Yom Rishon, 17 Av 5779
Sunday, 18 August 2019
‘We need to show solidarity with Christians who are being attacked’

14th August 2015

Elliot Steinberg, Programme Manager of the Council of Christians and Jews

V’im lo achshav, eimatai? If Not Now, When?

Even in the time of the Mishnah, our sages understood our inclination to procrastinate, to turn away from more difficult tasks and leave them until later. And so Hillel ends his Jewish philosophy of social justice “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

CCJ’s “If Not Now When” initiative is a month of prayer and reflection on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, particularly at the hands of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Focused on the month of August, we are encouraging Jewish communities across the country to take part in small acts of prayer and/or spiritual reflection on this suffering and to reach out to Christian communities local to them in friendship and solidarity. This is not a political campaign, rather an opportunity to establish relationships between Christians and Jews here in the UK.

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? We do not expect this issue to become the Jewish community’s central concern. We are, of course, aware of the heightened sense of threat many Jewish centres feel after the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen and we know that antisemitism is an issue that still confronts many Jewish individuals and communities in 2015.

Yet that being said we must admit that, fortunately, our communities in Britain are not facing the same direct, acute threat of violence and death that is currently decimating Christian communities across the Middle East.

If I am only for myself what am I? We are in a unique, unprecedented position to show concern for and empathy with those Christian communities that are under attack and the British Christians who are supporting them. Through CCJ’s Still An Issue campaign responding to antisemitism, Christian communities across the UK reached out to their Jewish friends and neighbours offering support, asking to develop a better understanding of how antisemitism is changing, and how it affects contemporary Jewish identity.

Now we are asking the Jewish community to offer support in return. In this way we are bringing our communities together through profound engagement with those issues which form the centre of our consciousness. We do not want each other’s problems to become our own, but by identifying and appreciating each other’s struggles, we form a better foundation for meaningful relationships.

To this end, we have created a general resource with information about Christians in the Middle East and ideas for personal and communal responses rooted in Jewish tradition and practice, which is further supplemented by resources written jointly by Rabbi Sandra Kviat and Rabbi Michael Hilton for deeper reflection and discussion on this topic. The resource, should you wish to take a look, can be found on our website at http://www.ccj.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/If-Not-Now-When.pdf, and hard copies have already been distributed to all Liberal Rabbis.

Now we need to show solidarity with Christians who are being attacked, tortured and killed in Iraq and Syria. Now we need to empathise with Christians in our own country whose faith is being challenged in a way with which we are all too familiar ourselves. Now we need to add our voices to the prayers of support, comfort and peace to those already being recited by our Christian neighbours around the world.

Because if not now, when.

For more information about the initiative or to involve your community please do be in touch by emailing This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .