The appalling recent arson of two kosher restaurants in Manchester is to say the least extremely disturbing. Anti-Semitism in its purest form is hatred without reason or boundaries meaning that even such basic innocent venues as a kosher restaurant are not immune. Europe, with its extensive track record of hatred against Jews is, of course, fertile ground for all forms of anti-Semitism. But to me an attack against a kosher establishment has a far deeper connotation. It is a sign that pervasive intolerance exists in the region that extends to the basic symbols of Judaism. The arsonists in my eyes are no different than the extremists who seek to deny Jews the right of kosher slaughter, most recently in the thriving Jewish community of Belgium. They simply seek to deny the past in the hope that they can somehow influence the future. Some 80 years ago Germans, Austrians, and others were convinced that neither kosher slaughter nor certainly kosher restaurants had any future, only to recognize that both are part of a thriving culture that is in fact on the rise. Let’s be clear: Burning down a kosher restaurant does not shut down the desire of so many to eat kosher. It also does not pull out the welcome mat from a Jewish community that has lived in Europe for over 1,000 years.
I know that some argue that to give these haters any notoriety is a huge mistake. But complacency can sometimes be our worst enemy. I understand that many locals are helping the restaurants rebuild. I hope that local kosher diners and indeed visitors will frequent the restaurants in a show of defiance which is what eating kosher sometimes represent.