From Virginia to London: confronting antisemitism

Credits to: Matty Shafran

A young Jewish Londoner’s experience of facing antisemitism and her message of inclusivity to all.

For the last four years, Matty Shafran has been living between Virginia and London. While her two homes may be oceans apart- her experiences with antisemitism are not.

Shafran explained: “Coming to Britain was like a breath of fresh air. There seemed to be fewer people who just straight up didn’t like Jewish people.

“But now, my husband and I have encountered antisemitism on our commutes and online- we’ve encountered what I would call tolerance with trepidation in our own neighbourhood.”

To Shafran, the topic of antisemitism arising so quickly is not shocking: “It’s hard for this topic not to come up early in conversation about being Jewish, unfortunately.” As the conversational mood darkened, as did the tales of her experiences.

 

Shafran said: “My husband was on the train once and he dropped some change. When he went to pick it up, someone chided that picking change off the ground was ‘typical of you lot’. Often, antisemitism is informed by harmful stereotypes.

“Our shared household rental is also a little challenging and times. There have been a couple instances of what I would call ‘passive antisemitism’; where the Labour platform is used to validate the repeated belief that Corbyn never said anything antisemitic. But, that we have the definition wrong.” The Labour party chose not to comment on this assertion.

Shafran continued: “It feels like some in our neighbourhood show tolerance, rather than acceptance. We’ve been careful to limit our outward ‘Jewishness’ because of this. I don’t wear my Star of David necklace anymore- but we can’t help the way we look.”

Yet, despite her experiences with antisemitism, Shafran, remains upbeat on the situation in London. Shafran explained: “There’s always people who won’t accept me and my faith, and that is disheartening, but it’s the truth. But I really don’t think those people represent London.

 

“People should stand up for their neighbours.  Community is very important to us and London is our greater community. I can’t vote in this country, but when we choose to vote with ignorance of others’ plights, we say that we don’t care about anyone around us.

“I’m a leftist and I voted for the left candidate in 2016 (the 2016 US Presidential election) …out of fear for my Muslim neighbours, for my Jewish community and my community as a whole.”

To Shafran, support and understanding for one another as a community is vital in the plight to eradicate antisemitism. In the interest of this, Shafran educated me on Judaism.

She explained: “I love Jewish philosophy, and it’s actually very involved in social justice. Abraham Joshua Heschel (a leading American Rabbi and Philosopher) encouraged Jews to pray with their feet on the Sabbath and to march with Martin Luther King Jr.”

In the spirit of Shafran’s plight for inclusivity, why not learn more about the Jewish culture by visiting some of London’s top Jewish events this month. Check out these events, using the interactive map:

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Words by: Monica Young

Photos by: Matty Shafran & Pixabay | Infographic by: Monica Young | Map by: Monica Young

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