We have just completed the Festival of Pesach and the celebration not only of the concept of freedom but mark the start of the journey to Jewish Nationhood. Having recently attended and participated in the We Believe In Israel Conference, It was impressive to see the level of commitment to Israel evident in the room. The unity of purpose and the cross communal harmony in support of a just cause gives me hope and encouragement that we are entering a new and productive era of Israel Advocacy. The results of the recent Israeli election were announced just before the conference started and whilst I recognise that those results are viewed differently across our community, the We Believe brand allowed both the left and right to join hands and promote the same core beliefs:
- WE BELIEVE that the Jewish people have a right to a homeland
- WE BELIEVE that this homeland is the State of Israel, the historic land of the Jewish people
- WE BELIEVE in peace
- WE BELIEVE that peace will come with security and prosperity for all of Israel’s citizens – Jew, Arab, Druze, Christian
- WE BELIEVE that the Palestinian people also have an equal right to self determination in a land they can call their own
- WE BELIEVE that we must stand up and fight any attempt to deligitimise Israel and that is what we will do
- WE BELIEVE IN ISRAEL – a Jewish State, a Democratic State – the Nation State of Jewish people!
These are the beliefs that make us united and which resonated around the We Believe Conference.
I congratulate everyone involved in organising the Conference and you can read more about the Conference later in the newsletter.
One of the great achievements in the last decade has been the number of Jewish children attending Jewish Schools. Recently some faith schools, including Jewish schools, have been subject to unannounced inspections by OFSTED. In their reports OFSTED has recently suggested that some British faith schools have failed to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs. Some Jewish Schools have also been subject to this criticism. The main stream Jewish Schools are in my opinion outstanding examples of how values which are at the heart of British society are taught and inculcated. I pay tribute to them and the work of PAJES (Partnership for Jewish Schools) in this regard.
JLC member organisation, the CST recently held their annual dinner where Prime Minister David Cameron spoke passionately about defending the Jewish community from antisemitism. The Prime Minister announced a series of financial measures to support the community, amounting to over £11million. This is in part thanks to the successful meetings the JLC and it’s member organisations have held with both the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, Theresa May and the assiduous work of CST in canvassing the Government to keep protecting Jewish Institutions. On the evening, the Prime Minister was quoted as saying “… At a time when once again the Jewish communities of Europe feel vulnerable and when antisemitism is at record levels here in Britain I will not stand by. I will not turn a blind eye to the threats that the community faces. If the Jewish community does not feel secure then our whole national fabric is diminished…” (Read his full speech here). I would like to give fulsome praise to Gerald Ronson, The CST and their team of selfless volunteers for protecting our community. Not only are they held in high regard in our Community but across the wider British society and this is testament to their hard work and dedication.
I recently hosted a breakfast for a core group of “younger” patrons of one of our key welfare charities – Norwood. I was hugely impressed with their commitment and insight. Afterwards I reflected that they reflect the vitality and vibrancy of the UK Jewish Community. A Community which has contributed a great deal to civic society while building its institutions over many years. However, we have a great many strategic issues to wrestle with going forward and I have renewed confidence that the group I met are a subset of a broader group of skilled and engaged Jews who are ready to play a meaningful role as the journey of British Jewry continues into a productive future.