Jewish Care cancels Ruth Deech meeting over her Shoah memorial campaigning

The charity was concerned the baroness could use a planned meeting with Holocaust survivors to lobby against the Westminster memorial


Jewish Care has cancelled a meeting between Baroness Ruth Deech and a group of Shoah survivors over fears she would use their views in her campaign against the Westminster Holocaust memorial.

The peer said the charity had told her she was “too political” and expressed extreme disappointment over the decision.

She had planned to visit Jewish Care on Wednesday, partly in order to “ask [survivors] what they wanted by way of a memorial”.

Deech, who has described the decision to place the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre close to Parliament as “ill-considered and damaging”, said she had been intending to ask the survivors their opinions on the planned centre.

She pointed out that Lord Eric Pickles, the UK's special envoy for post-Holocaust studies - who has been campaigning in support of the Westminster centre - visited Jewish Care in January and answered survivors' questions about the planned memorial.

Daniel Carmel-Brown, the CEO of the charity, said: “I wanted to ensure that the survivors and their views were not going to be unknowingly used in a very public debate regarding the planned development.

“As a professional social care organisation, I believe it is incumbent upon us to ensure we prepare visitors prior to meeting with them,” he added.

He said he told Deech in an email: “I think it would be appropriate for us to speak first.”

He said that Deech had “not taken up the offer to meet” adding, “however, as the whole community knows, my door is always very open, and I hope that she will respond favourably in due course.”

The peer, however, said she had "offered the CEO several times to meet in person or on line but he rejected them".

Deech said she could “not see any political positions being attributed to Jewish Care as a result of a brief social meeting”.

The peer has been an outspoken opponent of the planned Westminster Holocaust memorial.

In June, alongside Simon Schama and Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley, she signed a letter opposing the memorial and suggesting that the government should instead build a “splendid Jewish museum in central London dealing with Jewish history and the Shoah in context”.

Deech has also accused the memorial of “diluting” the meaning of the Holocaust. It will commemorate victims of other genocides, including in Rwanda and Cambodia, which the Baroness said would “demote the Shoah”.

Deech has also expressed concern over the loss of the “green enclave” of Victoria Tower Gardens, where the development is planned.

Many Jewish voices favour of building the Westminster memorial. The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that there was “something uniquely powerful about locating a memorial to the Holocaust right next to the centre of Jewish democracy”.

Marie van de Zyl, president of the Board of Deputies, said: “I am proud the [memoria] is being built, in the heart of our country, so it can be visited by millions”. She continued: “I know that long after I, and the other survivors, are gone, the UK will continue to remember the Holocaust and learn what happens when hatred reigned”.

The memorial, first proposed by David Cameron and approved in July 2021, will cost over £100 million. Construction is set to begin next year and be completed by 2025.

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