Chair's Message: February 2015

2015 has had a challenging start for the Jewish Community, not only in Britain, but across Europe. The murders in France, especially in the Kosher supermarket, and Copenhagen will be forever a tragic reminder not just of the risks of unchecked anti-Semitism, but of the threat of Islamic extremism which affects us all. As I mentioned in my op-ed in the Telegraph, ‘When Jews are murdered simply for being Jews, as in Argentina in 1994, Mumbai in 2008, a Jerusalem synagogue last November and now Paris, Jewish communities everywhere feel shockwaves.’ In 2015, no community, of any religion or faith, should ever feel at risk because of their faith or beliefs. It is therefore sobering and concerning to note the latest figures highlighted in the recently published CST report which showed that antisemitic incidents in 2014 were at an all-time UK high.

I find it encouraging therefore that the UK Government has recognised the seriousness of the issue and taken concrete measures to deal with the increased threat. At Prime Minister’s Questions on 4th February, after being asked by Mike Freer MP on the government’s commitment to looking at creating a counter-terrorism fund to help maintain the security measures at community buildings, The Rt Hon David Cameron MP referenced his meeting with the JLC  when he said “I have met the Jewish Leadership Council and discussed this issue in the light of the Paris attacks. In my view, we need to do everything we can to help this community feel safe and secure in our country. I would hate it for British Jews not to feel that they have a home here in Britain—safe, secure and a vital part of our community”

It is also important that lessons from the past are being learned. Having recently remembered the fallen on Holocaust Memorial Day, I was delighted that the findings and recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission were accepted in full and endorsed by all of the major political parties. The key outcomes from the Commission are:

  • A striking and prominent new National Memorial
  • A world-Class Learning Centre which will sit alongside the memorial.
  • An endowment fund to secure the long-term future of Holocaust education
  • An urgent programme to record and preserve the testimony of British Holocaust survivors and liberators.

The full report can be read at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prime-ministers-holocaust-commission-report and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everybody involved in making this happen. The Learning Centre will provide an incredible platform, harnessing the latest technology for future generations to learn about the atrocities that happened and will ensure no one’s story is ever forgotten. I have no doubt that if properly implemented; the recommendations in this report will create a compelling memorial and greatly enhance this country’s existing educational effort for the future. As indicated above the cross party support was hugely satisfying and the responses from each party leader can be read here.

With the forthcoming General Elections in Israel, there is clearly the potential for the community to become fractured on the major issues of political debate. Whilst it is entirely correct and proper for us all to have different political views, we must be unified on Israel’s legitimacy and the continued need to fight those that seek to delegitimise its existence. In this context I would like to highlight the We Believe In Israel conference taking place on Sunday 22nd March 2015. The conference will be focusing on “Winning the Communications Battle for Israel”. This conference is an important opportunity for the Community to respond to attempts to delegitimise the State of Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People. It deserves the support of the entire Jewish and wider pro-Israel community in the UK and I hope to see as many people there as possible.