Whatever you are doing this Sunday, December 22nd, in the afternoon, we strongly urge you to make your way to Trafalgar Square and join us, in front of a 32 foot high Menorah as we light the candle of the first night of Chanukah.
Many in our community have felt under the cosh and fearful for much of this past year. Last week, we held our collective breath and waited for the outcome as the General Election results came in.
However, we take comfort that those in authority in this country have gone out of their way to assure us that we should feel safe, secure and valued.
We were both at Buckingham Palace two weeks ago, where hundreds of guests heard the Prince of Wales thank the community for the valuable role that the Jewish people have played and continue to play in British society.
On the morning after the election, many of us heard Michael Gove MP publicly address the Jewish community, saying that we should never have to live in fear in this country.
The annual Chanukah event in Trafalgar Square is the perfect opportunity for the Jewish community to celebrate our Judaism in full view of our fellow Londoners who in turn continue to show how they value us as Jews.
The Mayor of our city, Sadiq Khan, partners with us to put on this event. He will join us as we light the lights, and will address the crowd encouraging us to be confident and proud of our faith, culture and heritage.
We never fail to wonder at the blessing that we are able to live in a country where we can stand in the centre of our capital city, in the heart of its most recognisable location, and light a massive Menorah, whilst singing the ancient prayers and songs.
This year, the first night is a Sunday and we will have a new, family-oriented format for the event, starting in the early afternoon, whilst it is still light. Come and listen to wonderful live music, partake in one of the several activity stalls, watch the school choir perform, see how to make fresh Olive Oil, and decorate one of the thousands of free doughnuts we will be giving out before you eat it. There will also be a selection of Hot Kosher food.
Then, as it gets dark, the Mayor and the Chief Rabbi will watch as our Chazzonim sing the tunes that you know well from home and childhood. They will make the “Shecheyanu” blessing, as we give thanks for the new festival. And, just as it gets dark, the first light will be lit.
The Chanukah lights continue to brighten our world as they have done for generations. They did so last year, they will do so this year, and they will do so long into the future.
Thank Hashem that we live in a country of liberty, where we are free to practise our religion freely, and our country and fellow citizens encourage us to celebrate our festivals, walking tall and proud as Jews.
Once again, we have the privilege to be hosted by Rachel Creeger, one of our community’s foremost and talented comedians.
So join us this Sunday in Trafalgar Square from 2.30pm to 4.30pm. Prepare to sing, dance, eat and let the light shine on.
See you there.
- Simon Johnson is the Jewish Leadership Council’s CEO and Rabbi Bentzi Sudak is CEO of Chabad Lubavitch UK