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'We don't feel safe in the street wearing our kippah' - views heard at Gants Hill meeting

PUBLISHED: 17:36 25 February 2015

Borough commander Sue Williams (left) at the anti-Semitism event at the Ilford Federation Synagogue, Gants Hill. Picture: Ajay Nair

Borough commander Sue Williams (left) at the anti-Semitism event at the Ilford Federation Synagogue, Gants Hill. Picture: Ajay Nair

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"Jewish people can't walk down the street wearing their traditional garb" was a sentiment echoed at a meeting on anti-Semitism.

People at the anti-Semitism event at the Ilford Federation Synagogue, Gants Hill. Picture: Ajay NairPeople at the anti-Semitism event at the Ilford Federation Synagogue, Gants Hill. Picture: Ajay Nair

Audience members at an Ilford Federation Synagogue event on Tuesday in Clarence Avenue, Gants Hill, felt they wouldn’t “feel safe walking down Ilford High Road wearing a kippah”.

The comments about the Jewish skullcap were made while a panel consisting of Ilford North MP Lee Scott, Ilford South MP Mike Gapes, Redbridge borough commander Det Ch Supt Sue Williams and members of the Community Security Trust (CST) fielded questions.

The meeting came following an increase in anti-Semitic crime in the borough.

Labour MP Mr Gapes said: “Everybody has the right to wear their religious symbols in public in this country, we have different laws to places like France where there are laws in certain places which prohibit certain items of clothing.

Lee Scott and Mike Gapes at the anti-Semitism event at the Ilford Federation Synagogue, Gants Hill. Picture: Ajay NairLee Scott and Mike Gapes at the anti-Semitism event at the Ilford Federation Synagogue, Gants Hill. Picture: Ajay Nair

“We don’t have that attitude in Britain and there’s a duty in the whole country to defend that right. I really believe if people feel that way we have to change it .”

Figures from the CST – an anti-Semitism charity – showed attacks in Redbridge more than trebled last year, going up from nine in 2013 to 34 in 2014. Police received 10 reports of anti-Semitic crimes last year and have already received 26 reports so far this year.

Det Ch Supt Williams said: “It may surprise you that some of the young Muslim ladies will say the same thing that you’re saying about wearing religious clothing.

“I think we’re all in it together – unfortunately we do have an intolerant section of society, so we need to work closer together.”

Redbridge Mayor Cllr Ashley Kissin at the anti-Semitism event at the Ilford Federation Synagogue, Gants Hill. Picture: Ajay NairRedbridge Mayor Cllr Ashley Kissin at the anti-Semitism event at the Ilford Federation Synagogue, Gants Hill. Picture: Ajay Nair

Conservative MP Mr Scott said: “We should not bow down or have to feel threatened by anyone – and I think we’re very lucky here in Britain, because I think we have one of the best police forces in Europe.”

One audience member said he had “never had a problem” and that people “should not be deterred”.

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