Chair’s Message: October 2014

On the 1st September 2014 I wrote a piece for The Sunday Telegraph discussing how the current rise in antisemitism was unacceptable and it was imperative for leaders in this country to speak out.

I therefore welcome Prime Minister David Cameron’s words in his recent letter to Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, where he wrote ‘‘…it is more important than ever that Britain says loudly and clearly that there can never be any excuse for antisemitism. As a Government we are committed to doing everything we can in the fight against antisemitism…’’. At a Conservative Friends of Israel reception, Theresa May spoke passionately about antisemitism and what she and her colleagues have been doing in order to tackle the issue. It is also an important development that a working party has been set up consisting of community representatives and experts across Government to discuss the issues our community face. Chief Whip Michael Gove has recently stated that ‘’We need to remind people that what began with a campaign against Jewish goods in the past, ended with a campaign against Jewish lives.’’ Speaking at a rally against antisemitism on the weekend of 13th September 2014 the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel described the Jewish people of Germany as a ‘national treasure’. She went on to say that "People in Germany are threatened and abused because of their Jewish appearance or their support for Israel. This is an outrageous scandal that we won't accept".

It is encouraging that the very real threat of antisemitism is not going unnoticed by Governments across Europe and I hope they continue to act on their words.

The recent concerns raised by the UK Jewish community about how its leadership have responded to the events since the start of the Gaza conflict in July have also not gone unnoticed and while a great deal was done both openly and behind the scenes it is absolutely right that the Community are well briefed and more importantly well represented. Opportunities for promoting Israel’s legitimacy must be constantly sought together with actively promoting Jewish life and fighting anti-Semitism. While the institutionalised community must continue to up its game, it is very pleasing to see the recent increase and success of grassroots activists and organisations. I am considering the establishment of a capacity within the JLC to provide assistance to grass roots activism both in terms of advice, seed funding and co-ordination where requested.

We must stick together during this difficult time and come out the other side a more complete community. One thing that these recent negative times have taught me is how well communal organisations can perform with each other’s help and support.

Having just entered the New Year, I would like to take this time to wish the community a happy and healthy year ahead and wish you well over the fast. We are a resilient and valued community that has much to be proud of.