Synagogue’s online service interrupted by people displaying swastikas and shouting racist abuse

Worshippers left ‘shaken and upset,’ says rabbi

Sam Hancock
Sunday 24 October 2021 23:36 BST
Manchester Reform Synagogue recently featured in the BBC’s ‘Ridley Road' series
Manchester Reform Synagogue recently featured in the BBC’s ‘Ridley Road' series (Wikimedia Commons)

An online service at a synagogue in Manchester was ambushed on Friday by a group showing swastikas and shouting racist abuse.

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen, from Manchester Reform Synagogue, said the offenders unmuted themselves halfway through the meeting to show “awful racist images”.

She added they were “kicked out” of the Sabbath service – held at the start of the weekly Jewish holy day – “straight away”, but said that it was “clear throughout the service they were trying to get in”.

“Halfway through … during some prayers, they unmuted, started to shout, and put on the screen a swastika and some other awful racist images,” she told the BBC.

“We were all really shaken and upset about it.”

Greater Manchester Police said no one has been arrested so far but officers are continuing to conduct inquiries.

Taking to Twitter later, the rabbi said her community was left “shaken” and initially felt “fearful” about attending the synagogue on Saturday, but had come together and shown “strength”.

“It is on us to fight racism and fascism within us and on our streets – for all minorities and persecuted people,” she wrote.

Manchester’s reform community was founded in 1857 and is one of the oldest in the UK.

The historic reform synagogue, which Rabbi Steen belongs to and has been in Jackson's Row since 1952, featured in the recent BBC adaptation of the novel Ridley Road – about the real-life campaign against far-right extremism in 1960s London.

During the scene it was used for, fascists bearing symbols such as swastikas attempt to break into the synagogue.

Speaking to the BBC about the irony, the rabbi said: “It’s the reality of what is – it’s an undercurrent, it’s part of the story that has always been around.”

She also called for more to be done to tackle antisemitism, including better education on the issue.

“Our Jewish stories are all about defeating and surviving … racists,” she added on Twitter.

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