Boris Johnson: 'Jewish communities have never been ones to take adversity lying down.'

Mr Johnson says blowing of Shofar will end year 'many would like to forget'


Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the blowing of the Shofar over the High Holy Days will signal “not just the arrival of a new year, but also the end of one that many would like to forget”.

In his Rosh Hashanah message to the community, the PM reflected on the fact that coronavirus “for reasons we still don’t fully understand, has hit Britain’s Jews particularly hard”.

But making reference to the words of Avinu Malkeinu prayer, he called for the community to adhere to the government’s latest measures to restrict the spread of coronavirus.

Mr Johnson said: “And if you stick with it – meet in groups of no more than six, wash your hands, wear face coverings and keep your distance from anyone you do not live with – if you can do all that together we can, as Avinu Malkeinu puts it with prescient topicality, ‘remove the plague’ from all our people.”

The PM accepted that the global pandemic had caused the closure of synagogues which he noted had previously remained open for centuries, “welcoming worshippers on Shabbat even as Nazi bombs rained from the sky”.

He added: “It’s been a year of cancelled and postponed bar- and batmitzvah celebrations.

“Of usually warm and welcoming Passover Seders being barred to outside guests.

“And I know that last week’s tightening up of restrictions on social gatherings has come as a real blow to those who hoped to mark the High Holy Days with some degree of normality.

“Being required to mark Rosh Hashanah without the close embrace of family will make this a difficult end to what has been a very difficult year.”

But Mr Johnson also praised the resilience of the community over the past six months.

He noted that “here in the UK and around the world, Jewish communities have never been ones to take adversity lying down.

“So I was not in the least surprised to see you responding to the challenges of Coronavirus with typical vim, vigour and ingenuity.

“Reaching out to support one another. Offering spiritual, practical and financial help to friends and neighbours of all faiths and none.

“And finding new ways to come together as a community for education, prayer and celebration.”

Wishing Shona Tova to the entire community he added:” And when it comes to totting up good deeds from the year gone by, I can’t think of anything greater than doing what was needed, however tough, to save the lives of your fellow citizens.”

Meanwhile, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick recalled his previous message to the community at Pesach in which he wrote of a Seder night like none before.

Now in his Rosh Hashanah message he said: “We hoped we wouldn’t need to repeat that for the High Holy Days, but the virus is still with us and we must protect our loved ones once again - this time by respecting the rule of six and dipping our apples in honey remotely.

“Whilst a limited number will be able to go to synagogue, thanks to the enormous efforts of the community to reopen them safely, many others will be listening to the call of the Shofar through the wonders of technology.”

Mr Jenrick also made reference to this week’s deals between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“We think of our friends and family in Israel, themselves in another lockdown, but we also see in the accords signed in Washington this week, a fitting sign of peace and reconciliation to give us hope for the future,” he said.

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