Sadiq Khan took part in one of the largest ever selfies and professed his love for the Maccabeats as he celebrated Chanukah with up to 5,000 revellers in Trafalgar Square.
The London mayor took to the stage alongside Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and other community leaders at his first Chanukah in the Square since entering City Hall.
Organised by the Jewish Leadership Council, London Jewish Forum and Chabad and fuelled by around 4,000 free doughnuts, party-goers danced to the sounds of the Akiva School choir and the Maccabeats – with Khan delighting the crowd by describing himself as a “groupie”.
“To be on the stage, Christmas tree in front of me and menorah on the right, is really important,” he told the Jewish News, media partners for the event, moments after wowing the crowds.
“The bad news is there has been a rise in anti-Semitism and the CST is as busy as ever. We’ve got to use events like this to give people a sense of confidence and of belonging but also to reaffirm our commitment to make we nip in the bud any form hate crime. For me as mayor, as a Londoner, as someone who has friends from all backgrounds, this is personal.”
He also took the opportunity to reaffirm his pledge to lead a trade delegation to Tel Aviv during his mayoralty. He said: “I’m keen to promote business around the world. I recently met the mayor of Tel Aviv at City Hall. He claims Tel Aviv is the tech capital of the world. I’m not sure about that but we will at opportunities around the world including Israel.”
Watch highlights of Sadiq Khan’s speech here:
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the JLC, described the gathering as “a great tribute to our community, the city and the country we live in”. He also paid tribute to the role of the police and volunteers of the CST in ensuring the event was held safely and without incident. “Two years there were a lot of security concerns and some didn’t come. This year the security situation is the same but people have turned out and I think that’s very largely down to a comprehensive operation from police with the amazing volunteers of the CST.”
His journalist daughter Ellen and Stacey Abendstern acted as MCs for the night. “The exciting thing for me is we’ve been able to involve women in four prominent positions. I know over the years people have claimed it’s been too male as an event. I felt that and felt it was really important to get two young women who’ve been able to get the crowd going. They’ve done a great job.”
Introducing Deputy Ambassador Sharon Bar Li, LJF chair Adrian Cohen said her presence celebrated the community’s relationship with Israel “whose capital is the city of the Chanukah miracle, Jerusalem”.
Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, CEO of Chabad Lubavitch UK, said the event “was a testament to our vibrant community. The weather may have been on the cold side, but the warmth of the occasion more than compensated. We hope the light and message of Chanukah makes its way to brighten the lives of all Londoners.
“A huge thank you to our partners and the JLC and LJF – it’s tremendous what can be accomplished when we work together!”
Watch highlights of Chanukah in the Square here: