Keir Starmer: I know this year Passover will feel different

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Keir Starmer: I know this year Passover will feel different

In a Pesach message to the community the Labour leader is filmed visiting Alyth Synagogue in north London

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Keir Starmer has said he recognises that Passover will “feel different” this year in “painful and challenging” times for the Jewish community following the 7 October Hamas attack.

Visiting Alyth Synagogue in Golders Green, north London, to film a video message ahead of Pesach, the Labour leader joined a discussion about the meaning of the festival, after he was welcomed by Rabbi Golan Ben-Chorim.

Starmer told Jewish News that speaking to a group of young people at Alyth showed him how “powerfully the story within Pesach speaks to them.”

But in the aftermath of the Hamas atrocity Starmer added: “I know that for many this year Passover will feel different. I know how painful and challenging these past few months have been for the Jewish community.”

Sarah Sackman, Labour’s Finchley and Golders Green parliamentary candidate, is also filmed saying that for her it’s the fact that the youngest person at the Seder table gets to ask the question that generates the telling of the story that “is really powerful.”

She adds:”This year is going to be particularly powerful because I don’t think there will be a single Jewish family in this country that will be holding its seder and telling the story without the backdrop of what is happening in the Middle East in mind.”

Keir Starmer joins in discussion about the meaning of Pesach at Alyth Synagogue

Rabbi Elliott Karstadt then speaks of his view that Pesach offers the opportunity to acknowledge “the suffering of others” and of “having the empathy, having the ability to see not just the suffering of your own people, but that of others.”

Laughter does break out as Student Rabbi Nicola Feuchtwang mentions that arguments have been known to break out over the history of the tunes sung at the service, but on a more serious note she also mentions that people who have “shaped our lives” will also be missing.

Lynette Sunderland, head of community care at Alyth, and Sarah Langsford, fundraising coordinator, also note the sadness, the poignancy, and the enjoyment that is had while the seder progresses.

Rabbi Golan, Alyth’s senior rabbi, reminds all involved in the discussion that “everywhere around the world Jews did this with being in connection through the stories that we told.”

The Labour leader also confirmed his own family would also be gathering around the Seder table for what he said represented “a chance for different generations to bond over profound traditions and teachings.”

In the video Starmer, wearing a kippah, says one of the reasons he has a Seder is that his wife Vic is determined that their two children “know and understand” their Jewish roots.

“I send my warmest wishes to the Jewish community,” Starmer added. “I hope you draw strength from this special festival. Chag Sameach.”

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