Keir Starmer: This year, we celebrate Passover under a dark cloud

‘I know how painful and challenging these past few months have been’


'Antisemitism is a poison that must never be ignored or downplayed' (Photo: Getty)

April 22, 2024 12:26

I recently asked a group of young people at Alyth Synagogue in London what Pesach means to them.

What struck me was how powerfully the story within the Haggadah speaks to them. Passed down from generation to generation, each Seder night is a chance to reflect on the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery to freedom.

I want to send warm wishes to the entire Jewish community over Pesach. Families across the country – including my own - will come together this week for a Seder meal. From the dialogue of the Ma Nishtana to the search for the Afikomen, it’s a chance for different generations to bond over profound traditions and teachings.

I have fond memories of celebrating Passover with my own children.

The values of Pesach are not just on display this week, but all year round. Events like Mitzvah Day – supporting charities and community projects – show compassion and solidarity in action. I was proud to support Mitzvah Day in my own community, distributing food parcels, seeing the way it brings people together.

The Haggadah says that “in every generation each individual is bound to regard himself as if he personally had gone forth from Egypt”. I know that for many Jews across Britain this translates into a strong commitment to welcoming those fleeing conflict. I remember that shortly after the evacuation from Afghanistan, South Hampstead Synagogue in my constituency worked with other faith organisations to support evacuees.

But I recognise, too, that we mark this Passover under a dark cloud.

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. They rightly wish for a secure future for their loved ones – with the security of knowing the horrors of October 7 cannot happen again. They rightly wish for the return of all hostages still being held who are unable to celebrate Pesach with their families this year.

And we condemn the Iranian regime’s reckless decision to subject Israelis to unacceptable attacks. We continue to stand up for Israel’s security and that of our other partners in the region. We must stress restraint to prevent further regional escalation.

It is clear that the overwhelming mood across our Jewish community – and across all our communities – is a desire for peace. For an end to the fighting, for the release of the hostages and for a major inflow of aid to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Once this is achieved, we must look to how we can build a just and lasting peace out of the horrors of this war. This can only happen with a clear pathway to a two-state solution, where both Israelis and Palestinians can have security, justice, freedom and opportunity in their own lands.

Here in the UK, British Jewish life must be able to thrive, and you should never have to live in fear. This country is enriched by our Jewish community in so many ways – whether in culture, philanthropy, business or the arts.

I will ensure that a future Labour Government – if we are privileged to serve – continues to provide the Jewish community with the support and protection it needs.

So, there must be zero tolerance for antisemitism, wherever it rears its head. Antisemitism is a poison that must never be ignored or downplayed.

I want to lead a Britain in which all our communities thrive. A Britain where the values of tolerance and respect prevail over division and hate. A Britain of shared ambition – to usher in a decade of national renewal.

And it is that sense of renewal, of course, which is so central to the Passover story.

So, from my family to yours, Chag Sameach.

Sir Keir Starmer is the Leader of the Labour Party

April 22, 2024 12:26

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