I don’t think you have to be Jewish to appreciate the positive messages of Chanukah

'This years’ celebrations will undoubtedly look and feel a little different', writes Bury South MP Christian Wakeford

December 10, 2020 10:29

Today we mark the start of a very unusual Chanukah – but one that should be celebrated with reverence, nonetheless.

Whilst planning for what coronavirus restrictions will remain in place for the Christmas holidays has been a great cause of debate for many months now, it’s important that we remember and acknowledge that this December isn’t just about Christmas. 

Rules are now set to ease over a five-day festive period, but these changes come into play on 23rd of this month – meaning many Jewish families across the UK will be thinking about what tiered restrictions mean for them and how it will impact their traditional Chanukah celebrations. 

People, families and whole communities have really come together over the past year and have made incredible sacrifices in response to the Covid-19 pandemic – and though we welcome the news of a vaccine with open arms (literally) there is still a little way to go before we can celebrate as we used to.

Chanukah I know is an incredibly important date in the Jewish calendar, and asking people to adhere to strict social distancing rules especially at a time usually celebrated amongst family and loved ones will be very difficult.

But I also know that our Jewish communities are extremely resilient and have adapted celebrations for other important festivals such as Rosh Hashana and Pesach to comply with coronavirus restrictions, and often with great creativity. Some people have streamed online events, hosted video calls or enjoyed time together in smaller single household groups. 

In my own constituency of Bury South many of my Jewish constituents have kept in touch with family and loved ones via zoom and online meetings whilst doing the right thing, albeit difficult, and maintaining social distancing and following Covid guidance.

This kind of hopeful community spirit acts as a great example to the whole country, and I don’t think you necessarily have to be Jewish to appreciate these positive messages of Chanukah. In the simplest of metaphors, a celebration of light at a time of national darkness is something we can all take some solace in.

And as Chanukah commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, it is a good time to reflect upon the past year and to reaffirm our dedication to supporting Jewish people in Britain and across the world.

Around this time last year, we were also celebrating a resounding election win, fought on the back of a promise to level up the country and to deliver on our Brexit promises – but alongside tackling the big national issues of the day, we also sought to tackle the scourge of antisemitism head on, which has marred parts of our society for too long.

As a party we have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and a continued our commitment to tackle terrorist organisations that promote an antisemitic rhetoric.

I myself was elected as co-chair for the APPG on British Jews, and since taking on the role have pushed for Universities to adopt IHRA and spoken out on keys issues of concern to the community like the Online Harms Bill, support for Israel and the impact on the Jewish community of Covid. 

Being part of this discussion has highlighted to me the massive contributions that British Jews make to the fabric of our society, and this is something which we should protect and value. And as we welcome the beginning of Chanukah, I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm my dedication to support our Jewish communities through my Parliamentary work and beyond. 

This years’ Chanukah celebrations will undoubtedly look and feel a little different, but I do sincerely hope that families are able to come together in other ways to keep some traditions alive, and that windows will be aglow with menorah not only in Bury South, but across the whole of the UK.

December 10, 2020 10:29

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