Before anything else, I hope you, your families and your loved ones are all healthy and safe.
These last weeks have been terribly challenging. The entire world is confronting an illness that strikes indiscriminately. While all our lives have been turned upside down by this virus, many across this country and within our community have been taken ill. To them, I wish refuah shlemah. To anyone who has lost a loved one, I wish you a long life and no further sorrow. Let us hope the whole world is free from this wicked disease soon.
Many of you will know that my family recently got up from shiva. Having just lost my father, I feel the pain that so many of you are experiencing right now and would like to thank so many of you who have sent us good wishes. It is so difficult to be unable to observe the normal prayer traditions without a minyan, let alone give my father the funeral and shiva we would have wanted. This has made the difficulty of this period only greater. My heart goes out to anyone in any community who is experiencing the same situation. The picture of the young 13-year-old boy, Ismail Abdulwahab, being buried alone with no family present was heart breaking. As I write to you, our prime minister is still in intensive care and our thoughts and prayers are with him for a full and speedy recovery. This virus is indiscriminate and ruthless and we must all adhere to the government’s restrictions. I urge you all to stay at home for he or she who has saved one life, our sages teach us, has saved the world entire.
Our current situation is putting significant pressure on many of our organisations and we should all be proud of the way they are reacting. In particular, I want to express my admiration to the staff who often go well beyond the call of duty to ensure the needs of our community are met. Many of you will have seen the Emergency Joint Campaign of Jewish Care, Nightingale Hammerson and the Fed in Manchester, supported by the JLC, to raise funds to meet their immediate needs. Our communal organisations need our help like never before.
A word of support as well for our synagogue bodies who, across the spectrum, have been facing unprecedented challenges. From closing synagogues, to organising online activities and education for members to, unfortunately, significantly higher burial requirements, the world as we know it has changed.
What has not changed are the acts of chesed that we so often see amongst our wonderful community. Last week, my wife’s great uncle passed away in a Jewish Care home. Unfortunately, his son could not be with him at the end as the home is locked down and he, for his own medical reasons, has had to stay in isolation. The feeling of being apart from his father at that moment was extremely distressing. On the day his father died, he received a note from the director of the home who told him that the staff had been sitting with his father throughout his final moments, telling him how much his son loved him. That single act of kindness brought great comfort at a moment of unimaginable pain and showed, once more, how good deeds, however small, can change one’s life or outlook.
If any good is to come out of this period of our lives, it should be the message that small acts of kindness, often between strangers, have transformational power. Whether it being phoning someone just to check in, helping with shopping or countless other examples. In a time of great uncertainty and discomfort, let us focus on our capacity to make a difference in the world, in the life of even one individual in the smallest way.
In this fight, there is no division between peoples. We are all waging the same battle and every good deed only brings us closer together.
I am writing this on the eve of Pesach. Tonight, everywhere around the world, we will sit with our families, where possible, and recount the story of the exodus from Egypt. Just as we do every year, we will ask: “why is this night is different to all other nights?” Sadly, for many of us this year's Pesach will be like no other in living memory. Families are split, parents and grandparents are on their own and, as a result, the way in which we celebrate this Pesach will be with a heavier heart, yearning to be together with all our loved ones.
Pesach is also known as Zman Cherutenu, the time of our freedom. We pray that next year we will be truly free. As we sit around our tables this year, let us pray that our captivity from this virus comes to a conclusion very soon.
To next year in Jerusalem. Whether in body or in spirit, let us hope and pray that next year we will be free to celebrate Pesach in the manner we have enjoyed for so many years, reunited with our loved ones.
Today, new Labour Leader Keir Starmer and Deputy Leader Angela Rayner held a video meeting with representatives of the UK Jewish community from the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Labour Movement.
After the meeting, new Labour Leader Keir Starmer said:
“I want to thank the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Labour Movement for taking this opportunity to meet me, not least so close to Passover. It was very important to me to seek to address the disgrace of antisemitism in our party as soon as possible.
“Today, I repeated once again the apology I made as soon as I was elected leader.
“Over the last few years, we have failed the Jewish community on antisemitism. Labour is a proudly anti-racist party and, going forward, it will not be enough to ‘pass the test’ on antisemitism. We need to set new standards for best practice.
