Commonwealth group sets out global mission


The Commonwealth Jewish Council has vowed to protect Jewish communities around the world threatened with removal of religious rights.

The CJC, which has been relaunched under its chair, the Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn, said it hoped to strengthen ties with over 40 Jewish communities across the Commonwealth.

Director Clive Lawton said that part of its remit would be to support Jews who faced curbs of religious freedoms.

He said: "If smaller Jewish communities find themselves threatened by their governments or by members in society, say they try to ban shechita for example, the Commonwealth Jewish community can get behind them.

"There is strength in numbers and while we don't have any official say, having our support and guidance will make a difference in these situations."

The CJC, based in London, was founded in 1982, but had fallen into inactivity in recent years. As part of its relaunch it has divided the globe into four areas - Europe, Western Hemisphere, Australasia and Africa - and tasked representatives from the UK, Canada, Australia and South Africa to develop ties in each area.

The new structure "will enable the smallest Jewish communities from around the world to tap into the activities of larger communities and pick up on ways to engage in Jewish life as part of world Jewry", Mr Lawton said.

He pointed out how Jews in remote communities could be helped. "One example is in Jamaica, where their education system was using Jews who had converted to Christianity to teach Judaism in schools." The authorities were unaware they had a Jewish community on the island who could do the job. "We can help build the right links within these communities so these things don't happen," Mr Lawton said.

"All too often we tend to think of world Jewry though the prism of America or the UK but there is a huge world out there. We want to give a voice to them but also enable wider Jewish communities to learn from them."

● The CJC hosted a reception for the outgoing Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ranjan Mathai. Lord Mendelsohn described India as "one of the only countries in the world with a centuries-old tradition of combatting antisemitism and embracing its Jewish community".

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