A record crowd of more than 4,500 descended on central London for the annual Chanukah in the Square celebration.
The gamble of holding the event at the weekend for the first time paid off as families joined the throngs in Trafalgar Square in record numbers.
Revellers of all ages enjoyed music from Mathilda Marks School and as well from the Kedma Band with Rabbi Marc Levene. London Mayor Sadiq Khan wished the crowds a ‘Chanukah sameach’ before asking where else in the world you’d see a Muslim mayor kicking off the Chanukah celebrations metres from a giant Christmas tree.
Khan, who has been at the forefront of speaking out against antisemitism in Labour and nationally, told the crowd: “This is your city and you’re going nowhere.”
The celebration was organised by Jewish Leadership Council, Chabad and London Jewish Forum, and media partnered by the Jewish News. It was compered by comedienne Rachel Creeger for the second consecutive year.
Another regular at the event is Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who said to huge cheers: “Were proud to be Jewish. We’re proud to be BritIsh. We’re proud of our Torah tradition.”
Just weeks after his unprecedented intervention to call out Labour’s approach to anti-Jewish hate during the election campaign, he added: “We will do everything we can to eradicate the scourge of antisemitism. We will not be silenced.”
Israel’s deputy ambassador Sharon Bar-li welcomed to the stage Pnina Tamano Shata, the first Ethiopian MK, as a modern day “Maccabite”. She spoke of her delight at sharing the stage with the London mayor and pledged that Israel would always am stand alongside the diaspora in the fight against antisemitism.
Stands around the Square offered arts and crafts activities for kids and an olive press, as well as a variety of hot food to complement the thousands of free doughnuts distributed during the two-hour celebration.
Among the older party-goers was 95-year-old Rosie Kallenberg, who said: “How amazing that London lent Trafalgar Square to the Jewish Community today so we could all celebrate Chanukah! It was incredible to see such a beautiful, tall menorah in Trafalgar Square.”
Chanukah in the square was a massive success for London Mayor @SadiqKhan because he met grandma rose! ???? Tks @JewishNewsUK @JLC_uk @Lubavitch @MayorofLondon @GenesisPhilGrp it was amazing????✡️???? pic.twitter.com/4DKlCagnTk
— Emma Sinclair MBE (@ES_Entrepreneur) December 22, 2019
JLC chief executives Simon Johnson said: “I’m thrilled at how many of our community came out to celebrate the first night in Trafalgar Square. The weather did us a favour and the atmosphere was one of the best I’ve experienced.”
What was particularly nice to see was how many generations were here with whole families altogether.”
Rabbi Bentzi Sudak, CEO of Chabad Lubavitch UK, said: “The new format as a Sunday afternoon family event really proved a hit. It was a true celebration of how we as Jews in London can literally dance in the street with a giant symbol of Judaism beaming through the city. Let’s continue to be proud of that. As former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks said: “Non-Jews are proud of Jews who are proud of their Judaism.”
Welcome to london…where the Muslim mayor of London kicks off the Jewish festival of Chanukah metre from a giant Christmas tree on one of the most famous sites in the world @JLC_uk @JewishLondon @ChabadUK @JewishNewsUK @sadiqkhan pic.twitter.com/5V8sUtaeE5
— Justin Cohen (@CohenJust) December 22, 2019
Adrian Cohen, chair of the London Jewish Forum, said he was so pleased that the public marking of Chanukah in Trafalgar Square and across our great City has become a valuable and enduring tradition.
Vladimir Prudkin, co-founder of Mark Prudkin Fund For Culture And Art who sponsored the event:, said: “Our fund was named after the famous Jewish Soviet actor Mark Prudkin, one of the brightest Jewish actors that formed the most important Hebrew language theatre, the Habima.”
Much like Moshe, who didn’t get to enter Eretz-Yisrael, Mark Prudkin could not join his peers in Israel. The Mark Prudkin Fund is aimed at supporting and promoting Israeli art all over the world, and we continue to carry on with the mission of the great actor. This mission strived for over 100 years since Habima’s establishment. Today, at Trafalgar Square, we celebrate the unity of the Jewish people in the Free World.”
Pnina Tamano Shata, the first Ethiopian MK in the Israeli Knesset told guests: “Chanukah is a chance to remember that we have defeated waves of antisemitism before and we will defeat them again. We will defeat them together.”
I immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia when i I was three-years-old, and as a black woman as well as a Jew, I know that the struggle against racism is a struggle against people with dark views who seek to hurt those who are different than them. The way to combat racism is with love”
The event was also supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group, the Mark Prudkin Fund For Culture And Art and put together by Barkho Productions.