Jewish chaplain at Leeds University forced into hiding following death threats

More than 500 Leeds alumni have signed an open letter warning about ‘the current state of anti-Semitism on campus’

A Jewish chaplain at Leeds University has been forced to go into hiding after receiving death threats.

Rabbi Zecharia Deutsch, his wife, Nava, and their two children were moved to a safe location on police advice following death threats over his role as an IDF reservist, The Telegraph reports.

The chaplain, who came under pressure to resign after travelling to Israel in November, has been the target of hundreds of calls, including threats to kill him, rape his wife, and murder their children.

In response, current and former students at the University of Leeds have written an open letter to its vice chancellor, Professor Hai-Sui Yu, warning about “the current state of anti-Semitism on campus.”

The letter, which contained the signatures of more than 500 alumni, also referred to the vandalism of a Jewish student centre on campus last week, wherein “Free Palestine” was spray painted onto Hillel House.

It said: “The university has a duty – both morally and legally – to report and prevent extremist behaviour, which no doubt includes defacing a Jewish community centre for students.

“We expect to see the university wholeheartedly condemning this behaviour – and acting decisively to curtail it.”

It continued: “Universities have a responsibility to provide a safe haven for students of all backgrounds.

“As former students, the University of Leeds holds a special place in our heart: and so we were shocked and saddened to see that this week the University’s Hillel House was victim to anti-Semitic graffiti, and that there are ongoing protests against the Jewish chaplains on campus.”

The alumni also demanded to know what measures the vice chancellor would be taking to prevent anti-Semitism on campus, protect and support Jewish people and safeguard their security, and how it was supporting the chaplains.

A spokesperson for the University of Leeds said they were “deeply shocked and saddened” by the news that Rabbi Deutsch had received threats to his safety and that of his family, and that the Jewish student centre had been attacked.

They added: “We understand and share the sentiment that has been expressed within and beyond our community, that anti-Semitism is a hatred that has no place on campus.

“We totally condemn the anti-Semitic abuse and threats directed towards the chaplain and his family – such attacks on any individual are unacceptable and will not be tolerated from members of the public or our University community.

“The interim vice-chancellor and president is seeking meetings with universities in the region as well as our key partners across the city and local politicians, to identify what more we can do together to address issues being experienced by communities in the city and wider region.”