“At today’s meeting, I committed to begin work on setting up an independent complaints process, cooperating fully with the EHRC’s inquiry and asking for a report on all outstanding cases to be on my desk at the week. I also discussed with Jewish Labour Movement my ambition to roll out training of all Labour Party staff in as soon as practically possible.”
On behalf of the communal delegation, Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl, JLC Chair Jonathan Goldstein, CST Chair Gerald Ronson and JLM Chair Mike Katz, said:
“While we would have fully understood the need to focus entirely on Coronavirus at this time, Keir Starmer has already achieved in four days more than his predecessor in four years in addressing antisemitism within the Labour Party.
“As we discussed with Keir and Angela, we want to have a normal relationship with Labour whereby we can discuss the full range of issues affecting our community, from religious freedom to Israel, from Jewish schools to poverty, from refugees to the environment – and not just antisemitism.”
“This has certainly been a good start. If the new Labour leadership continues in this way, we can work together to make the changes that will make Labour a proudly anti-racist party once again.”
Following the conclusion of the 2020 Labour Leadership and Deputy Leadership election, Jonathan Goldstein, Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council said:
“We congratulate Sir Keir Starmer on his election as Labour Leader and Angela Rayner on her election as Deputy Leader. We hope that this will be the beginning of a healing process between the Party and our community. Along with our partners, we look forward to discussions with the new leadership as to how we can all move forward and eradicate the scourge of anti-Jewish bigotry that has infected the Party.”
As the coronavirus emergency deepens, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the JLC have collaborated in creating a new online forum to work together at a level never seen before.
Together with their professional teams, Gillian Merron, Chief Executive of the Board of Deputies, and Simon Johnson, CEO of the JLC have brought together CEOs as well as skilled professionals in areas such as fundraising, communications, HR and operations to pool resources and skill for the benefit of the community.
This new initiative, which harnesses the power of Microsoft Teams, allows groups to work in specific areas and for leaders to be connected nationally to work collaboratively. This together with regular Zoom calls with communal CEOs and Chairs is offering a vital way to communicate in the current climate.
The JLC is primarily focusing on work with communal organisations, supporting their needs and those of their leaders, including advising on issues of financial sustainability. Meanwhile, the Board of Deputies is primarily focusing its efforts on supporting Jewish life, dealing with all matters that will affect Jews now and beyond the current emergency, including securing a legislative change in the Coronavirus Bill to prevent Jews and Muslims being cremated against their will. The respective professional teams are maintaining close contact and utilising their resources to ensure work is efficiently covered in a way that ensures we can have maximum impact.
Simon Johnson of the JLC said: “The JLC and the Board of Deputies are working flat out together to help build resilience in the community during this challenging period. However tough this situation is, it is heartening to see how both the community is pulling together and how our institutions are finding new ways of collaborating to address the immediate need.”
Gillian Merron commented: "Our two organisations are successfully harnessing all our skills so that we can cover all sides of the situation without any duplication. By doing this and by making use of technological solutions we are ensuring the Jewish community has the benefit of all of our shared expertise."
On Friday 13th March, the Board of Deputies and JLC convened a community wide conference call regarding the communal response to Covid-19 and its potential impact on our community and wider society.
It was a very productive call with over 60 communal Chief Executives from large and small charities joining. A number of actions flowed from the discussion. We would like to thank all colleagues who joined the call.
Whilst we are not producing actual minutes, below is a summary of actions, and suggestions. There is much that we need to follow up on and we will be working through this over the coming days. We ask our community to be patient with our institutions and also with the authorities over the coming weeks.
For a full collated update sheet for organisations see www.thejlc.org/covid19 or https://www.bod.org.uk/coronavirus/. The latter also includes information on how to help individuals in your community through volunteering.
Latest Update on Government Advice and latest developments
We recommend that all organisations keep up to date with the latest Government advice and guidance. The Board of Deputies and the JLC are collating much of the latest material at:
We know that there will be other sources of such information available.
NOTE at 17.35 16th March 2020 – The Government has just introduced more severe restrictions which may necessitate further measures and the need for further calls. This note is based on the call from 13th March 2020.
