Lord Janner praises Chabad on Campus UK (full speech)

Thursday, 1 August, 2013 - 5:08 am

Lord Janner.jpgLord Janner's Speech at Chabad on Campus UK and Europe Reception

The following speech was given at the Chabad on Campus UK and Europe reception in London on Wednesday, July 24, 2013. Lord Janner of Braunstone, vice president of the Jewish Leadership Council of the UK, is a British Labor, politician, lawyer and author.

Ladies and Gentleman – My friends

Thank you very much for asking me to speak at this evening’s Chabad on Campus event. I am delighted to be here. Being Jewish has always been, and continues to be, one of my proudest attributes, of who I am. I stand up in my personal and professional life – proud to say I am Jewish, and even to say, I am a British Jew!

But I know this isn’t always easy to be Jewish – especially on campuses throughout the UK and many other countries. Anti-Semitism is still around us, we cannot escape it – and it is even harder to understand, why? - Why we are persecuted just because of who we are?

Over my life, I have experience hatred that cannot be understood, or even accepted. At the age of just 18, I started my National Service, and became the youngest War Crimes Officer of the British Army of the Rhine. This truly changed my life.

“I remember being asked by a colleague: “Don’t you want to do something useful in your army life?” – I replied:“But I don’t speak German” – “So learn it” he told me, and I did.

I travelled around with a gun, in a small car in Germany - with a driver, arresting Nazi criminals – and I wasn’t scared. We would pick up war criminals from their homes, just telling them and their family that we needed to discuss some business, but they would be back home by dinner. Of course, they never did return home. Instead they were taken to prison, before their trial.

What sickened me the most was that they were ordinary people, who had taken pleasure in killing ordinary Jews and gypsies, ordinary socialists and gays, and ordinary civilians, in Nazi occupied land.

Today, the Jewish community in Europe is more protected and accepted, however there is a rise in the Far Right in Europe, and Anti-Semitic attacks are still too regular.

But it is wonderful to see that here in the UK, how our youngsters who go to universities are able to feel free and happy to be Jewish – more students are openly say that they are Jewish, instead of shying away from the part of who they are, because of fear.

I want to read a quote from the 2011 National Jewish Survey, which I think really does emanate in many ways our past and present Jewish students. And I quote;

‘Jewish students are comfortable being openly Jewish at British universities, despite having concerns about attitudes to Israel on campus. Their commitment to Israel and the Jewish people is robust.’

This is where I feel it is so important for Jewish organisations to engage and encourage Jewish students at university – to allow them to feel a connection to their religion or culture – as many of students live away from home during university, which is a whole new, and often, incredibly wonderful experience in its self. I was proud to be the Chair of my Jewish society in Cambridge, many years ago!

There are many different ways to support and develop our Jewish students at grass root levels on campus - by working on interfaith, education, networking or simply a confidant when things get tough. And, Chabad on Campus has developed this over the years and continues to grow in helping our Jewish students. It is a remarkable and important role.

Finally I want to mention our Jewish State, Israel – a constant hot and prominent topic within universities – and I know that many students have experience their ups and downs supporting, a country that has a right to exist.

I, like many Jewish Parliamentarians are proudly speaking for Israel all the time, and I have experienced shocking attacks from Parliamentarians, who are seen as distinguished members of society.

I have successfully been slapped twice by a Peer – because of an issue that was happening in Israel at the time. The Peer came up to me and picked me up by my shirt and said “your people – you Jews...”and then slapped me one side of my face and then the other side. And, I just stood there – I did not hit him back, but just waited and listened. Violence is not the answer.

Instead, I continue to work to promote Israel and reminding people it is a democracy. Their government is voted just like here. Our British government isn’t whom I voted for!

My friends, I have spent much of my time building bridges between their communities, working together on our similarities and differences – this can start at any level, including within our universities. Discussing how we live, and more importantly, how they can live happily together.

Whether you say Shalom or Saalam – this single word “peace” is to which we must always return. No one would argue against the rights for the Palestinians people to have their own home, and this is so true for Israel, too. We must all learn to work together and to live side by side.

To conclude, we look back at the challenges we the Jewish people have faced and continue to encounter – and it is wonderful that organisations such as Chabad on Campus are here to support, encourage and welcome Jewish students throughout the UK and worldwide to network and feel safe, through their university life – and I am sure even after the studying has finished.

Here in the UK, we are safe to stand up and say “I am Jewish” – and to even say “I am a British Jew”. I say we must always say, “I am proud of who I am” because if we loss this, than we are not our true self.

It was a pleasure to speak to you tonight – thank you.



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