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Rabbi clears vicar of anti-Semitism

11 April 2012

by Ed Thornton

A RABBI who is a student of anti-Semitism has defended a vicar who has been accused of posting anti-Semitic material online (News, 16 March). The Revd Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, was said to have included on his Facebook page a link to a website that was considered to be anti-Semitic.

Last month, the Guildford dio­cesan secretary, Stephen Marriott, said that the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) had made known its “grave concern” that Mr Sizer “had been publicising websites with anti-Semitic content”. He said that Surrey Police were investigating.

In a letter to the Bishop of Guild­ford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill, Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor Emeritus of Judaism at the Univer­sity of Wales, who has written three books on anti-Semitism, said that accusations that Mr Sizer was an anti-Semite were “completely with­out foundation”.

Rabbi Cohn-Sherbok said that he had asked Mr Sizer “how it hap­pened that this offensive website (which relates to Israel’s action) on his Facebook was not removed straight­away”. Mr Sizer had “not in fact read” the initial complaint about the website, which had been sent by Nick Howard, a Christian evangelist who is the son of Lord Howard, a former leader of the Conservative Party.

Rabbi Cohn-Sherbok defended Mr Sizer: “Once he realised the seriousness of the error of linking his Facebook entry with the offending website, he did remove it.”

Professor Ilan Pappé, an Israeli Jewish historian, also wrote to Bishop Hill. He said that there was “not a hint of anti-Semitism in anything Stephen wrote or spoke about”. Rather, Mr Sizer voiced “con­cern that some of Israel’s policies and ideologies can create a mis­guided association of Judaism with dispossession, colonisation and dis­crimination”.

Mr Sizer has also published on his website supportive comments from other rabbis and Jewish writers and activists.

The CCJ issued a statement on Wednesday, which said: “All CCJ has done, in its founding role to combat anti-Semitism, is, on receipt of com­plaints about Mr Sizer’s actions, to have expressed grave concern to his bishop and drawn the attention of the police to the matter.”

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