Office Functions and Community Operations
Staff issues including HR related issues
Much useful information was shared on the call and there is a wealth of advice available. It was agreed that organisations should be able to share good practice and be able to support each other with information and resources. The Community HR Forum will convene and lead on this area. Michelle Janes (JLC-LEAD) and Judy Silkoff (BOD) will work together to ensure that the HR Forum can operate as efficiently as possible.
As a general point, which will apply to many of the items discussed on the call, the JLC and BOD will look to create efficient communication tools between relevant and interested groups. We will look into the best technological solutions, which will include Microsoft Teams as an option. The HR Forum will have a communications and document sharing mechanism created.
Community Public Events and Gatherings
Prior to new advice being issued many charities have already taken difficult choices.
There are challenges across the community, and it was agreed that similar organisations will need to work together.
Members shared the details of events that had been cancelled. It was also felt to be important that members share information about events that were still proceeding. It was important to emphasise if there was business continuing as usual.
It was noted that a number of fundraising dinners have been cancelled and this will have a significant impact on many charities.
The BOD and JLC will look at the most efficient way to create a communication forum for CEO’s with the aim that those with upcoming events should keep in contact.
It was also noted that, where organisations intended to reschedule events to later in the year, great care should be taken not to clash with events that are scheduled at that time but also not to organise in such a way as to risk the financial success of such events.
A number of participants noted that the increase of isolation and enforced isolation would create mental health issues.
Sharing Practice between sector groups
Overseas residential trips
We will set up sub-groups using appropriate technology to enable these groups to meet virtually and to share information to react to events.
Impact on Fundraising
There was wide acceptance of the impact on funding and the viability of communal organisations from the cancellation of funding activities and the impact on philanthropy from the current crisis.
Whilst there was agreement on the problems, there was insufficient time to discuss mitigations and solutions. We have seen helpful and supportive communications from US based philanthropic foundations, which provide a good model for the kind of reassurance that our community may need in due course.
We will establish a sub-group of CEOs to discuss what emergency measures may be needed in the event of protracted period when income is affected. The JLC and BOD will seek volunteers for this group.
More than 4500 people joined London’s Jewish community in celebrating the first night of Chanukah in London’s Trafalgar Square on Sunday 22nd December 2019. Speakers included the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the incredibly funny comedian Rachel Creeger (who hosted the event), Marc Levene and the Kedma band, the amazing Mathilda Marks-Kennedy school choir and everyone’s favourite…. Dreidelman.
Chanukah in the Square is an opportunity for the Londoners to come together in unity at the end of the year. We are encouraged that our friends of all faiths and backgrounds joined us in celebrating the first night of Chanukah which commemorates the triumph of light over darkness.
Throughout the afternoon, there was several free family themed stalls and thousands of free doughnuts handed out by volunteers.
This event has become a staple in the communal and London calendar as the giant menorah stands tall in the heart of the city with the sounds of the blessings and live music ringing loudly through Trafalgar Square.
Chanukah in the Square is jointly presented by the Jewish Leadership Council, Chabad Lubavitch UK, London Jewish Forum, Mark Prudkin Fund For Culture And Art and supported by the CST and Mayor of London.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:
“Jewish Londoners have made an enormous contribution to life in our city for centuries which is why I am so proud to join members of the Jewish community and all Londoners, to light the menorah and celebrate Chanukah in Trafalgar Square.”
Jonathan Goldstein, Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council said:
“We were delighted to welcome our community back to Trafalgar Square after a challenging year and greatly enjoyed sharing our festival of light with the Mayor of London and the rest of our great city.”
Vladimir Prudkin, co-founder of Mark Prudkin Fund For Culture And Art who sponsored the event:
"Our fund was named after the famous Jewish Soviet actor Mark Prudkin, one of the brightest Jewish actors that formed the most important Hebrew language theater, the Habima. Much like Moshe, who didn't get to enter Eretz-Yisrael, Mark Prudkin could not join his peers in Israel. The Mark Prudkin Fund is aimed at supporting and promoting Israeli art all over the world, and we continue to carry on with the mission of the great actor. This mission strived for over 100 years since Habima’s establishment. Today, at Trafalgar Square, we celebrate the unity of the Jewish people in the Free World."
View photos here and here.
