Marie van der Zyl: British Jews have a future in the UK

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Marie van der Zyl: British Jews have a future in the UK

Board of Deputies president tells Limmud audience that there will be tough challenges if Jeremy Corbyn comes to power

Joe Millis is a journalist

Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies
Marie van der Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies

The President of the Board of Deputies believes Jews have a future in the country – but a possible Jeremy Corbyn-led government will make life harder.

Addressing the issue of “Do Jews have a future in the UK?”, Marie van der Zyl told a Limmud audience on Wednesday: “If there is a Labour government, we will get through it as Jews, but it won’t be easy and there will be tough challenges. For a start, Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to recognise a Palestinian state as one of his first acts in office.”

However, she noted that British Jews were “very fortunate to live in the UK. If you look elsewhere – France, for instance – it’s much tougher, much worse. We can walk down the street with kippot on, we can wave Israeli flags and our schools are thriving.

“We have been here a long time and faced challenges in the past. We have contributed a lot and our rights are guaranteed. Corbyn has already said that funding for Jewish schools will not be harmed.”

“But if Corbyn is elected, I’m not leaving. And our lives are not in danger. It will be challenging, but there are other people we can work with.”

Van der Zyl was particularly critical of those who had attacked the Board for inviting Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry to the organisation’s dinner and Angela Rayner, the Shadow Education Secretary, to its Chanukah party.

“We have to be pragmatic and prudent,” she said. “There are those who stamp their feet and bang the table and it makes them feel good. However, it doesn’t take us forward. I have made it clear that engagement does not mean concessions or appeasement.”

Van der Zyl stressed that antisemitism is not going to go unchallenged, “and I don’t care where it comes from in the Labour Party.”

She added that in recent years, the Conservatives “have been good for the Jews, but it wasn’t always that way.”

In a plea to continue working together, van der Zyl said: “We can secure a good future in the UK, but we need unity. We will get through this, and we have the tenacity to see it through.”

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