MPs to debate call for the establishment of a British Jewish History Month

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MPs to debate call for the establishment of a British Jewish History Month

Nickie Aiken, the Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, has secured a Commons debate on Jan 11th aimed at recognising contribution made by British Jews to UK life

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

A ceremony at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation, at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London.

(C) Blake Ezra Photography 2015.
A ceremony at the Spanish and Portuguese Jews Congregation, at Bevis Marks Synagogue, London. (C) Blake Ezra Photography 2015.

MPs are to hold a debate on the contribution made by the community to life in this country with a call for the establishment of a British Jewish History Month.

The House of Commons debate, which will take place on Thursday January 11th, was secured by Nickie Aiken, the Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, who told Jewish News she was determined to ensure the “significant and positive contribution the community has made” is properly recognised.

Aiken said she was triggered to push for the Backbench Business Committee debate in the midst of widespread and concerning discussion about rising hate crime rates, particularly around antisemitism and Islamophobia, adding;”Of course it’s important to highlight all forms of racism, but let’s not just talk about the negative.”

The MP said that as a former Westminster councillor and leader herself she had seen and learned firsthand of the enormous contribution to British life made by the Jewish community.

Sir Simon Milton, the late Westminster Council leader and aide to Boris Johnson, who was himself Jewish, is described by Aiken as one of her “biggest political heroes” and she said she had noted the further contribution made to life in the capital by both Labour and Conservative elected representatives from the community.

Nickie Aitken, Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster

“I think this is what we have got to recognise,” said Aiken, speaking ahead of next week’s debate. “We need to recognise the significant contribution the Jewish community have made to this country, and make it a positive, rather than a negative.

“I find it quite incredible there are just 300, 000 Jews left living in the UK. We have to ensure the Jews left living here feel safe, but also that the contribution they are making is being recognised.

“It is very important we have initiatives like Islamophobia Awareness Month, Pride Month and Black History Month. But it is equally important therefore that we have a Jewish History Month.

“It’s all about making Jews in this country proud of what they have contributed, while also reminding non-Jews of the community’s achievements.”

Statue of Sir Simon Milton

Aiten noted how the Westminster and the City of London constituency had been home to some of the earliest Jews to arrive in this country, and of Bevis Marks Synagogue, the oldest in the country, built in 1701.

She also cited how both Tesco, and Marks and Spencer, two of the UK’s most influential retail brands, were founded by members of the community.

Aiken confirmed she had received significant support for her motion from MPs from across all of the main parties.

It is understood that next week’s debate will also end with a substantive  vote, meaning the government does have to take notice of it.

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