members and its longevity is undeniably thanks to its place at the heart of its supporters and donors.
As our staff, donors, supporters and members of the public – both within and without the Jewish community – came together last week to offer support, whether emotional, practical or financial, the irony of the shocking hacking breeding solidarity and bringing communities closer together wasn’t lost on us. For the people we support, that connection to the community – both local and Jewish – is vital and that community has shown just how reciprocal that connection is in recent days. As an organisation that cares, and that puts the utmost focus on the people we support, we look to inspire those little moments of interaction we all have each day that put a smile on our faces and are so important to wellbeing for the people we support. Those moments which show them that their achievements and their outcomes really matter. We, as an organisation, have experienced so many of those small moments this week, as you’ve shown us that our work in support of vulnerable people matters.
While the past few days have been really saddening for everyone involved in our organisation, from staff to supporters, the message of hope and solidarity that has come out of it has been truly heartening, and for that we are grateful to all of you.
Dr Beverley Jacobson is the Chief Executive of Kisharon