Last updated: March 28, 2024

Activity Report: Board Activity in Response to the Hamas Terror Attacks October - December 2023

Table Of Contents

Vigils, Events and Briefings

  1. On Monday 9th October, the Board of Deputies and the JLC held a joint vigil outside Downing Street. The vigil was addressed by Tom Tugendhat MP (Minister for Security), Sir Ed Davey MP (Leader of the Liberal Democrats), David Lammy MP (Shadow Foreign Secretary) and Robert Jenrick MP (Minister of State for Immigration), as well as the Chief Rabbi, Marie van der Zyl and other lay leaders.

  2. On Tuesday 10th October, Marie van der Zyl addressed a vigil in Liverpool, arranged by the Liverpool Jewish community, in Childwall Synagogue.

  3. On Wednesday 11th October, the Board and the JLC, together with the Manchester Jewish Rep Council, held a vigil in Manchester City Centre. Speakers included the Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, Lucy Powell MP, Christian Wakeford MP and Robert Largan MP, as well as the Chief Rabbi, Marie van der Zyl and other lay leaders.

  4. On Thursday 12th October, a briefing specifically for Deputies was held. It was chaired by Marie and featured Efrat Perri from the Israeli embassy, as well as the other Honorary Officers

  5. On Sunday 15th October, the Board, together with a number of other Jewish communal organisations, held an update briefing on all aspects of the crisis in Israel on Sunday for all members of the Jewish community. If you weren’t able to watch live you can replay the session by clicking here.

  6. On Thursday 19th October, Marie spoke at the Hertfordshire Community Solidarity event at the Hertsmere Council Chambers. The event was organised by the Hertfordshire Jewish Forum together with the Board and the JLC. The hundreds present heard from Marie, JLC Chair Keith Black, Oliver Dowden MP, Dean Russell MP, Daisy Cooper MP, Council Leader Jeremy Newmark and Rebbetzin Eva Chapper of Borehamwood and Elstree United Synagogue. Chief Executive Michael Wegier and Director of Operations Andrew Leigh attended.

  7. On Sunday 22nd October, an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square to call for the hostages taken by Hamas on 7 October to be released and to hear harrowing testimony from family members of the kidnapped and murdered. Speakers also included the Chief Rabbi, Marie and other lay leaders.

  8. On Sunday 29th October, Chief Executive Michael Wegier spoke at a Bring Them Home rally in Brighton, organised by the Sussex Jewish Representative Council.

  9. On Sunday 29th October, the Board, together with a number of other Jewish communal organisations, held an update briefing on all aspects of the crisis in Israel on Sunday for all members of the Jewish community.

  10. On Tuesday 31st October, an online briefing was held for parents of Jewish children at non-Jewish schools (Tuesday 31 October 2023). The event was chaired by Vice President Edwin Shuker. Speakers were Gillian Keegan MP (Secretary of State for Education), Lord John Mann, Mark Gardner (Chief Exec CST) and Edward Isaacs (President UJS).

  11. On Wednesday 1st November, an online briefing took place for parents of Jewish students at University. The event was chaired by Vice President Amanda Bowman. The speakers were the Rt Hon. Robert Halfon MP (Minister of State for Higher Education), Lord John Mann, Vivienne Stern MBE (Chief Executive, Universities UK), Sophie Dunoff (Chief Executive, Jewish Chaplaincy), Mark Gardner (CEO, CST) and Edward Isaacs (President of UJS).

  12. On Monday 6th November, Marie chaired a panel event which took place at JW3 on Israel in the News. The panelists were Gabriel Pogrund (Whitehall Editor, Sunday Times), Tanya Gold (freelance journalist and regular contributor to national papers), and Anshel Pfeffer (columnist for Ha’aretz, The Economist and the Jewish Chronicle).

  13. On Wednesday 8th November, the APPG on British Jews, for which the Board of Deputies provides the Secretariat, held an event in Westminster to brief Parliamentarians on the situation for Jewish students at Universities. The event was chaired by Michael WegierSophie Dunoff (Chief Executive, Jewish Chaplaincy) and Guy Dabby-Joory (Campaigns Director, UJS) spoke.

