5773 will be remembered as the year in which nearly five thousand people joined us together with the Mayor of London to celebrate Chanukah in Trafalgar Square for the largest ever public menorah lighting in the UK. Just over six months later in June we facilitated the partnership that delivered the fabulous Closer to Israel 65 Parade and Celebration at the same venue – incorporating an outstanding speech from the Secretary of State for Education that captured so beautifully the strength of the bilateral relationship between Britain and Israel.
Both of these events were initiated, supported and led in delivery by the JLC and our members because they combined Jewish values, communal unity and British pride. They were a shop-window on the vitality of our community – a theme that we are working hard to nurture and promote in an important piece of work being led by UJIA Chairman Bill Benjamin.
In my communal roles, both at the JLC and UJIA, one of the real perks of the job has been the opportunity to engage with the outgoing Chief Rabbi. Our relationship has always been one of sincerity and warmth. As a Jewish leader, as a rabbinic voice and as a national figure, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has been an inspiration for both our community and the broader nation and a steadfast defender and spokesman for Israel and Jewish values. The JLC was proud to have helped support his farewell dinner which was managed so very well by the dinner chairman, Keith Barnett. The presence of HRH The Prince of Wales together with his personal tribute and tributes of four Prime Ministers is powerful testimony to the affection and esteem in which Lord Sacks is held. Lord Sacks has much more to contribute to the Jewish People and I wish him every success in a creative and active retirement.
It is also important to recognise the graceful and dignified leadership of Lady Sacks. In a quiet and understated manner Elaine has not just supported her husband but also delivered unparalleled leadership in her own right, particularly in the fields of pastoral care and developing the role of women in the community.
We are delighted that incoming Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, will be meeting with the Council soon after taking office. Rabbi Mirvis is already engaged with the work of our Community Vitality Initiative. His success in this field within the Kinloss community is a case study of best practice in this area and we are certain that his leadership will galvanize our own work on this theme. Rabbi Mirvis is a man of great integrity, learning and wisdom. He has a real sense of the community and its needs. I look forward to working with him and learning from him as he takes up his role.
The JLC is the arena in which the community is able to jointly harness the talents, wisdom, experience and expertise of exceptional communal leaders who do not currently have a specific role heading a communal charity. Many of these individuals give of their time and energy to sit as Vice-Presidents of the Council. With no formal role in our governance they provide vital support for much of our work. In this vein I am delighted to wish mazeltov to one of our Vice-Presidents, Howard Leigh, upon his recent elevation to the House of Lords. Howard is centrally involved in the work of our Political Oversight Group. His ennoblement is richly deserved. I am also pleased to congratulate Jon Mendelsohn and Daniel Finklestein on their also richly deserved peerages. Both Jon and Daniel have been involved in our work in different ways and have made huge contributions to Jewish and secular life in this country.
Elsewhere in this e-newsletter you will, as usual, read more detail about the array of community-wide initiatives delivered through the JLC. This, together with our work to ensure the well-being of UK Jewry is all delivered at a cost to our member organisations that equates to just over a pound per member of our community. By any measure this represents exceptional value.
As we survey the community at the outset of a new Jewish year there is much to be upbeat about. In the Middle East our hopes and prayers are with the people of Israel as their Government embarks upon a set of peace talks that we hope will deliver meaningful results. May I take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Shana Tova and well over the fast.