I am particularly pleased that for the second year running, the JLC alongside the London Jewish Forum, Chabad and our members, delivered one of the largest public celebrations of Chanukah in any Diaspora community. So many of you joined us together with Mayor Boris Johnson for our Chanukah in the Square event on the third night of Chanukah. The size of the crowds who turned out in the freezing cold to celebrate is real testimony to the spirit of our community. This event encapsulates the vitality of the UK Jewish community, swathes of people of all ages, of all denominations, singing and dancing together. I am delighted that two of our Jewish schools, JCOSS and Wolfson Hillel played such a central role in the event. Anyone who doubts we are a thriving community need just take a snapshot of Trafalgar Square on 10th December. It is events and initiatives like this that highlight and reaffirm core communal priorities such as education, freedom and collective pride in our identities as British Jews.
Last month saw Israel launch Operation ‘Pillar of Defence’ in response to the continuing rocket attacks on Israeli towns from Gaza. This was an inevitable response to the intolerable assault upon the citizens of Southern Israel and the continued provocations of Hamas. Over the past decade, the Jewish community has rallied together in support of Israel under the banner of ‘Yes to Peace, No to Terror’ and ‘No to Hamas’. I am pleased to report that the JLC facilitated, from communal leaders and the key UK Jewish institutions, a message of support and solidarity to the Government of Israel via Ambassador Daniel Taub. We were pleased to see a cessation of hostilities and we continue to hope and pray for peace, for both Israel and the Palestinians.
When our Commission on Women in Jewish Leadership reported to the community earlier this year I made it clear that this was only the start of a process. The announcement last week that women will be able to serve as chair people of one of our largest member organisations, the United Synagogue, is a huge step change in this regard. I congratulate US President and JLC Trustee Stephen Pack for his sound leadership in delivering this change.
Finally, I would like to wish David Cohen and his family Mazal Tov on their Aliyah. David, who will be standing down as a JLC Vice President played a key role in the foundation and early development of the JLC, steering crucial initiatives such as the shared resources initiative. David was integral to the communal response to the outbreak of the second intifada, as well as ensuring that major public pro-Israel rallies could take place when needed over the past decade, and being particularly supportive of our new Community Chest initative. In addition to his work with the JLC, David played a key role in a number of our member organisations, especially UJIA which he chaired with distinction and BICOM on whose Board he served for a number of years. UK Jewry’s loss is Israel’s gain and I hope you will join me in wishing him and Smadar every blessing and success.
I wish you all a happy and healthy 2013.