Thousands took to the streets of Manchester on Sunday to stand up against “the scourge of antisemitism” in the largest gathering of Jews in the city in recent history.
Around 6,500 people, some having travelled from London, Glasgow, North Wales and Liverpool, walked from Manchester Cathedral to Castlefield Bowl, carrying Union Jacks, Israeli flags and signs such as “Zero tolerance for Jew hatred”.
Lisa Nandy, Shadow Minister for International Development, told the crowd: “Every generation has to be vigilant against the scourge of antisemitism. Let no one say it falls to anyone else to stand up against hate; it falls to us.”
Speaking “with feeling, as someone who grew up as a mixed race child”, Nandy called racism “a poison [which] spreads and contaminates”, adding: “Whether in a community or our own political party, [it] must always be challenged”.
Pledging her allegiance with the Jewish community, the MP for Wigan declared: “To those who attack our Jewish friends, it is an attack on us all. We will stand against hate and we will win.”
Speaking above a handful of anti-Israel protesters, she said, “You can shout. But we will never be silenced.”
Echoing Nandy’s comments, Nicola Richards, who chairs the All-Party Group Against Antisemitism, said: “My generation largely remain silent, which is precisely why I won’t.”
As the country prepares to mark Holocaust Memorial Day, she highlighted the need to “remember the important role of bystanders.
“When that time in history gets further away, we have to learn the lessons. It is […] our duty to call out antisemitism when we see it.”
Praising the Jewish community for “pulling together like no other”, Richards said: “We will mourn with you, we will grieve with you and we will stand with Israel with its right to self defence.”
Tom Tugendhat, Minister for State for Security, said that as a country “that values tolerance and freedom”, the UK government had “zero tolerance for antisemitism”.
Welcoming this week’s decision to proscribe the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir as a terrorist organisation, Tugendhat said that the UK leadership was currently working with the police “to ensure that hate crime and the glorification of terror is met with the full force of the law”.
The march was organised by the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester and Region, whose chair Mark Adlestone told supporters: “The fact that thousands of us have felt compelled to march though the city with the sole objective to call our antisemitism should send shockwaves through society.”
Adlestone recounted that in the past “Jews were hated for being poor, for being rich, for being communist, for being capitalist, for not having our own country and for having our own country.
“They hated us for being weak, and now they hate us for being strong.”
Adlestone said that in the 1930s, the slogan “Jews, go back to Palestine” was graffitied on walls “and now it says: ‘Jews get out of Palestine’”.
He cautioned that while “antisemitism starts with the Jews, it never ends with the Jews. [It should be] an early warning sign of a threat to freedom and humanity.”
Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis said that since October 7, “the response on the streets has been an explosion of hatred” and called on the assembled crowd “to educate everybody of the dangers of antisemitism, to call it out”.
He added: “The loss of every innocent human life is a tragedy and we pray for peace for all”, before leading the marchers in a prayer to bring home the hostages.
Ike Alterman, 94, who survived four concentration camps, including Auschwitz, said: “I never thought that 79 years after the Nazis, we would witness the wave of Jew-hatred that has swept the UK and made many Jews feel incredibly unsafe.
“My family was murdered by the Nazis. We must learn from history.”
Alterman, who was awarded a BEM for his services to Holocaust education and remembrance, said: “In my time, we couldn’t stand up to hatred, but today we can. We will not be intimidated. We will stand together as proud Jews and say: ‘Never again! Am Yisrael Chai!’
Board of Deputies president Marie van der Zyl, noted that, according to CST figures, antisemitic incidents had increased by 500 per cent since October 7.
She said: “We deserve to feel safe when we pray, when we go to school, when our children go to university [and] when we walk down the street.”
Paying tribute to the UK government for its support of UK Jewry and calling for the release of over 130 hostages still held in Gaza, van der Zyl said that since October 7, “the strength of the British Jewish community has been shown”.
Lord Mann, government independent adviser on antisemitism, who chaired the event, said afterwards: “Our country is a diverse, tolerant and inclusive one, and it should continue to be a safe place for British Jews. We should all be standing up to antisemitism wherever we see it.”
Speaking to the JC, Adlestone said: “This march [was] the antidote to the toxicity and hatred we are consumed by on social media.”
“What is so pleasing is the amazing support the Jewish community has had from so many MPs, leaders of the local authorities and councillors from the non-Jewish world. It gives us a great sense of confidence and optimism.”