The Jewish Leadership Council has released its Statutory Accounts for the year ended December 2018.
The JLC has regained its financial footing and finished the year with an overall surplus across the organisation and its divisions. The overall surplus for 2018 is £164,753.
2018 was a year that was dominated by two high profile events. We celebrated Israel’s 70th birthday at the Royal Albert Hall in the presence of HRH The Prince of Wales and the year marked the beginning of an unplanned campaign to eradicate rising levels of anti-Jewish racism within the Labour Party, starting with the Enough is Enough protest in Parliament Square.
The JLC also acknowledge that 2018 was a tough year as, with the agreement of the Charity Commission, the JLC launched the Independent Review into Historical Allegations. The report of the Independent Review was published by the JLC at the end of January 2019. The report made a series of recommendations that the JLC has been implementing throughout 2019. The costs of the Independent Review created a significant challenge, and the year end performance is very pleasing in the circumstances.
The Charity Commission also issued an action plan which has been implemented. The Charity Commission have now closed the case file.
The JLC has continued to make progress on two major initiatives launched by our Chair Jonathan Goldstein.
The Elderly Care Commission led by Sir Howard Bernstein and comprising the Chairs of the major community elderly care providers and experts from within the community, assisted on a pro bono basis by McKinsey & Co made significant progress in analysing the needs and challenges of the elderly care sector in the future.
The Youth Mental Health Taskforce that was established in 2017 has now successfully initiated a three year pilot project in five Jewish schools to improve the wellbeing of our young people. The pilot involves placing wellbeing practitioners in these schools and empowering those practitioners with support, access to programme materials, a programme of activities, signposting and professional support.
Jonathan Goldstein, Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council, said:
“The JLC has continued to invest heavily in long term strategic priorities of our community, including in social care, political activity and defending our community against rising anti-Jewish racism within the Labour Party. I am delighted that we have increased the breadth of our donor base since becoming Chair and proud of all that we have achieved to date. We have been able to do so thanks to our members, donors and the dedication of the staff team, led by our Chief Executive Simon Johnson. The JLC, along with PaJeS and Lead continue to provide unique and essential support for our whole community.”
(l-r: Jami Chief Executive Laurie Rackind, JLC Head of Communications Adam Langleben, Jami Chair Adam Dawson, JLC Director of Policy & Public Affairs Claudia Mendoza and Rory Stewart)
Independent Mayoral Candidate and former International Development Secretary Rory Stewart today visited Golders Green and JW3 to listen to concerns of Jewish Londoners.
The pre-planned engagement that the JLC had arranged prior to his Mayoral announcement, introduced Rory to JLC member organisations including London Jewish Forum and Jami at their Golders Green Headrooom Cafe and Mitzvah Day, the Union of Jewish Students and JW3 at the Swiss Cottage Centre.
Rory also stopped passers by on Golders Green Road and in JW3 in his now trademark fashion to engage potential voters on issues they care about.
At the Headroom Cafe, Rory spoke with Jami Chief Executive Laurie Rifkind and Chair Adam Dawson about mental health issues facing the Jewish community. He also spoke with Andrew Gilbert of the London Jewish Forum about the community's priorities for London.
At JW3 Mr Stewart met with UJS President Esther Offenberg and sabbatical officer Bradley Langer. He also met with Mitzvah Day Chief Executive Georgina Bye and JW3 CEO Raymond Simonson.
The JLC will has and will continue to engage with all Mayoral candidates and political party's in the run up to the 2020 London Elections.
The Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council today held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, to discuss topics including tackling antisemitism, promoting peace and security for Israel and the wider Middle East, safeguarding Jewish interests in the context of Brexit, protecting religious freedoms and ensuring that the right lessons are learnt from the Holocaust.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:
“It was a pleasure to host members of the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council at the Foreign Office. Now, more than ever, we must do more to fight the scourge of antisemitism and all racism. I look forward to continuing to work closely together in the future.”
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl and Jewish Leadership Council Vice Chair Debra Fox said:
“We were very pleased to meet the new Foreign Secretary and congratulate him on his appointment to this crucial role. We very much look forward to working with him on our shared objectives of tackling antisemitism; promoting peace and security for Israel and her neighbours; and ensuring that Israel gets a fair hearing in international institutions.”