Tony Blair praised “what the Jewish community and faith represents in the world today” when addressing the 640 guests at Sunday’s opening of Mill Hill Synagogue’s £3.2 million community centre.
The former Prime Minister said the community centre exemplified British Jewry’s underpinning values of family, community and education, as did organisations such as Jewish Care, Norwood, Hillel and Drugsline. Terming himself “a friend of Israel”, he said it was “a genuine democracy… something worth defending”.
To be used for children’s services, a cheder and a variety of other youth and adult activities, the centre was built on the site of the Annie and Samuel Levy Hall, which had been established in honour of the parents of Labour’s former chief fundraiser, Lord Levy. It will be known as the Ner Orre [lamp of light].
“My parents gave their lives to the community and to Judaism and to have their memory blessed in this way is so special for me, [my wife] Gilda and our whole family,” Lord
The Mill Hill chair, Michael Goldstein, and rabbi, Yitzchak Schochet, thanked the Levy and Davis families for their “magnificent generosity” — and also the 300 families from the synagogue who made pledges towards the building project, which began 13 months ago.
Guests viewed an exhibition about the shul staged to mark the opening. Chief Rabbi-elect Ephraim Mirvis commented that the event showed “our Jewish community at its best. It was great to hear from Tony Blair, his reflections on our community and his regard for the state of Israel. I think we were all moved and inspired.”