All light on the night as Starmer celebrates Chanukah with Jewish Labour Movement
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All light on the night as Starmer celebrates Chanukah with Jewish Labour Movement

Labour leader spoke on Monday night at Belsize Square shul alongside deputy Angela Rayner. He said the warmth he'd received from the Jewish community “means a huge amount”. 

Justin Cohen is the News Editor at the Jewish News

Keir Starmer has said he was “overcome with emotion” when his party passed rules changes to tackle antisemitism this summer – and insisted sweeping changes since he came to office wouldn’t have been possible without the backing of the Jewish Labour Movement.

The Labour leader, speaking at JLM’s Chanukah party alongside his deputy Angela Rayner, said the warmth he’d received from the community  “means a huge amount to me”.

Acknowledging that all he could offer the party‘a only Jewish affiliate when elected “were words”, he told the gathering at Belsize Square Synagogue: “You have given me the space – and the benefit of the doubt – to see what actions we’d follow up with. Without which it’d have been a near-impossible task.”

He said the party was always going to make the rule changes mandated by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. But Starmer added: “I wasn’t prepared for the emotion inthe room. I was overcome with the emotion. We had thousands of people in the room and one or two who heckled. It was the room that shut them up.

“It was the Labour Party saying we won’t put up with this any more. If you want evidence of how things have changed, that was the best evidence.” But, he insisted, the party had yet to complete the task he set himself of stamping out antisemitism and making British Jews again feel comfortable. “We will complete this,” he vowed.

JLM chair Mike Katz said the fact 26 percent of conference delegates didn’t support the rule changes showed how much work was still to be done. But he insisted the adoption of the nee rules sent a message “we are here, we are back”.

He was joined on stage by former councillor Adam Langleben – who left the party over antisemitism – and whose recent return to Labour was cheered by around 100 guests.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, who led the candle lighting ceremony with Rabbi David Mason, described the Chanukah event as a “modern day miracle” given events of recent years.

Rabbi Mason, of Muswell Hill Synagogue explained that Chanukah had some important messages for the Labour Party. “It was a festival based on a historical event showing the importance of history and tradition – but also has a forward looking side, where we pass on values to the next generation. In a poignant moment, the Orthodox rabbi reflected on the fact that his grandparent had joined Belsize Square after escaping Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s.”

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