  14. On Tuesday 14th November, the Board of Deputies held a joint meeting, together with a number of key organisations, for Israelis who have come to London, to provide help and advice on issues including work, schooling, health and security.

Political and Community

  1. During Labour Party conference, Marie, Amanda and Daniel had meetings with politicians including Thangam Debonnaire MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport), Dan Jarvis MP (Shadow Minister for Security) and Sharon Hodgson MP.

  2. Board of Deputies President Marie and Public Affairs Director Daniel Sugarman attended an event in Golders Green to discuss the current challenges for British Jews. Participants included David Lammy MP (Shadow Foreign Secretary), Yvette Cooper MP (Shadow Home Secretary) and JLC Chair Keith Black. You can see photos from the event here.

  3. Marie wrote to both Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer expressing the Jewish community’s deepest thanks for their support for Israel and Jews in the UK at this difficult time.

  4. Marie was part of a roundtable discussion with Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, to discuss the current challenges facing the Jewish community.

  5. Marie took part in a meeting with the then-Home Secretary, Suella Braverman.

  6. Marie and Daniel met Arif Ahmed, Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom for the Office for Students, to discuss issues relating to university campuses.

  7. Vice President Amanda Bowman wrote to the Football Association, urging them to consider lighting up the Wembley Arch as a memorial for those lives lost in the Hamas terror attacks.

  8. Marie wrote to the Foreign Secretary about helping to enable British citizens currently in Israel to fly home.

  9. Deputy and Community Engagement Manager Sara Radivan attended the inaugural Jewish Labour Movement Northern Conference. Many Deputies were also in attendance. Vice President Amanda Bowman was on a panel entitled “Reflections on the Online Harms Bill and Antisemitism” with CST’s Dave Rich and Lucy Powell MP, chaired by Josh Simons. A tweet can be seen here

  10. Michael hosted the Chairman of the Charity Commission, Orlando Fraser KC and helped, along with Interlink, to arrange a solidarity visit to Hendon United Synagogue.

  11. Michael arranged to take Chairman of the Charity Commission, Orlando Fraser KC on a solidarity visit to Alyth Reform Synagogue.

  12. In the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks, Michael was in Israel supporting the efforts in the UK as well as visiting grieving Israeli families. He also went to MDA to promote their work and donate blood.

  13. Marie attended a Home Office meeting with UK public policy representatives of major social media companies to discuss what they are doing to combat antisemitism and misinformation on their platforms.

  14. Amanda and Daniel met representatives of TikTok to discuss the platform’s strategy with regards to combating antisemitism and misinformation.

  15. Daniel attended a roundtable hosted by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to address how different communities are being affected.

  16. Parliamentary and International Relations Officer David Robinson was working from Parliament in the days following the terror attack in order to facilitate discussions with parliamentarians during the current emergency. David had discussions with the following Parliamentarians: Keir Starmer, David Lammy, Thangam Debbonaire, David TC Davies, Theresa Villiers, Alicia Kearns, Andrew Lewer, Andrew Percy, Sajid Javid, Lord Arbuthnot, Jonathan Gullis, Sarah Dyke, Robert Halfon, Joy Morrissey, Virendra Sharma, Elliot Colburn, Dehenna Davidson, James Duddridge and Iain Duncan Smith.

  17. Daniel and David Robinson met Nickie Aiken MP for the Cities of Westminster and London, to discuss issues of interest to the Jewish community.

  18. Daniel, together with David Robinson and Ephraim Borowski, Vice-Chair of the Board’s Defence Division, met Stephen Flynn MP, leader of the SNP at Westminster, and Kirsten Oswald MP, to discuss the current situation and how to best help the Jewish community.

  19. David Robinson met Admiral Lord West of Spithead to discuss IRGC proscription and the current situation for the Jewish community.

  20. London Jewish Forum Director Daniella Myers arranged a series of Jewish community emergency meetings in Haringey, Westminster, Enfield, Barnet and Harrow. Attending were rabbis, headteachers, chair of governors, security officers and others.

  21. Religious and Civil Affairs Officer Victoria Lisek spoke at an online UJIA Community Space event about navigating the conflict in the workplace and university.

  22. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby conveyed his 'deepest sense of solidarity, friendship and prayers to British Jews'.

