A cross-denominational group of rabbis representing synagogues in central London has written to Westminster City Council to push the case for a Holocaust memorial and learning centre next to Parliament.
The letter was sent on Wednesday, at the start of a three-week consultation on the planning application for a new £100 million memorial and learning centre at Victoria Tower Gardens, which is being supported by the Government.
However local residents have been left angered by the plans, arguing that the park is in Westminster’s own ‘monument saturation zone’ – and sits at least partly in a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The rabbis’ intervention “to express wholehearted support for the initiative” is likely to be the opening salvo in a fierce public relations battle, but community representatives said the group’s cross-denominational nature was noteworthy.
Representing nine synagogues in Westminster City Council, with a combined 5,500 members, the rabbis include senior figures such as Dayan Ivan Binstock from St John’s Wood Synagogue and Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of the Sephardi Community of the UK.
Addressing concerns about the location, they said: “We firmly believe no other site has the power and significance of a site next to Parliament.
“Taken together with the existing memorials in the Gardens to Emmeline Pankhurst, The Burghers of Calais and Buxton, it will remind Parliamentarians and the public that the struggle for fairness, justice and equality are vital and never-ending.”
They added: “It matters a great deal to the Jewish community living in Westminster and we sincerely believe that the Memorial and Learning Centre will act as a beacon of light for the entire nation.”
Other signatories included Rabbi Mendy Korer of Sandys Row Synagogue, Chabad Islington; Barry Townsley CBE, chair of Central Synagogue; Rabbis Lionel Rosenfeld and Sam Taylor of Western Marble Arch Synagogue; Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick of West Central Liberal Synagogue; Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman of New West End Synagogue; Rabbi Ari Cohen of West End Great Synagogue; and Rabbi Emeritus Rodney Mariner of Belsize Square Synagogue.
UK Holocaust Memorial Co-Chair the Rt. Hon Ed Balls said:
“There should be no doubt, in the wake of a rise in reported antisemitism and other forms of hate crime, that a new national Holocaust Memorial to be built in the shadow of our Parliament is of absolute importance.
“Our proposals, now available in full to the public, not only deliver a world-leading space of education, reflection and commemoration, but also preserve and enhance a park at the very heart of our national life.”
UK Holocaust Memorial Co-Chair the Rt. Hon the Lord Pickles said: “We must not forget the power of Holocaust education in creating engaged citizens who recognise where intolerance and hatred lead if left unchecked. “
“This will be a Holocaust Memorial for the whole nation, providing a space for education and remembrance that will stand as a representation of our values for generations to come. All of us have a part in making this Memorial a reality, and it is vital that as many of us as possible make our views heard.”
- Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens
- Holocaust Memorial and subterranean Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens
- Victoria Tower Gardens
- Westminster City Council
- Dayan Ivan Binstock
- St John’s Wood Synagogue
- Rabbi Joseph Dweck
- Emmeline Pankhurst
- The Burghers of Calais and Buxton
- Rabbi Mendy Korer
- Sandy’s Row Synagogue
- Chabad Islington
- Barry Townsley
- Central Synagogue
- Rabbis Lionel Rosenfeld
- Sam Taylor
- Western Marble Arch Synagogue
- Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick
- West Central Liberal Synagogue
- Rabbi Dr. Moshe Freedman
- West End Great Synagogue
- Rabbi Emeritus Rodney Mariner
- Belsize Square Synagogue
- New West End Synagogue
- Rabbi Ari Cohen