By Alex Brummer
Public affairs director Philip Rosenberg, interfaith projects officer Natan Levy and I were among the Board speakers at the Glasgow Day Limmud on Sunday March 8 which attracted more than 200 delegates mainly from the Glasgow and Edinburgh communities.
In my first session I looked at the roles played by Jews in the financial crisis. There was some hostile press aimed at Jewish bankers – notably an article in Rolling Stone magazine which described Goldman Sachs as a ‘great vampire squid’ wrapped around the financial system. However, this was a crisis that largely was centred on the Protestant commercial banks rather than the more Jewish investment banking sector.
I pointed out that the hero of the hour was Ben Bernanke, the then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, an expert on the Great Depression who turned out to be exactly the right man in the right place. His triple policy of low interest rates, quantitative easing and recapitalising the banks helped the US and the world t o avoid the disastrous mistakes of the 1930s.
In my second session I addressed antisemitism in Europe. I looked at the economic origins in countries such as Greece and Hungary. In countries such as France, there was a toxic mix of economic disruption, unemployment and jihadist activity. The attack against the Jewish Museum in Brussels also fell into this category and came after a lengthy period of demonisation of Israel in Belgium media. Both sessions were well attended and there were plenty of questions.
Afterwards I spent some time with Scottish deputies and the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. I was alerted to the huge changes taking place in Scotland: the growing power of the Scottish Parliament and MSPs and the rise of the Scottish National Party. This requires engagement at all levels by leaders of the Scottish communities on issues ranging from education to religious slaughter. The Scottish government and community are working jointly on a project to better understand how to deal with antisemitism of the kind seen during and in the aftermath of last summer’s Gaza campaign.
Alex Brummer is Board vice president