Community leaders have asked Theresa May for support in expanding places at Jewish secondary schools and in reinstating gift aid on parental contributions to education.
Hundreds of state-aided schools – both faith institutions and not – previously had the opportunity to claim gift aid on voluntary contributions but a review by HMRC meant many have had gift aid withheld since 2014. Officials have argued children of the parents contributing receive direct benefit from the contributions, which in Jewish schools schools often boosts Jewish studies.
But at a meeting at Downing Street, coordinated by the Jewish Leadership Council, community chiefs urged May to reinstate gift aid which could unlock millions of pounds of extra funds annually for Jewish schools alone.
The delegation – led by the JLC’s new chair Jonathan Goldstein – also pointed to the need for increased places at Jewish secondary schools. Two bids for new free schools have recently been rejected and the planned expansion of Hasmonean has for now been halted by Sadiq Khan overturning planning permission because the development would encroach on green belt land.
As well as education, community leaders spoke about the record level of anti-Semitic incidents and called for additional funding to enable the expansion of World Jewish Relief’s pioneering work to help settle and integrate Syrian refugees in Bradford.
May said: “I was pleased to meet community leaders today to hear directly about the issues that are most important to Jewish people in the United Kingdom. I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm my long-standing and total commitment to the security of the Jewish community and I will do everything possible to fight anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred and prejudice in our country.
“Today’s meeting was also an opportunity for me, as Prime Minister, to celebrate the incredible contribution that the Jewish community makes to our country.”
Covering domestic and internationals issues, the delegation also thanked the prime minister for her positions on Israel including a change in tone at the UN which saw Britain launched a stinging attack on bias against Israel earlier this year.
Closer to home, they also presented the impact of Jewish Women’s Aid’s Safer Dating programme and JAMI’s mental health first aid training as examples of best practise which could be replicated in the country. While the recently-announced £2bn funding for social care was seen as a starting point, the leaders offered to contribute innovative solutions to help address the situation longer term.
Goldtstein said: “Mrs May reiterated her strong support for our community and is committed to working together to address our concerns.
“The JLC’s annual meeting with the Prime Minister is unique in our communal calendar. It facilitates direct engagement with the heart of government and gives voice to the entire community on matters of national importance. As JLC Chair, I am committed to deepening the partnership with the Prime Minister and to working with the government and across our membership to tackle the challenges we face and make a profound difference in the life of every British Jew.”
The agenda was formulated by the JLC in conjunction with its member organisations. Also in attendance were Board of Deputies president Jonathan Arkush, PaJeS’ Sarah Anticoni, Jewish Care’s Debbie Fox, UJS’ Josh Holt, CST’s Gerald Ronson, World Jewish Relief’s Dan Rosenfield and Jewish Women’s Aid’s Hilda Worth. The JLC’s policy chief Claudia Mendoza, who led on preparation for the meeting, was also present.
Arkush said: “I conveyed to the Prime Minister the Jewish community’s concerns on extremism and community cohesion. I also asked that the Prime Minister that, in this year of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, she use her influence to ensure that the already close ties between the UK and Israel become even stronger.”