With us just having celebrated Rosh Hashanah, now seems like an opportune moment to reflect on a scarcely believable 12 months for the UK and, in particular, the Jewish community. Who would have predicted a year ago that the Conservative Party would have a majority in parliament? The Scottish National Party would have made such dramatic gains? Or that the outcome of the leader of the Labour party would be so controversial.
In the Jewish community we have seen significant landmark events and anniversaries; from the coming together as a community for Shabbat UK and Chanukah in the Square to Daniel Taub standing down as Israeli Ambassador to the UK, the recommendations of the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission and the passing of Sir Nicholas Winton. This time last year, the Jewish community had just emerged from Operation Protective Edge, and we were beginning to cope with an increase in anti-Semitism across Europe and in the UK. We have to cope with new threats from extremists; making us all targets; the only way we can do this is together.
In the UK the whole community should pay tribute to the CST, which works tirelessly across the country to ensure we all continue to be safe. Their work is becoming more and more vital as new statistics on anti-Semitism continue to show the number of incidents rising. This fear is further intensified by daily reports of radicalised British citizens joining Islamic State and we are all aware of the possible repercussions if they return to the UK as trained terrorists.
In this year, the JLC and I have been proud to be at the forefront of the Jewish community’s response to these attacks and times of uncertainty; through our dialogue with decision makers at the highest level of government. Our meetings with the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and other key parliamentarians have ensured the Jewish community’s thoughts and concerns are comprehensively represented.
Many of the effective meetings we have are confidential but I can assure you that the community has a good relationship with a wide range of civil servants and political figures. I can also assure you that we are having these meetings regularly and with many key politicians. Over the coming year we will continue these conversations on behalf of the Jewish community as a whole, pursuing our best interests and ensuring the community’s support of Israel. Day by day we continue to work to ensure the Jewish Community is heard.
I want also to pay special tribute to the Royal Mail for their decision to create a new set of stamps in honour of Sir Nicholas Winton. His efforts saved the lives of many Jews and he has had a huge impact on the Jewish community of Britain as it is today.
We are proud that we have been able to collaborate with grassroots groups. The beauty of grassroots groups is the way they are able to galvanise specific support behind a cause in a way that an umbrella body like the JLC would never be able to do. We have had countless examples, from combating BDS at Southampton University to the fight against the proposed Golders Green protest, which show that the communal leadership working with grassroots organisations provides an even more powerful combination.
I would like to see these partnerships increase; this is why over the next 18 months, working with our partners at ‘We Believe In Israel’ we are increasing the support we have shown to Israel. We have been helping numerous ‘Friends of Israel’ groups throughout the UK. Whilst I recognise that there is still a long way for us to go, I also believe that we have shown an unprecedented commitment to supporting Israel on the ground in the UK.
Britain must continue to stand tall against terrorism and violent extremism in all its forms and be vigilant about the threat that the current Iranian regime continues to pose to both Israel and the world. We will use our voice to try to make sure that the Foreign Secretary is aware of the Jewish community’s position. We understand the scale of threat Iran presents, not just to those on the streets of Tel Aviv, but on the streets of the UK and across the world.
I, together with my colleagues at the JLC, and our member organisations from across the UK, will continue to work in the best interests of the community, where and when ever we have the opportunity. We will use our resources to protect Jewish education, reinforce our important leadership programme and work as advocates for British Jewry. We look forward to welcoming you to our community events and updating you on our campaigns.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all G’mar V’chatima Tova and look forward to updating you on our activity in the coming year.