By Mick Davis, Chairman, Jewish Leadership Council
Jewish communities in Israel and around the world were devastated and sickened by the massacre of four Jews at prayer in Har Nof, and the Druze police officer who saved the lives of many others.
The UK Jewish community is united in solidarity with Israel in mourning all the victims, one of whom, Avraham Goldberg, was born and raised in Britain. Our ties with Israel are profound and unbreakable.
The mass murder was one of a spate of recent attacks against Israelis. Tension in Jerusalem between communities is high and we are watching events with great concern.
With last summer fresh in our minds, we need no reminder that when Israel is under attack, the impact on our lives as Jews in the UK can also be substantial. Following the summer, we are more aware than ever of the need to work closely with our grassroots activists. They are one of our greatest assets, volunteering their time, energy and passion to defend our community from bigotry and hatred.
I am pleased that we are now working much more closely with those dedicated individuals and organisations. When protesters threatened to target the UK Jewish Film Festival, we worked quickly and collaboratively with activists to support the venues hosting the festival.
When anti-Israel thugs assaulted a young girl working at an Israeli store in Glasgow, we raised that attack and others in meetings with the Home Secretary and with the Cross Government Working Group on AntiSemitism.
When boycotters targeted Sabon, a newly opened Israeli shop in London, we worked with other communal organisations to organise a “buycott”, encouraging people to shop there.
We were pleased when the Communities Minister, Lord Tariq Ahmad, visited the store and made a purchase. BDS activity continues to blight debate on Israel. We must remain vigilant against boycott motions, like that approved by the National Union of Students last summer.
We continue to support the Union of Jewish Students and others on the frontline against the delegitimisation of Israel on campus and around the country. Clear communication and trust between the community and its leadership have never been more important.
We have listened to the voices of the grassroots and are taking action. We are striving to turn our growing dialogue within the community into effective, coordinated action on the issues we are all so passionate about. The political challenges come thick and fast, here and abroad.
The House of Commons last month voted to recognise a Palestinian state, as has the Swedish parliament and Irish Senate. We are exploring how best to bring about the attitudinal shifts we need to see, how best to navigate current and emerging political trends and how best to connect our story with the values of British society.
The Jewish Leadership Council, Zionist Federation and Board of Deputies have worked together to define our ‘red lines’ on cultural boycotts. We will also initiate a series of regular Town Hall meetings to engage members of the community in honest and open discussion. As we face our challenges, however, they must not blind us to the vibrancy and vitality of UK Jewish life.
The JLC and its members are committed to ensuring the ongoing viability of a mainstream, broad-based British Jewish community. The latest demographic research by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, highlighted risks of divergence within the community.
We need to ensure that a confident, mainstream community, with a strong attachment to Jewish identity through religious affiliation, Jewish values, Zionism and Jewish culture continues to thrive for generations to come. Our forthcoming Chanukah In the Square event on Tuesday, 16 December in Trafalgar Square, is a perfect opportunity to unite all Jews, from every section of the community.
Whether you are drawn to the religious element, the Zionist echoes of the Maccabean story or the cultural identification of lighting the Chanukiah, eating a doughnut and hearing the festival’s songs, all are welcome. In the heart of central London, a giant Chanukiah will stand. Let’s fill Trafalgar Square as we light that Chanukiah and rededicate ourselves to the unity of our community: a community confident in its Jewish identity, committed to its values and heritage, and proud of its place in Britain.