A Westminster Chanukah reception, attended by parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, heard rabbinical leaders of the United Synagogue, Reform and Liberal movements praise the tremendous support shown to the Jewish community following the October 7th terror attacks.
Before lighting the Chanukah candles and leading guests in the singing of Maoz Tzur, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis told those attending Thursday’s event: “We’re exceptionally proud of the leadership that is being shown on the global stage from here in the Palace of Westminster, from the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and so many others.
“Giving their support to Israel support during difficult times right now, who know how to differentiate between light and darkness and between right and wrong. We appreciate this immensely.”
Rabbi Mirvis added:”We pray for Israel. We pray for peace. We pray for the Palestinians.”
The chief exective of Liberal Judaism Rabbi Charley Baginsky and the CEO of The Movement for Reform Judaism Rabbi Josh Levy both recited a prayer for the British Jewish community.
“It is more important than ever to search for the light that is beyond us, and that is within us, and to make it shine more brightly,” said Rabbi Charley.
“At this moment as we light, Jews around the country are bringing lights into their homes too…. in every corner of this country members of the UK Jewish community are lighting their Channukiot,” added Rabbi Josh.
“May the light in Jewish homes of this country be a source of comfort, of safety and of reassurance and a sign of God’s presence.”
More than 150 people gathered in Speaker’s House in the House of Commons for the reception on the first night of Chanukah, which was hosted by Deputy Speaker Dame Eleanor Laing MP, with Speaker Lindsay Hoyle MP was absent due to illness.
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl reiterated the vital importance of politicians standing with British Jews and how much it means to receive that solidarity.
She added: “At the vigils and rallies we have organised along with our communal colleagues, politicians from all sides have pledged their support for the Jewish community.
“We are so grateful for this support, both practical and emotional.”
Minister of State for Security Tom Tugendhat added:“It has been one of those years where we’ve seen the darkness rise and unfold in our hearts, in our families and in our homes. And so this celebration is one of those moments when we remind ourselves that despite what we feel today – despite the pain and the suffering that we can sometimes experience through the trauma that others put us through – the reality is that the light shines within us and conquers the darkness.”
Earlier Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper had said: “At such a difficult time, everybody is still reeling from that barbaric terrorist attack that so many people are still grieving.
“But we cannot allow events internationally to increase hatred here at home. And that is why antisemitism has no place in our country. The story of Chanukah is one of enduring and lasting of light through the darkness.”
She added: “I hope that you are feeling our solidarity from Parliament.”
The event was compèred by Dame Margaret Hodge MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews, and also included a speech from Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely, who said:”: “I’ve never seen this country and the State of Israel more united because it’s so clear. We are fighting against pure evil. And we are carrying the message of peace and hope for a better future for the region when Hamas is defeated.”
Introducing the event, Dame Eleanor said: “What happened on the seventh of October was terrorism at its very worst. I know myself from my own Jewish community in my Epping Forest constituency, and from the synagogue which I visit regularly, just how horrifying and upsetting the whole situation is for Jews everywhere.”
Referring to Chanukah and the hostages still held in Gaza, she said that “although celebrations are underway, we all know that there are 138 individuals who will not be celebrating. But given that this is a festival of miracles, what we are praying for above all else is their safe return.”
Also attending the event were MPs including Andrew Percy, and Baroness Anderson, Baroness Merron, along with Lord John Mann, and Lord Michael Howard, and the Board’s chief executive Michael Wieger, and vice-president Amanda Bowman.
Former Board president and barrister Jonathan Arkush was also at Thursday’s event, along with representatives from the Pinter Trust, along with Andrew Gilbert and Adrian Cohen of the London Jewish Forum and Michael Rubin, director of Labour Friends of Israel.
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