As a third-generation immigrant, I have always considered myself extremely fortunate to be a British Jew.
Growing up in a tolerant and respectful country, I have immense pride in both my Jewish and British identities. They have always sat alongside one another in perfect harmony. I feel comfortable with the British flag and loudly sing the national anthem at communal events and private celebrations. This crystalised in 2019 when I had the honour of being appointed the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester. It was a complete synergy of a mantra I hold dear, one of integration but not assimilation. The Jewish community has always maintained our own special traditions and way of life whilst simultaneously showing appreciation to our gracious hosts. Every week, we recite the prayer for the Royal Family and take pride in our immense contribution to British society.
However, since the terrorist atrocities committed against innocent Israelis on October 7, our sense of security has been shaken. With terrifying speed, Jewish people were faced with a completely unparalleled surge in antisemitic hate crime. I have heard about Jewish people feeling forced to remove mezuzahs and conceal their identity. Individuals have been targeted on the streets, within their workplaces and some ostracised by friendship groups. Jewish students have had to endure appalling abuse whilst our city centres have effectively become no-go zones to Jewish people most weekends due to the overt antisemitism contained within anti-Israel rallies.
We are a strong and vibrant community. That is why I firmly believe that our response to these challenges must be public and visible. As a result, we are going to build upon the success of the March Against Antisemitism in London and walk with pride through Manchester city centre.
At 2pm on Sunday 21 January, there will be the largest ever gathering of Jewish people and our allies in the history of Greater Manchester.
We will be walking from outside Manchester Cathedral to the Castlefield Bowl. At the conclusion, there will be speeches from communal members and politicians, designed to give strength and reassurance to our community during this challenging time.
I have often noted that the Jewish community does not regularly mobilise in this manner. It takes something unprecedented to elicit such a response, not just as a single event but now on numerous occasions across the country. Far from experiencing protest fatigue, we have been inundated with supportive messages stating that the march is necessary. We also have the firm backing of our national communal leadership. We will be joined by the Chief Rabbi and President of the Board of Deputies.
In the same way that those who organised the London march rightly demanded that people joined from around the country, we also make the same request. It is more important than ever that the togetherness which has epitomised the last three months once again takes hold. I am aware that many of our regional communities are mobilising to support this important event, and I encourage everyone who can attend to make a special effort.
What is also unique about the way we have approached the march is that we are actively encouraging those from outside our community to stand alongside their Jewish friends, neighbours and colleagues. At times over the last three months, we have felt alone. So-called anti racists have failed to call out the obvious hate and discrimination we have experienced whilst others dictate to us what constitutes antisemitism. It is more important than ever that people outside our community take a stand and show solidarity.
On 21 January, we will march on the streets we call our home to state loud and clear that we will continue to be proud British Jews.
Mark Adlestone is chair of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester & Region