Four UK Jewish schools close ‘in interests of the safety of our precious children’

Two Jewish schools in north London are closing their doors “in the interests of the safety of our precious children”.

Torah Vodaas Primary School in Edgware and Ateres Beis Yaakov Primary School in Colindale both informed parents on Thursday evening they would not reopen until Monday.

In a letter to parents, Rabbi Feldman, of Torah Vodaas, said while there was “no specific threat to our school” it was “not a decision that has been taken lightly”.

It comes as Jewish students were being warned by schools to disguise their uniform because of a fear of retaliatory attacks caused by the ongoing war in Israel.

Thousands of Israelis and Palestinians have been killed in a war ignited by a bloody and wide-ranging Hamas attack on Israel at the weekend.

One Jewish charity said it had seen a 324% increase in reports of antisemitism as a result over the last four days. This included six assaults, 14 direct threats, three instances of vandalism, and 66 cases of abusive behaviour, according to CST.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced £3m to protect schools, synagogues, and other Jewish community buildings on Thursday.

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The money will enable the CST to place additional guards in schools it supports throughout each school’s operating hours. They will also be able to place additional security staff at outside synagogues on Friday nights and Saturday mornings.

Israel-Gaza latest: 447 children among dead

Children told to ‘change their uniform’

One father told Sky News he had been advised by his children’s school to alter their uniform “so they are not signaling in any way they are Jewish”.

He said: “And in 2023 for my kids to go to school and it not be okay for them to wear uniform, a kippah, star of David on their blazers, to have to hide their identity in 2023, it’s very scary.

“I am scared for myself and my family. It’s a scary situation.”

Their mother said there have been at least three policemen waiting outside her children’s school every day.

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Plea for grandmother taken hostage

Students no longer taking public transport

Rabbi Chaim Pinter, the principal of a Yesodey Hatorah, said they had put “certain measures” in place, including “extra patrols” as well as providing therapists and counsellors to the students.

“There is worry, people are concerned. People don’t want this to spill over,” he said.

The majority of students live locally, but “the students who live out of the local area, they are coming in via taxis rather than public transport”.

“Our priority is the children,” he added. “And the best place, the safest place for a child, is in school.”

Meanwhile, one security company told Sky News it had seen a rise in requests from Jewish sites.

SQR is not a specifically Jewish company but does security at a number of sites within the community.

Yael Cole-Slagter said: “We’ve had calls from schools, but we’ve also had calls from schools that for instance they’ve had security officers on site that have been called back to Israel so they’ve asked us to replace them on site for now.

“And for additional security around schools.”

Rabbi Chaim Pinter
Rabbi Chaim Pinter

‘Parents are concerned’

Rabbi David Meyer, chief executive of the Partnership for Jewish Schools told Sky News parents are concerned, “and I think they have reason to be so”.

“There have been unfortunately in the past significant rippled effects when things have happened in the Middle East,” he continued.

“They seem to have impacted and caused a significant increase in incidents in the UK.”

Read more:
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Plea for grandmother taken hostage

He added: “There are justifications for parents being concerned. At the same time, we are very fortunate. We are living in a country that is very supportive of the community. Every school has security which is supported by the government, in order to ensure the children within the community can attend school safely.”

The personal safety and mental health of the children remains a priority, he added. There are concerns about the impact on children whose social media feeds are being flooded with increasingly violent imagery.

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