If I were prime minister…
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If I were prime minister…

We ask community stalwarts what they would do if they were handed the coveted keys to Downing Street…

Laura Marks OBE, founder of Mitzvah Day and chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

I would acknowledge and celebrate differences between people, say sorry if I caused hurt, ask experts for help, change my mind if I was wrong, watch my language as I know it can cause damage, acknowledge my prejudices and put them aside, challenge deeply-held misogynistic views against women in positions of power, heap praise on our young people and work tirelessly for the common good, rather than for extreme politics. Obviously, I would make Mitzvah Day part of the national curriculum. Perhaps – and most regrettably – I wouldn’t expect to last for long!

Daniel Carmel-Brown, chief executive of Jewish Care

If I were prime minister, I would increase funding to the health and social care sector. With an ageing population, and what can only be described as a social care crisis gripping the nation, it has never been more important to invest in the sector, not just now, but for the future. I would also push to bring the health care sector into the digital age, as we have seen at Jewish Care how much electronic care plans can make a difference to people’s individual care.

Neil Martin OBE, chief executive of JLGB

If I were Prime Minister, I would strive to help develop a society that values young people and their contributions to their local and wider communities. I would do this by making every effort to train, develop and support them through their transition from a young person to adult, to become active citizens and leaders in society.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi to Reform Judaism

If I had the precious task of being prime minister, I hope that I would tell the truth, even when it might be hard to hear. The Talmud points to the solid foundations of a life based on truthfulness. Our sages taught that the letters that make up the Hebrew word emet, truth, represents solidity against the fragility of falsehood. We must never forget the importance of truth to our democracy, which increasingly seems to rest on fragile foundations.

Dr Edie Friedman, executive director of Jewish Council for Racial Equality

I would take concrete steps to improve the lives of asylum seekers, refugees and ethnic minorities in the UK. These would include immediate legislation to allow asylum seekers the right to work; reunite refugee families; resettle unaccompanied refugee children and young people in the UK; protect the Race Disparity Unit, which monitors the extent of racial inequality in Britain; provide funding for a permanent memorial to the victims of the transatlantic slave trade. In addition, I would make sure that my party has clear and transparent procedures for dealing with all forms of racism, including antisemitism, Islamophobia and antiblack racism and tackle poverty and homelessness, which disproportionately affects these groups.

Mark Lewis, media lawyer

My manifesto (I have zero political ambition in the UK) is:
1. Access to justice for all. The inability of most people to obtain legal advice is a blot on society. Rights that cannot be afforded are not rights. 2. Access to medicine. The abolition of NICE (the National Institute of Clinical Excellence) is long overdue. Apart from the unfortunate acronym, the unavailability of medicines because of economists is a disgrace. 3.Homelessness must be eradicated from yesterday. Apart from the absolute human right of having shelter, the fact that in the 21st century people are dying on the streets is a scandal. I have resisted the temptation to outlaw antisemitism – it should not exist. Laws need to be enforced recognising that hate speech is very serious and, unchecked, leads to physical manifestation of that hatred. I would compel social media companies to open accounts only for those who can provide evidence of an address. I would make it illegal to say “as a Jew” or “and all other forms of racism”.

Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council

If I were prime minister, and elected next week, I would first try and remove the hostility and lack of civility from our political discourse. The prime minister would have to take the lead on this. I would try to lead the country back to the centre and try to push extremists back to the extremes. Tolerance and respect would be the watchwords. I would concentrate on helping people to feel more safe and secure. I would look to better enfranchise younger people, and that would need us to make a much better effort at dealing with environmental concerns and creating a more sustainable future. I would rebuild business confidence so that we got our economy growing again. And I would help to rebuild the confidence of the Jewish community, so that we can once again celebrate our faith, culture and heritage without any need to worry about our futures.

Naomi Dickson, chief executive of Jewish Women’s Aid

If I were prime minister, I would fight for a fair society, eradicating all forms of sexism, antisemitism and racism. I would urgently push through the domestic abuse bill to combat violence against women, to ensure better support, housing and legal remedies for the one in four women suffering from domestic abuse, and sustainable funding for support services. I would ensure rape victims had access to better criminal justice support, so that no woman experiences additional trauma through having to retell their ordeal in court. I would work tirelessly to end violence against women and girls by ensuring that relationships and sex education were an integral part of our education system.

Dr Beverley Jacobson, chief executive of Norwood

The long answer is as follows: My eldest daughter, Talya, has learning disabilities. One day, I was out in the park with my youngest daughter and her friends when some disabled adults arrived. As they got out their vehicle these little girls pointed their fingers and laughed. My youngest daughter said: “Mummy, my friends don’t understand about being disabled.” So I gathered this little group around and tried to explain to them what disability was. They didn’t mean to be mean, they just didn’t know what to do. I told them that whenever they see people like that they should be holding out a hand, not pointing a finger. Since then, my life has largely been about continuing that process and seizing the potential for social reform. We need to educate the world about disability, because the more we do, the more opportunities will open up for people and that is only right and fair.

