Big Tent appeals for £80,000 for event

By Jonathan Kalmus, October 6, 2011

Northern synagogues have used Rosh Hashanah as a call to find £80,000 for the Big Tent Israel advocacy conference being organised in Manchester.

Whitefield Hebrew Congregation's Rabbi Jonathan Guttentag, who is behind the November 27 gathering, used his sermon to call for "galvanising the quarter of a million Jews who live in this country" and to "leverage that into several million non-Jews, who are surely fair-minded and can see that it is to their benefit to be supportive of Israel."

Other synagogues in Manchester and Leeds circulated leaflets and letters calling for members to support the conference, which organisers hope will be attended by over 1,000 people.

Rabbi Guttentag has clashed with the Israel advocacy organisation Bicom over the event, which will not be promoted under the We Believe banner used at the launch London conference in May.

Instead, the Big Tent has received backing from Manchester's Jewish Representative Council, which has said that Bicom constrained Manchester organisers from certain speakers and formats. But Bicom's Luke Akehurst insisted: "We Believe has never asked for any constraints on speakers; our whole ethos is about pro-Israel activity being as broad-based as possible."

‘This event, is going to cost serious money’

Rabbi Guttentag said this week: "To make a very big event with key speakers is going to cost serious money. We're trying to make a mass Israel advocacy movement in the Jewish community and to link up with other communities around the world. That's painstaking work and it's not just Westminster work. You have to rally and connect with the masses and make them believe they can make a difference."

One of America's major Jewish organisations, Young Israel, is sending staff delegations from New York and Israel to the Big Tent.

Executive vice-president Rabbi Pesach Lerner said: "We have just mailed our international quarterly magazine to over 35,000 households and families. There is a full-page announcement about the event in the magazine, and we expect that will generate interest and involvement."

Last updated: 2:09pm, October 6 2011