Chair's Message: February 2013

As reported elsewhere in this e-Newsletter we opened 2013 with our annual meeting with the Prime Minister. It is notable, that despite the relative size of our community we are still able to secure a meeting of this nature. The level of detail in which the Prime Minister engaged with our concerns was particularly impressive. We are now working to ensure effective follow-up on all of the matters that we raised.

2013 also began with the need for us to join with some of our members in two major communal interventions. In the case of the shocking Sunday Times cartoon here was a swift and firm response both to the newspaper itself and at Newscorp level. The result we achieved was a good one. A full and unreserved apology for the content, association and Holocaust Memorial Day timing of the cartoon. Our meeting with the editor of the paper left us in no doubt of the unreserved nature of this apology.

The David Ward affair has been less satisfactory. To be clear, his comments were antisemitic, his subsequent attempt to play ‘victim of the lobby’ was outrageous and his emails to a Jewish newspaper after being censured made it clear that he has not understood and feels no remorse. The Community has demanded and expects a fresh investigation by the Liberal Democrats.

On a more positive note, I am delighted that we will be launching our new Youth Commission shortly. No serious study of this sector of communal life has taken place for decades. It is clearly time to look at how our resources are being spent, to assess how we get maximum value and ensure that future generations are firmly committed to Jewish life in all of its aspects. It will also be an good opportunity to hear directly from the consumers of these services about the kind of provision they want to see. I pay tribute to Jeremy Isaacs who has been the inspiration behind this initiative and thank him for his support.

An outdoor central London celebration of the 65th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel is something I believe is important for our Community. Five years ago we broke new ground as the only Diaspora community outside of North America to stage a pro-Israel street parade. Once again, on 2nd June 2013, we hope to recreate that electrifying atmosphere and show the extent to which Israel remains a central part of our collective communal identity. I urge you to mark the date in your diary now.

I am delighted to welcome the appointment of Gillian Merron and Michele Vogel as our newest Vice-Presidents. Between them they bring a wealth of experience and activism to the table. I am sure they will make a huge impact and I look forward to working with them.