Australian Jews could soon take-up self-defence classes to defend against possible assaults, as the community grapples with a wave of anti-Semitic abuse and hatred in the wake of the October 7 Israel-Gaza war.
The Australian Jewish Association, a grassroots social media page that tracks alleged anti-Semitic attacks, said on Sunday it would organise the classes in response to a rise in attacks on Jews.
“The attacks on Jews have reached such a level that AJA will be assisting with organising self-defence training for the community,” the post on X states.
“Initially in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. Stay tuned for more details.”
AJA chief executive Robert Gregory, speaking on Monday, said there was a “lot of fear” in the community and the proposal to put on martial arts training for Jews had been met with an “overwhelming outpouring” of support.
“There are a lot of people coming into our community to attack Jews, cause provocations,” he said.
“A lot of assaults are unreported.”
He said a Jewish martial arts expert had volunteered to put on the classes, which will roll out for people of all ages.
Anti-Semitic acts have exploded across Australia after terror group Hamas massacred Israeli civilians on October 7 and Israel responded with a bombing campaign in Gaza.
On early Sunday morning, popular Sydney Israeli restaurant Shaffa was vandalised and spray-painted with “child murder” and “steal our identity”.
Last Friday, a synagogue was evacuated in Melbourne’s Caulfield after pro-Palestine protesters gathered at a nearby park.
Mr Gregory said some Jews believed the NSW Police had not responded to threats against them with “enough force”.
“A lot of people don’t think the police are stepping up at the moment,” he said.
A NSW Police spokeswoman said the police would continue to engage with community groups and monitor events in Australia and abroad.
“Our priority is to ensure that all members of the community feel safe and supported and are free to go about their daily lives without the fear of violence or discrimination,” the spokeswoman said.
“The NSW Police Force launched Operation Shelter and the community can be assured we will continue to provide a safe environment for all and that appropriate policing responses are in place across the state.”
Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin said self-defence classes were “a good thing” but criticised the AJA’s post as “irresponsible”.
“These sorts of social media posts are irresponsible as they create the perception that Jews face an immediate threat of being attacked on our streets, which isn’t the case,” he said.
“We are urging vigilance while maintaining our way of life as Australians and Jews.
“The concern is that things can spiral out of control very quickly.
“The scenes from Caulfield … show that anti-Israel thugs are intent on harassing and intimidating Jewish Australians in their homes and in their synagogues.
“We need other communities and particularly the federal government to dispense with pro-forma statements about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and take the threat to Jewish Australians seriously.”
Mr Ryvchin said the police were doing a “terrific job” in difficult circumstances and he had “no doubt” they were taking threats seriously and enforcing the law.
“But in some cases the laws are unfit for purpose and the rolling anti-Israel protests not only create a massive drain on police and public resources, they are a key mechanism for inciting hatred towards Jewish Australians,” he said.
The federal government has allocated $50m to support Jewish and Muslim communities affected by the Hamas attack on Israel and the war’s ongoing fallout.
The ECAJ received $25m to enhance safety at Jewish schools and preschools across the country.
Australian Palestinian and Muslim communities received $25m to improve safety measures.
Allegra Spender, the member for Wentworth, which takes in much of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, has been contacted for comment.
Originally published as Australian Jewish Association starts up self-defence classes