A Jewish Mom in Burning London by Vicki Belovski

A Jewish Mom in Burning London by Vicki Belovski

Sitting on the balcony of a chalet in the French Alps eating breakfast in glorious sunshine, while the man next door gives an impromptu accordion concert, it is hard to believe that just over a week ago, we were in London, anxiously tracking the news to see whether our neighbourhood was likely to be the next target for the night’s rioters.

The London riots, which seem to have made the news worldwide, were triggered by the police shooting of a young man in Tottenham, a very ethnically mixed neighbourhood in North London, next to Stamford Hill, home to most of London’s Chassidic community. Police in the UK don’t carry guns and incidents such as this are fortunately rare. Inevitably there was confusion and recriminations about what actually happened, and the dead man’s friends and family organised a peaceful protest march a couple of days later. This was hi-jacked by people looking for an excuse to cause trouble and several nights of riots ensued, which spread, first across the capital and then across the country, causing millions of pounds worth of damage to property, large scale theft and tremendous heartbreak as rioters torched businesses and homes.

Once it became obvious that the rioters were not really protesting, but instead were interested in causing as much damage as possible, whilst stealing mobile phones and designer sports gear, our neighbourhood began to look less likely as a target. Although there is a large shopping mall nearby, our high street contains very few chain stores and many kosher restaurants, bakeries and groceries. Despite our reassurances that “looters” wouldn’t really target a kosher butcher, the children were nervous, but our local police were excellent, putting on high visibility patrols to reassure the community. On Sunday night, I was glued to the computer, watching as the rioting spread, apparently randomly, to areas which are generally so quiet that the prospect of trouble there seemed like a joke – Enfield, Chingford, Ponders End: quintessentially British names for almost boring places.

On Monday afternoon, erev Tisha B’Av, I went out to do some errands and found the normally bustling Golders Green Road to be virtually deserted. There are often more people on the street at midnight than there that day at 3pm. Some of the shops had been warned by the police to close early, while the large electrical goods warehouse in the nearby retail park was publicising the fact that they had removed all their goods and locked up.

For the first time ever, I had a real sense of what a siege must feel like. It was easy to imagine people cowering in their houses, waiting for the invaders to break through the defences. Easy too to transpose the scenes of burning and devastation to the Churban. As my husband and older children went off to shul for Eichah, I waited at home with the younger ones, hoping and davening that the sirens we could hear would not get any closer. It certainly made for a sombre atmosphere, even though, b”H, our area was, in the end, not affected.

The impact of the riots on people’s lives is far from over as communities struggle to rebuild, both physically and emotionally. The police and courts have been working flat out to track down and deal with those responsible. We tried to use what happened to show our children how lucky they are that they live in a stable Torah family with goals and aspirations. It is easy to see how young people lacking those and influenced by a consumer society and the philosophy of self entitlement can get swept away, with tragic consequences all round.

Vicki Belovski is a wife, mother of 7 and rebbetzin in N W London. In her “spare time” she is a freelance writer and community news editor for Hamodia UK. Visit her blog or follow her on twitter @mrsbelogski

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3 comments

  1. Vicki,
    Thanks for giving me an insight into what happened in Golders Green. When I got a call from a fellow British expat that there was trouble brewing so close to “home” was very uncomfortable new for Tisha B’Av. Your article helped to put it into perspective.

  2. Yehoshua Friedman

    What are you waiting for, brothers and sisters? Jews, come home!

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