‘They shall not pass’ candlelight vigil warning after Chanukah synagogue daubing invokes ‘Battle of Cable Street’ spirit
PUBLISHED: 16:42 31 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:45 07 January 2020
A candle-light vigil following the anti-Semitic daubings on a synagogue in north London on the last night of the Jewish Chanukah ‘festival of light’ drew parallels with the 1936 Battle of Cable Street which stopped Mosley’s Blackshirts marching through Whitechapel.
Broadcaster and author Michael Rosen whose parents came from the East End was one of 150 supporters from all parts of London arriving for last night's vigil in solidarity with the Jewish community.
The vigil was held at Rosslyn Hill in Hampstead where several shop fronts were also sprayed with anti-Semitic symbols.
Rabbis, trade unionists and anti-racist campaigners who joined the vigil included Rabbi Herschel Gluk, president of Stamford Hill's volunteer-led Shomrim neighbourhood watch group who believes police funding cuts have fuelled a rise in hate crime, and Rob Ferguson who organises Newham's Stand Up to Racism campaign in east London.
"These people daub swastikas or Stars of David to intimidate us," Rosen told the crowd. "It's a way of wanting us to be scared, to make us afraid.
"We may not have common beliefs in an immensely diverse community, but have a common purpose. Our watchword is unity in action."
He read out a poem he wrote (here abridged) which drew similarities of the daubings in Hampstead to Mosley's fascists attempting to march through Whitechapel in 1936.
It was written in 2011 when the right-wing English Defence League attempted to do the same 75 years on.
The former BBC presenter, now author and newspaper columnist living in Muswell Hill after 32 years in Hackney, dedicates it to his parents Harold and Connie Rosen who were at the Battle of Cable Street.
"You Connie, You Harold, your families working in the schmutter trade (rag trade), hats, caps, jackets and gowns, you both saw Hitler on Pathé News, both saw Hitler blaming the Jews.
"You both collected for Spain when Franco came, when round the tenements the whisper came, 'Mosley wants to march, here through the East End.
"So to Trafalgar Square to Support Spain? Or to Gardiner's Corner to support Whitechapel?' They shall not pass."
Harold came from Nelson Street in Stepney, Connie from Globe Road in Bethnal Green, who met as teenagers the year Mosley came to the East End.
Rabbi Herschel Gluk, president of Stamford Hill's volunteer-led Shomrim neighbourhood watch group who founded the Muslim-Jewish Forum, explained to those holding candles about Chanukah, the festival to bring light and warmth.
"We all have a duty to illuminate the world," he said.
"Not just our own home, but into society, places which are dark and cold, places that are indifferent.
"We have to think about the causes when we see one community being negative about another, to consider why there is hatred and racism.
"The causes are poverty, alienation, feeling disrespected and lack of dignity—which is not caused by those they feel hatred towards.
"Our energies shouldn't be used against each other, but to the best for the whole society for which we are here at this vigil."
A call for a grassroots mobilisation to stem the rise of the Far Right against all ethnic minorities was urged by the Convenor of Newham's Stand Up to Racism campaign, Rob Ferguson.
He appealed to those at the vigil: "We have to build a mass movement in every workplace, school, college and local community and put differences aside.
"We have to unite. These Far Right forces are mobilising and are a threat to us all—to Jew, Muslim, Roma and Black. Whatever your politics, religion or colour, the Far Right is a danger to us all. We have to unit against it."
His own family included "Jews who are pro-Israel and not pro-Israel, religious and non-religious, socialist and non-socialist".
He added: "That made no difference at the gates of Auschwitz—they only asked if your grandparent was a Jew, which was enough."
His mother lost family members during the Nazi Holocaust including her sister who perished.
Now he saw in a new decade the horrors of the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe again.