Political leaders from across the political divide and from all over the country came together last night to celebrate the festival of Chanukah at the Board of Deputies’ Parliamentary Reception.
Home Secretary Priti Patel, Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Munira Wilson and the SNP’s Westminster Leader Ian Blackford joined Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely and representatives from across parliament, the community and the diplomatic Corps, at the reception held in the House of Lords.
Priti Patel spoke about the importance of the Government’s recent legislation to proscribe Hamas in its entirety. She said: “When it comes to terrorist organisations you can’t have any differentiation anymore. I have been supported by the Government to ensure that the proscription of Hamas by the Government has taken place and went through Parliament last week. This says everything about our sincere commitment to do right by the Jewish community in the UK.”
She told guests from Parliament and the Jewish community that the upsurge in antisemitism over the past few years had been a tragedy. “Speaking as someone who grew up in Radlett in Hertfordshire antisemitism was never an issue. This is why we work together so strongly, and with others in the community as well, to stand up and speak out against this racism and work together to make sure that those who espouse this awfulness against the Jewish community are brought to justice.”
She added: “Britain’s Jewish community and the values you all stand for make you part of our national fabric and in fact national treasures from my perspective. I’m willing you on for all the right reasons.”
Keir Starmer spoke about the help he had received from the Board of Deputies in the fight against antisemitism in the Labour Party:
He said: “We needed to make a lot of difference, a lot of change and a lot of progress in in our party. I have always said that we will only know that we have made progress when those who had lost faith in the Labour Party regain their faith in the Labour Party. The warm welcome you have given me is a step on that journey and means a huge amount to me. I want to thank the Board of Deputies for working with me, for being frank and giving the advice I have needed along the way. We have needed a critical friend to ensure that we are moving in the right direction.”
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl thanked all those from across the political spectrum for their support over the past year. She said: “We are grateful for the cross-party support which has been shown on many issues of interest to the Jewish community in recent times. These include ensuring the Coronavirus Bill was amended to avoid the prospect of cremations for Jews and Muslims, as well as support for the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre, which will hopefully in due course sit just a couple of hundred yards from here. And most recently, of course, we note the wide backing given to the Government’s announcement of its intention to proscribe the Hamas terror group in its entirety. And we thank the Home Secretary in particular for taking this momentous step.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis lit the Chanukah candles and led guests in the singing of Maoz Tsur. He said: “Chanukah is about community, it’s about Jewish life, it’s a celebration of family life. And when it come to all of these areas, the Board of Deputies leads and guides us and does so much incredible work on behalf of our community. Despite all our challenges it’s great to be Jewish in Britain today.”
Israeli Ambassador Tzipi Hotovely praised the signing of a memorandum between the British and Israeli Governments; She said: “This agreement is going to give Israel and the UK a strategic partnership which is great news. We are going to be one of the very close allies of the UK together with likeminded countries. This achievement , together with the proscription of Hamas together with the strong fight against Iran is part of our strong work here as an embassy.”
Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson spoke of her upbringing in North-West London. “As someone who grew up in Golders Green, I know the importance of Chanukah to the Jewish community. I also know the resilience you’ve shown through the pandemic but also the wonderful support you’ve made to our communities through social action, through food banks, through your support for refugees and everybody else who is struggling.”
Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s Leader in the House of Commons, emphasised his solidarity with the community in the fight against antisemitism, saying: “We must all be united on one thing and that is speaking out against hate and speaking out against antisemitism. All of us have a collective responsibility to stand up and be counted.”
Also speaking were Bury South MP Christian Wakeford, co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews and Liberal Democrat Peer Lord Monroe Palmer who hosted the event in the House of Lords and gave a vote of thanks. House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle was also among the guests and even lent his own official Menorah for the occasion. The speakers were all introduced by Board of Deputies Chief Executive Michael Wegier.
You can see more photos from the event in our Twitter thread here https://twitter.com/BoardofDeputies/status/1465600457607364609