Sadiq Khan: ‘It was more important than ever this year that London lights a menorah’

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Sadiq Khan: ‘It was more important than ever this year that London lights a menorah’

Mayor of London also confirmed investigation launched after TFL operated bus allegedly failed to stop for Jewish passengers in Stamford Hill

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Trafalgar Square menorah
Trafalgar Square menorah

Sadiq Khan has said it was “more important than ever this year”to erect a spectacular menorah in Trafalgar Square to show that the capital’s Jewish community is “not just tolerated, but is respected, embraced and celebrated.”

Speaking to Jewish News, the Mayor of London revealed that as a result of the mass pro-Palestinian marches that have taken place weekly in response to the Hamas terror atrocity in Israel he had heard the real concerns of “too many Jewish Londoners who feel scared to come into the centre of London”.

The mayor was joined on Monday evening by Keith Black, chair of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Marie van der Zyl, Board of Deputies (BoD) president, Rabbi Pinchas Hackenbroch from the United Synagogue and Adrian Cohen, co-chair of the London Jewish Forum (LJF) for a small fifth night of Chanukah ceremony in front of the main menorah.

Ahead of the lighting of the candles by Rabbi Pinchas JLC chair Black told those in attendance:“Our celebration tonight is not just a cultural and religious observance but a bold message against hatred and division.”

Black also stressed the importance of engaging in a public demonstration of Jewish observance in a city and country that the community has been proud to live within.

The Board’s president also spoke of a year in which antisemitism had risen sharply, but also of the need to for the community to continue to conduct itself with pride.

Khan also commented on reports that in Stamford Hill, north London, a Transport for London operated bus had refused to stop for a group of young passengers from the local Charedi community, with some claiming the driver had also been abusive.

“I heard about this and chased it up with TFL”, confirmed Khan. “If it is happening, it is straightforward discrimination and it’s not acceptable.”

Jewish News understands the London Jewish Forum took up allegations earlier this month that the 316 bus had failed to stop for a group of young male passengers from Stamford Hill’s Orthodox community.

“Bus operators have been tasked by TFL to investigate this,” the mayor confirmed. “If a bus driver has done that they’ll be disciplined.”

Khan also admitted that pro-Palestinian protests were contributing to the over-stretch in police resources in the capital, with demos every weekend using up 15, 000 police shifts, meaning a huge number of officers were being dragged away from pursuing issues such as knife crime and violence against women as a result.

He said said London faces “unique pressures as a capital city” because of the number of protests, including the now weekly Palestine demos , sporting events, cultural festivals and ceremonial events it hosts.

He also noted the “massive increase in antisemitism” that had occurred in response to Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza.

The “pro-Palestinian protests” in the capital had Khan also admitted left “many Jewish Londoners and visitors scared to come into the centre of our city on a Saturday.”

Looking upwards at both the JLC backed multi-coloured menorah, and the Christmas tree alight in Trafalgar Square he noted;”I was with the Mayor of Oslo last week as the Christmas tree was first lit.

“It was the first night of chanukah and she was pleasantly surprised that we had a menorah

“I explained we do this every year, but that this year is more important than ever before, for a variety of reasons.

“Obviously with October 7th and what Hamas did in Israel. But we have also got to remind ourselves that the Jewish community across London doesn’t just want to be tolerated, you tolerate a tooth ache.

“The community deserve to be respected, embraced and celebrated.”

Khan was scathing of the initial decision by one East London council not to go ahead with a Chanukah celebration. He said he had “spoken out” about the much criticised move by Havering Council. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

He said that as a “mayor of Islamic faith” he was “more proud than ever” to be at Trafalgar Square, adding the story of Chanukah with “the perception of Jewish people” was as “relevant today as it was thousands of years ago.”

LJF’s Adrian Cohen also said:”These are unprecedented times. Although our lives have disrupted and the antisemitism has created fear, the community will not be pushed out of public places.”

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