Gideon Falter, chief executive of Campaign Against Antisemitism

It doesn’t look like many people want to be prime minister in today’s political climate, but if I woke up one day and found I had the job I’d make changes. I’d ensure all parties were obliged by law to uphold standards based on Campaign Against Antisemitsm’s Manifesto for Fighting Antisemitism, propose legislation to add the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism to the Equality Act, proscribe the entirety of Hamas under the Terrorism Act, regulate social media companies and make them co-operate with the police, make too many changes to the Crown Prosecution Service to enumerate here, and do a few other things (Instagramming one’s food will become illegal). Then I’d go to see the Queen for tea, resign, and return
to civilian life.

David Hirsh, sociology lecturer at Goldsmiths, University of London

I would build a movement to defend our democratic state and culture. We are threatened by the politics of resentment which is fostered by leaders who want to be adored, and then obeyed, as the voice of ‘the people’. Genuine democracy is a complex, always unfinished, negotiation between a diversity of human beings. ‘Populism’ by contrast makes ‘the people’ indivisible and abstract. Totalitarian movements have won when citizens came to believe that knowledge, law and liberty were fake. We need to educate ourselves and to toughen up, so we won’t be defenceless in the face of the coming totalitarian threat.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT)

If I were prime minister, I would want to encourage empathy and tolerance at this time of deep division and widespread prejudice. Every school and local authority
would mark Holocaust Memorial Day – we know that when people take part in it, they learn more, empathise more and go on to do more, taking action as a result of what they have learnt. I would want to enact HMDT’s aim of learning from genocide for a better future, and see the UK playing a strong role in international coordinated responses protecting people from identity-based violence and genocidal regimes.

Michael Wegier, UJIA’s former chief executive

An immediate referendum on the existing EU deal and campaign to remain.  Give young people hope through investment in school based and digital learning, work apprenticeships, youth and sports clubs and libraries. Replenish the public housing stock to rebalance the market. Better salaries and working conditions in NHS, educational and welfare. Improve regulations so that business can flourish without exploiting the vulnerable or over-rewarding the top one %. Establish citizens’ forums around the country to explore how diverse communities and ideologies can share the same space and resources fairly and respectfully. Advocate for liberal democracy and freedom globally.

Adam Ognall, chief executive, New Israel Fund

If I were Prime Minister…my first priority would be to heal the divisions in society exposed by our current political climate and bitter election campaign. I would look to Israel to see how groups of its citizens, Jews and Arabs, are refusing to be cast as enemies and our finding common cause in speaking up for democratic norms. Once I have done this, I would ban schools being used as polling stations so parents do not have to take a day off work!

Lyn Julius, co-founder of Harif, the UK Association of Jews from the Middle East and North Africa

If I were Prime Minister I would abolish the BBC licence fee and shake up the Complaints procedure; solicit support from our Allies for a root-and-branch reform of the UN: only democracies can become members; Set up a training school for imams directed and supervised by my government; Tear up the Iran deal !

Jeremy Havardi, historian and journalist

I would demand a sustained improvement in our education system enabling us to compete with other top OECD countries. At the heart of such reforms would be an expansion of the grammar schools, especially in deprived areas. This would cater for more disadvantaged children who miss out on the best comprehensives because of selection by house price. The dumbing down of exams and the manipulation of grade boundaries must stop. We need tougher exams and the teaching of core subjects, as well as strict discipline enforced by inspirational headteachers. World class technical schools are needed for those with practical skills.

Paul Charney, chairman of Zionist Federation UK and Ireland

If I were Prime Minister, I would create 6 Science and Technology New Cities across the UK and NI.  These cities would look to attract major companies through incentivised tax and housing reductions for company and employee alike. These would be carbon positive and technology driven cities setting the practical example for future clean living and providing a solution for UK housing needs. I would appoint a Future Living Czar to coordinate successes and implement solutions between the cities and then ultimately export effective positive practices to the rest of the country.

Richard Verber, communications director, United Synagogue

The level of public discourse has fallen to a new low. Politics is unpleasantly tribal, with politicians able to say whatever they like to fire up their base, whether true or not. Judaism believes that words matter. Ethics of the Fathers says that “The world was created with ten pronouncements.” The Book of Proverbs adds that “Death and life are in the hand of the tongue.” We can each use the power of speech to build up or bring down. We need a yellow card system operated by independent fact checkers to give politicians a warning when they cross the line and a red card to boot them out for repeat offenses. We need to extend our welfare services to care for the vulnerable in society, and particularly as the Jewish community is aging rapidly. And every government needs a populist policy, so I’d make Yom Kippur a Bank Holiday so you don’t have to take time off work.

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