Minister praises community as an integration model

By Jan Shure, April 4, 2008
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The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Hazel Blears has described the Jewish community as the template from which other immigrant communities could learn if they wished to succeed in integrating in Britain.

Addressing the Board of Deputies’ regional seminar in Manchester’s Salford Quays — which is within her constituency — Ms Blears declared: “There can be few more powerful illustrations of how to get it right than the history of British Jewry.

“Since the Resettlement, British Jews have won every Nobel Prize going. They have become chess grandmasters and Olympic gold medallists.

“They have been awarded Fields medals, Brits, Baftas, Grammies, Ivor Novellos, Oscars, Golden Globes and Victoria Crosses.”

Noting that Greater Manchester was home to England’s “second-largest Jewish population”, she said she was “immensely proud to have close links with the community”.

Board delegates from the North of England, including Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Hull, Lancaster and the Lakes, heard Ms Blears acknowledge that “in the past, Government has not been very successful at working with faith communities, making the most of their immense potential to do good”.

She continued: “I’m proud to live in a secular democracy. But being a secular democracy shouldn’t mean we are blind to faith… With many of the challenges we face as a society, from regenerating run-down neighbourhoods, to helping people in debt — even to global issues like climate change — I don’t believe Government has all the answers.

“Instead, it is in local communities that you find the real problem-solving genius, the commitment and the know-how to make a lasting difference.”

Declaring that it was “vital” that we get community cohesion right, Ms Blears told delegates that there was a “huge amount that we can learn from the experience of the UK’s Jewish communities”.

She went on: “The challenge is how do we enable new arrivals to get on and make a meaningful contribution to the places where they live?

“How do we help settled communities understand and be at ease with change? It is vital that we get this right. We have made real progress but there is no room for complacency.”

Declaring that the Jewish community had a “wealth of experience and history”, she said she was “interested to learn from the practical ways you face new challenges today”.

These included building links with other communities and faith groups, and “in particular with Muslim groups” while there remained “so much contention over issues in the Middle East”.

During the seminar delegates also developed a draft work plan for the operation of the new Yorkshire, North West and East Midlands Regional Councils.

    Last updated: 11:15am, April 3 2008