  23. Board of Deputies President thanked the Foreign Secretary for his BBC intervention and asked for his help with flight for stranded UK citizens.

  24. The Board was in regular contact with the Foreign Secretary, to help ensure that those in Israel who wanted to return to the UK were able to do so.

  25. The Board suggested that a minute’s silence be held in the House of Commons on Monday for the victims of Hamas’s atrocities, this was conducted in Parliament by the Speaker.

  26. Daniel attended a meeting organised by the London Jewish Forum with the senior leadership of TfL and Sophie Linden (London Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime) to discuss ensuring that British Jews feel safe on London transport.

  27. Daniel also attended a meeting organised by the London Jewish Forum with representatives of the Metropolitan Police and British Transport Police, with regards to the efforts being made to police protests and protect the Jewish community. London Deputy Mayors Sophie Linden (London Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime) and Debbie Weekes-Bernard were also present.

Media

The Board of Deputies has been quoted in a significant number of media publications since October 7th. Additionally, Board representatives have made a number of radio and TV appearances to discuss the situation. Below are some of the key actions pursued by the Board.

  1. Marie and Chief Executive Michael Wegier met Tim Davie, Director General of the BBC, and some of his senior team, with regard to their description of Hamas. The BBC was left in no doubt as to the strength of feeling in the Jewish community. The BBC subsequently announced that it would regularly describe Hamas as having been proscribed as a terrorist group by the British Government.

  2. Marie appeared on BBC’s Question Time on Thursday 2nd November, to discuss, among other issues, the situation in Israel and Gaza.

  3. Marie wrote to the Chief Executive of ITV News, Dame Carolyn McCall DBE, regarding “a staggering failure of due diligence” by the channel. ITV News responded confirming that they would improve their due diligence in the future.

  4. Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer replied to a letter written by Marie calling for Hamas, which is a proscribed organisation in the UK, to be described as “terrorists” by broadcasters including the BBC.

  5. Board of Deputies' solicitors Mishcon de Reya sent a letter to Ofcom formally complaining to Ofcom regarding the BBC’s refusal to refer to Hamas as terrorists.

  6. The Board of Deputies organised an open letter from more than 50 Parliamentarians, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the BBC, criticizing their refusal to describe Hamas as terrorists.

  7. The Board was in contact with Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, regarding the need for the BBC’s editorial guidelines to be urgently reviewed with relation to the Corporation’s refusal to label Hamas as what they are – terrorists.

  8. The Board of Deputies condemned the Guardian for publishing a piece titled “Israel must stop weaponising the Holocaust” online.

  9. The Board of Deputies criticised the BBC for an “appalling” case of misreporting regarding Israeli forces operating in the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza. A report from the IDF that it had medical staff and Arabic speakers among its troops to help those in the hospital was misreported by the BBC as Israel “targeting medical staff and Arabic speakers”. The Board called for a public apology from the BBC, which was subsequently made live on air.

  10. The Board of Deputies has made a number of complaints to the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit regarding its reporting since October 7th. The complaints remain outstanding – Deputies will be notified once responses have been given.

Resources

  1. The Board of Deputies put together a resource for Jewish employees to help navigate workplace issues following the surge in antisemitism after the 7th October terror attacks.

  2. The Board has also put together a resource for parents of children in non-Jewish schools, and teachers in non-Jewish schools, to help navigate issues which may arise.

  3. Together with the CST, Jami, the JLC and Pajes, the Board has published some Top Tips for Psychological Wellbeing at this current time.

  4. A letter was sent to the Headteachers of non-Jewish schools which have a significant number of Jewish pupils, urging them to have additional care for the wellbeing of their Jewish students at this time.

Travel

  1. Marie, together with other communal representatives, went on a solidarity trip, arranged by the UJIA, to Israel. The group visited survivors of the October 7th attacks and family members of those taken hostage. They also met the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog.

  2. Marie was part of a World Jewish Congress delegation of senior Jewish leaders, led by WJC President Ronald Lauder, to Qatar. They met high-level officials, including the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, to stress the concern of Jews worldwide for the hostages taken by Hamas & urge Qatar to help facilitate their release.

Further updates

You can find more information and further updates on our dedicated portal page at: https://bod.org.uk/israel

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