Keir Starmer meets Jewish leaders to discuss importance of Pesach

The Labour leader wore a kippah during his visit to Alyth Synagogue


Sir Keir at Alyth Synagogue in Golders Green

Sir Keir Starmer has acknowledged that Pesach this year will “feel different” for many families after a “painful and challenging” six-and-a-half months since the October 7 terror attacks on Israel.

The Labour leader, whose wife, Victoria, and children are Jewish, appeared in a video released ahead of Pesach that shows him visiting Alyth Synagogue in Golders Green, meeting community leaders and discussing what the festival means to them.

Rabbi Golan Ben-Chorim welcomed Sir Keir, who was wearing a kippah, for a conversation about the festival.

Writing for the JC ahead of the holiday the Leader of the Opposition said this Pesach would be marked “under a dark cloud” this year.

He said: “I know how painful and challenging these past few months have been for the Jewish community. Six months since the appalling October 7 attacks, the ongoing and escalating conflict in the Middle East makes this year’s Passover feel very different to the last.
“In particular, for anyone with family or friends in the region, this is an uncertain and worrying time.”

Sarah Sackman, Labour’s Finchley and Golders Green parliamentary candidate, said during the discussion that this year’s telling of the Seder story will be “particularly powerful because I don’t think there will be a single Jewish family in this country that will be holding its Seder and telling the story without the backdrop of what is happening in the Middle East in mind.

“How we answer the question of ‘what is our responsibility’ is going to be something that everyone of every generation is going to be reflecting hard on.”

Student rabbi Nicola Feuchtwang said the event was also about “the people who are not around the table,” who have “shaped our lives and our thoughts”.

Reflecting on the festival, and world events, Rabbi Elliott Karstadt said Pesach offers the opportunity to acknowledge “the suffering of others” and to have “empathy, that ability to see not just the suffering of your own people but that of others as well.”

Lynette Sunderland, head of community care at Alyth, said that this year, while it would be “nice to be together” with family and friends on Pesach,”it’s also going to be poignant,” while Sarah Lansford, the synagogue’s fundraising co-ordinator, said it would involve a “balance” between making it “lovely” for the people present and the “sadness” for those who are not.

Sir Keir revealed that one of the reasons it was important for his wife to mark Passover is because she “wants our children to know and understand” the history of the Jewish people.

He said gathering around the Seder table provides an opportunity for “different generations to bond over profound traditions and teachings”.

Rabbi Golan, Alyth’s senior rabbi, reminded everyone that Jews everywhere around the world are connected through the stories that we tell.

Sir Keir posted to X on Monday morning: “As families gather around the Seder table this evening, I know that for many this year it will feel different.

“Sending my warmest wishes to the Jewish community for Passover. I hope you draw strength from this very special festival. Chag sameach.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak drew attention to the plight of the hostages in his Pesach message to the community and recognised that “for too many families there will be empty seats” at the Seder table this year as a result of the October 7 Hamas terror attack.

He said Pesach is a “moment for families and communities to give thanks, to gather around the Seder table and to break matzah together.
“But for too many families, there will be empty seats. My thoughts are with those who lost loved ones on October 7 and those who continue to be held hostage.”

In an address posted to social media on Monday, Sunak said his government will “continue to stand with Israel against the kind of reckless attack that we saw earlier this month from Iran.”

The promise of Pesach, he said, is that “better times lie ahead. So, to the Jewish community in the UK and around the world, whether your loved ones are near or far, I hope that this holiday brings some comfort, and a reminder of that promise of a better tomorrow.”

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