New communities secretary enjoys pre-Shabbat walkabout in Golders Green

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New communities secretary enjoys pre-Shabbat walkabout in Golders Green

Robert Jenrick pledges to boost efforts to combat antisemitism, continue funding for Holocaust education and ensure Jews feel “protected” under his watch while strolling in NW11.

The new secretary of state with HET's Karen Pollock and Rabbi Harvey Belovski. Also pictured is Lee Harpin, ace reporter.
The new secretary of state with HET's Karen Pollock and Rabbi Harvey Belovski. Also pictured is Lee Harpin, ace reporter.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has pledged to increase the government’s efforts to combat antisemitism, continue funding for Holocaust education and ensure that the British Jewish community feels “protected and respected” under his watch.

Jenrick, who was appointed to the cabinet by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday, also said he would see through plans for the UK Holocaust memorial in Westminster.

In his first communities visit since his appointment this week, Jenrick, 37, visited kosher shops on Golders Green high-street in north-west London on Friday afternoon.

He also met communal representatives from organisations including the Community Security Trust, Holocaust Educational Trust and the Union of Jewish Students.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick [second right] in Golders Green.
Jenrick, the Tory MP for Newark, said it was important he visited the Jewish area within days of assuming his first cabinet position.

He said: “I wanted to come and meet them in my first few days of position.
“I want tackling antisemitism and ensuring that the Jewish community feels protected and respected to be one of my priorities as secretary of state.”

He added: “I feel ashamed by the current levels of antisemitism and I think all politicians need to do far tackle it.

“My last two predecessors, James Brokenshire and Sajid Javid, took this very seriously and I wanted the community to understand that I certainly intend to take it as seriously as they did – to make it one of my personal priorities.”

And he says that prime minister shares this commitment: “The Boris Johnson that I know is someone who supports an open and liberal society.
“He brought on a  diverse team of people around him, both in terms of gender and faith. And I think his vision for the country is a more united country. Once we can get Brexit done on the 31 October, we can then concentrate on bringing the country back together – making it more integrated and cohesive society.”

He added: “I know Boris feels very strongly that the government is continuing to tackle antisemitism, and use all the means at its disposal to ensure the community feels protected and respected.”

Jenrick, whose wife was born in Israel, is a father of three. They have visited Israel as a family and Mr Jenrick said his connection to the Jewish community forms “a very important and integral part of my life”.

Jenrick said that despite efforts to combat antisemitism in the UK –including the adoption of the IHRA and funding for communal organisation – more must be done. He explained: “There is a record of action, but clearly this is an issue that has escalated. Similarly our response needs to increase.”

Jenrick, who qualified as a solicitor in 2008 before going onto hold financial roles at art business Christie’s, was elected to Parliament in 2014. Before being appointed to the Cabinet, Jenrick served as exchequer secretary to the Treasury.

In his new role, he has pledged to see through plans for a Holocaust memorial structure in Westminster.

He said: “I wanted to reaffirm our complete commitment to delivering the Holocaust memorial. It’s very important to me that we do deliver a memorial that lives up to its promise as the first major national memorial and education centre.”

Jenrick, who has visited Auschwitz concentration camp, said: “It had a huge impact on me and in particular because my wife is the daughter of Holocaust survivors from modern day Poland and the Ukraine.”

Jenrick started the first communities visit as Secretary of State for Communities, at iconic kosher bakery, Carmelli’s, on the high-street. There, he was met by HET chief executive Karen Pollock, Rabbi Harvey Belovski and Daniel Sherman, from the CST.

As shoppers bought challot ahead of Shabbat dinner, Jenrick chose a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and tucked into a rugelach.The group then made their way to the Head Room cafe, backed by the Jewish mental health charity Jami.

Over a black coffee, Jenrick spoke to current and former university students about their experience of antisemitism on UK campuses, Jenrick later said: “I do feel very concerned to hear stories we’ve just listened to. That is something we need to urgently tackle as a society.”

After the visit, Pollock said: “As a long-standing champion of the HET and our cause, it is fantastic to know that Robert Jenrick is now at the helm for the establishment of a national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre and committed to ensure that this and future generations learn the lessons of the Holocaust and where hate can ultimately lead. We look forward to continuing to work with him.”

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