Westminster Hall, built in 1097, stages its first ever Chanukah celebration

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Westminster Hall, built in 1097, stages its first ever Chanukah celebration

Lord John Mann and the APPG on Antisemitism organises a moving first ever Chanukah event in the oldest building on the parliamentary estate, attended by rabbis and political leaders

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Westminster Hall – the oldest building on the Parliamentary estate having been built in the year 1097 – has staged its first ever Chanukah celebration

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, along with Progressive Judaism’s Rabbi Charley Baginsky and Rabbi Josh Levy were joined by political leaders from across all parties, along with Jewish staff working in Westminster for the moving ceremony, which had been organised by Lord John Mann and the parliamentary group on antisemitism.

In his speech, Rabbi Mirvis thanked parliamentarians for their “leadership” at a time of rising antisemitism, before adding:”A picture is worth a thousand words.

“What a picture we have here. Unprecedented in Westminster Hall, the Chanukah Menorah just about to be kindled in the presence of the Home Secretary, the Leader of the Opposition, leaders of other parties, Mister Speaker, Lord Speaker, Rabbi Baginsky… it’s just amazing, you don’t need me to say anything.What a statement this is.”

Mirvis added:”We are proud to be British Jews” and noted the “fight against antisemitism” was being led by political leaders in Westminster.

Wednesday’s event saw James Cleverly, Keir Starmer and the Lib Dem leader Ed Davey along with other parliamentarians  take turns to light a candle on the menorah, with the flickering lights adding to the glorious spectacle in the ancient hall, built under the reign of William II,  the son of William the Conqueror.

The home secretary said he had always found the menorah lighting ceremony “moving” and praised the work of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antisemitism’s work.

James Cleverly speaks in Westminster Hall

Cleverly added:”The fight against antisemitism can be viewed in another way, hopefully a positive way. The fight against antisemitism is a fight for love.”

Labour leader Starmer also spoke, noting it was an “incredible privilege” to gather in Westminster Hall during the first Menorah lighting in its history.

Starmer added the Chanukah story was an inspiring one, particularly at a time when the Jewish people need to “hear that they are not alone.”

Lib Dem leader Davey also stressed his own party’s desire to show solidarity with the Jewish community, and also noted how “inspiring” he had found a visit last week to JFS school where he spoke with students about the current situation in Israel and Gaza.

Keir Starmer in Westminster Hall

Welcoming attendees to “this small Chanukah celebration” Lord Mann added:”In these times of darkness, this Festival of Light brings with it encouragement.”

He said he thought it therefore appropriate to invite Jewish parliamentary staff, along with Union of Jewish Students representatives to the event.

Also amongst those to attend were MPs including Nicola Phillips, Christian Wakeford, Andrew Percy, Catherine McKinnell, Lord Eric Pickles, Speaker Linsday Hoyle, Claudia Mendoza and Mark Levy of the Jewish Leadership Council, Michael Weiger of the Board of Deputies and Andrew Gilbert and Adrian Cohen from the London Jewish Forum, Danny Stone from the Antisemitism Policy Trust.

The Israeli ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely also attended along with leaders from the Welsh and Northern Irish political parties.

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