Orthodox Jews from Manchester and London have decided to end their annual summer visit to a campus on the Welsh coast after the host University of decided that lighting candles on Shabbat is a fire hazard.
Jews have not always been welcome guests at the University of Aberystwyth, which is empty of students during the summer vacation. In 2009, the Jews were welcomed with swastikas on the grass and on piece of paper found in residence halls.
University authorities insisted there was nothing anti-Semitic in their new condition for the Jewish tourists to visit, according to the London Independent.
It quoted a university spokesman as saying, “The university… would be delighted to welcome this group back, as long as they are able to sign our terms and conditions.”
However, one of the annual visitors, identified by the Independent as ”Mrs. Brander,” said, “We have found a holder to make each candle safer. We offered to discuss it with the fire brigade, but the university was not interested.”
Jewish families rent the university’s facilities on the coast for a vacation away from the Britain’s urban centers. In the past years, they have lit candles on Friday nights at the University of Aberystwyth without any question, until last year, when they were told of the new condition. During the same summer, a visiting rabbi drowned.
The tourists ignored the request until recently, when they decided they could not give up the lighting of candles.
“Ultimately, there was no real decision for us – our religion requires the lighting of candles,” Brander told the British newspaper.
The University of Aberystwyth five years ago defended itself against charges of anti-Semitism by London Spectator columnist Melanie Phillips, who published charges by a student that he had to write anti-Israeli and anti-American opinions or face receiving lower marks.
The student complained that in one course, a comparison was made between the treatment of Jews in Germany before the Second World War and the treatment of Muslims today. The lecturer reportedly told the student, “My assertion that Israel has been engaged in state terrorism lies first in a clear understanding of what the aims and consequences of terrorism are.”
The university replied that the course was given with the aim of being “objective, with no bias and no prejudice against any race or country.”