For many British Jews, what has happened since October 7th will define 2023. The hideous Hamas terror attacks, followed by the surge in antisemitism here, have deeply affected every one of us.
But we have also seen our community come together, facing down hate in this country with dignity and determination. Whether via a rally in Trafalgar Square, vigils in London and Manchester, online information events for the community, guides to those experiencing difficulties at work, or leading the calls for media organisations to describe Hamas as terrorists, the Board of Deputies has been at the heart of such efforts. In January we will continue our twice-weekly vigils in the heart of Westminster, and I am sure that politicians and members of the community will continue to join us.
Discussion hosted by Board of Deputies featuring historian Simon Sebag Montefiore and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Credit: Board of Deputies)
Despite the surge in antisemitism, our community is a strong and integral part of British life. This year we hosted a succah at the Conservative Party conference, with the Prime Minister and many other politicians coming to learn about the festival. I was delighted to both attend the Coronation and lead a delegation to petition His Majesty, as is the Board’s right as a privileged body of the Crown. It was also a pleasure to arrange an event at Bevis Marks, Britain’s oldest synagogue, featuring a discussion between renowned historian Simon Sebag Montefiore and the Archbishop of Canterbury. And it was an honour to co-host a Chanukah celebration in the heart of our nation’s Parliament.
BoD President Marie van der Zyl shows Prime Minister Rishi Sunak how to shake the lulav (Credit: Board of Deputies)
This coming year I believe the Board, and the community, will have many further opportunities to make it clear to all we are British, we are Jewish and we are proud.
Marie van der Zyl OBE is President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews