Jay Stoll: Golders Green Together

As many people will now be aware, the 4th July was meant to see a far-right presence in Golders Green. This fringe political minority intended to protest in Golders Green with a message of hate, a message of antisemitism and a message that many thought consigned to the darkest era of human history. It was imperative that the local community felt they could register their dissent in a manner they saw fit, as long as it was within the law. Indeed, there were a multitude of initiatives that sought to confront the far-right and they should be celebrated in their own right, but also as a collective effort.

Our ‘Golders Green Together’ initiative, as with the counter-demonstrations planned for the day itself, emerged out of an immediate desire to protest. As a convenor of Golders Green Together, I assure readers that our campaign was not set up in competition to those wanting to demonstrate. Its central purpose was to further empower local voices to be heard over a sect of far-right provocateurs. We sought to find a way to express the revulsion towards those seeking to incite tensions, but through a method that did not exclude residents for whom certain methods of protest are inaccessible to their needs. For example, where would members of the community with disabilities fit into the 4th July protests? Where would those with religious concerns have a chance to act in the build up to the day itself? These were the questions that I believe our campaign answered directly.

Golders Green Together was a visible presence in the local area in the weeks building up to the 4th July. We were on residents’ doorsteps, delivering leaflets and answering their concerns about proposed demonstrations. We were in the cafes and shops of Golders Green Road, urging proprietors to operate as usual to stop the far-right having their day. We were holding meetings in Parliament, in the Home Office and in the Greater London Assembly, making sure concerns on policing and safety were heard. This was a campaigning operation with real successes across the board, and organisational cooperation was a huge factor in achieving said results.

This brings me on to grassroots groups. Counter-protests are not counter-intuitive, quite the opposite. I believe that a range of tactics need employing when fighting fascism. Many members of my family were murdered in Nazi death camps, and with 2015 being the 70th anniversary of liberation, I have never been more resolute in my belief that fascism must be confronted whenever and wherever it rears its ugly face. If that requires both demonstrations and a campaign to decorate an entire locality in green and gold – so be it! I therefore found it disappointing those voices critical of our campaign came from within our community. We are a strong people because of our diversity of opinion, but squabbling over minor detail in the face of far-right hate? We’re better than that.

As the Director of the London Jewish Forum, I had to balance a multiplicity of concerns in managing this campaign. How would I accommodate those who wanted to carry on with their lives as normal, and how would I accommodate those who want a gung-ho response? How would I liaise with community organisations that have existed for decades and how would I deal with those who have existed for a matter of months? On the whole, the answers fell into place quite comfortably, for two reasons. Firstly, because of the support given to Golders Green Together by the CST, the JLC and the Board of Deputies, their resource and support was invaluable. Secondly, the general public largely embraced our campaign, and chose to coalesce around a message of unity, hope, and defiance.

The London Jewish Forum does an incredible amount of work to provide a platform for those within and beyond our community, to engage in the issues that define Jewish life in London. We have worked with a number of partners in putting on events, be it in the media or cultural institutions. The London Jewish Forum could not achieve what it does without the facilities of JW3 and the Jewish Museum, without the support of our partners in the Mayor’s Office and the Greater London Assembly, and most importantly of all, without the input London’s Jewish residents who make our community thrive.

My impetus in writing this piece largely stemmed from a desire to clarify how our ‘Golders Green Together’ Campaign sat alongside other efforts being made. I do not believe in communal factionalism, I believe that when a situation such as July 4th presents itself to us, it is necessary to take a broad-tent approach that does not alienate, but unites. So, thank you to all our co-campaigners and associated partners who made such a successful campaign possible, it has given us great momentum going forwards.