PM announces £72m to fund security for Jewish communities

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PM announces £72m to fund security for Jewish communities

Rishi Sunak gets tough on antisemitism, pledges more funds for CST and is summoning university leaders to insist they do more for Jewish students

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Sunak shared this news during a barnstorming and passionate speech to the annual CST dinner on Wednesday night
Sunak shared this news during a barnstorming and passionate speech to the annual CST dinner on Wednesday night

Jewish schools, synagogues and other community centres are to be given a £72m security package, Rishi Sunak has announced.

In a bid to tackle the “utterly sickening” rise in antisemitism seen in recent months, the Prime Minister announced the funding which will provided security guards, CCTV and alarm systems at Jewish community sites.

The Home Office has said the announcement is made of £54 million of new funding for the Community Security Trust (CST) to provide the security measures until 2028 in addition to £18 million previously allocated to the charity for the period of 2024-2025.

Sunak shared this news during a barnstorming and passionate speech to the annual CST dinner on Wednesday night — and was greeted with rapturous applause as he pledged: “We will fight this antisemitism with everything we have got”.

Speaking to the biggest crowd ever attending the annual event —more than 1,100 people including Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt and former Home Secretary Suella Braverman — the prime minister said that the October 7 Hamas attacks were “the most abhorrent acts of terrorism against Israel that any of us have ever witnessed.”

Lloyd Dorfman addressing last night’s dinner.

And condemning the “utterly shameful” antisemitism which followed the attacks, Sunak declared: “Don’t let anyone try and tell you that this is just a reaction to the response of the Israeli government. The highest weekly total of antisemitic incidents came before Israel responded. It is hatred pure and simple, an assault on the Jewish people, here, in this country, in this century”.

Giving examples of race hate against Jewish children, students and families, Sunak said: “The whole fabric of our nation is under threat”.

Praising CST volunteers as “some of the most brave volunteers in this country”, and offering “a huge and heartfelt thanks” to them, Sunak noted an increased figure of £18 million from the government, announced by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt in last year’s autumn budget. He said he would commit to a further £18 million in the next financial year.

Yvette Cooper with Gerald Ronson.

But, he said, “that’s not enough. For years, you’ve been asked to bid for funding one year at a time, as if there might not be the same threat to deal with next year. Sadly, we know CST will be needed for many years to come.”

Instead, the prime minister said, he was going to change the way CST was funded. “I’m committing a minimum of £18 million for the next four years”, which would enable the charity to plan properly.

He spoke of new funding to protect MPs, and paid particular tribute to Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer, who was present, saying “how sorry we are that you have had to stand down and how grateful we are for your service”. As prime minister, he said, he was “not prepared to stand by and watch MPs forced out of public service because of fears for their safety”.

In discussions earlier in Downing Street, he said he and senior police officers had agreed on the outlines of a new “defending democracy protocol”, funded by a new £30 million package and in which every MP would have a named police contact.

Sunak said his government would not be cowed by violent extremists. On the controversial issue of marches, he said: “Yes, you can march and protest with passion, you can demand the protection of civilian lives. But no, you cannot call for jihad. There is no context in which it is acceptable to beam antisemitic tropes onto Big Ben. You can criticise the actions of this government, the Israeli government or any government, but you cannot use that to call for the eradication of a state, or any kind of hatred or antisemitism.”

Speaking pointedly about the parlous situations faced by Jewish students on campus, in which there were “threats and assaults simply for being Jewish”, Sunak revealed that he was calling a meeting of vice-chancellors of leading universities to Downing Street, in which they would be reminded of the necessary personal responsibility to protect Jewish students.

And he made it clear that calling for a ceasefire in Gaza without bringing the hostages home was effectively “a victory for Hamas, and this government will not stand for it”.

Though he was scheduled to leave the event within moments of concluding his address, the prime minister — to the slight despair of his aides — happily talked to dinner guests and even posed for selfies for a good 20 minutes after his keynote speech.

The guests were welcomed by the head teacher of JCoss School, Dr Melanie Lee, who said that the words “community, security and trust” had never been so important for British Jews. CST’s work had enabled her school to remain open every day since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, and she reminded the audience that it was a vital necessity of the community’s structure today.

That was echoed by a former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Stevens, who paid tribute both to the newly knighted Sir Gerald Ronson and to the CST, which he founded. Today’s Met Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, made the loyal toast while CST trustee Yoyo Allalouf led the toast to Israel’s president. Sir Gerald made the appeal after CST chief executive Mark Gardner highlighted some of the continuing issues recorded by the charity.

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