Jewish leaders discuss security and mental health work at annual meeting with Theresa May

Prime minister is told about pioneering mental health work and issues around security


Theresa May has been informed of the work being carried out by Jewish organisations around attempts to tackle loneliness and other mental health issues.

The Prime Minister met with the Jewish Leadership Council and other communal groups at Downing Street under the JLC's umbrella for roundtable discussions on Thursday afternoon.

While issues such as antisemitism and the £50 million Holocaust Memorial project in Westminster remained high on the agenda, JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein stressed to the PM "the wide range of projects our community is working on, illustrating how faith-based charities work hard to adapt to the challenge of delivering a ‘shared society’ agenda."

Expressing support for the government's loneliness strategy, Mr Goldstein introduced Sarah Anticoni, chair of Partnership for Jewish Schools, who outlined to the PM how the JLC has formed a mental health taskforce to address the increasing problems surrounding mental health and wellbeing issues in children and primary and secondary schools.

Mrs May was told how mental health practitioners are to be placed in five pilot schools within next academic year. 

They will focus on developing young people’s resilience, and look at education in schools to see how to deal with low level mental health issues and signpost young people, parents and staff towards external professional support where necessary.

If the programme is successful it to run in a number of other schools - with discussions already happening in Barnet about rolling it out.

But in a warning to the Prime Minister, Hannah Rose, President of the Union of Jewish Students, spoke of a "crisis" over mental health facilities for students stressing "provisions for services need an urgent review." 

Ms Rose told the PM that: "Jewish students face specific challenges in this field, and we would like to see greater training of service providers in cultural diversity."

Louise Hager, of Chai Cancer Care, outlined the work her charity did around breaking the taboo of living with cancer.

Praising the government's "steadfast commitment" to opposing all forms of antisemitism and for supporting the Holocaust Memorial project,  JLC chair Mr Goldstein allowed Gerald Ronson, chair of the Community Security Trust, give his assessment of the challenges facing his organisation and the community in the areas of security, hate crime and extremism.

Mr Ronson said we were now living in "unprecedented times" but stressed that "getting hysterical" over the situation would help no one.

He spoke of the need for the  "intellectual" as well as "physical battle" to be won against extremism and pointed to the role Facebook and Twitter played in inflaming hatred in society.

Mr Ronson also praised the government for continued security guard funding at Jewish schools and other Jewish locations.

But he stressed the number of schools drawing from the grant is increasing every year and the confirmation of funding comes late in the day, making it difficult for CST.

He asked the Prime Minister if the "grant could be brought forward or made into a multi- year commitment" which would make matters easier.

President of the Board of Deputies Marie van der Zyl also asked the government to "carefully calibrate its engagement around governments, like those of Hungary's Viktor Orban or Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamed, who trade in anti-Jewish tropes".

Mrs van der Zyl also expressed concern that  the political wing of Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and The al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade are proscribed by the EU as terror groups but not by the UK Government.

This means that after Brexit their activities will become legal in the UK.

Mrs van der Zyl also said that the government was moving in the right direction over proscribing Hezbollah she would welcome decisive action.

She also raised the issue of organ donation saying the Jewish community the commitment to donation when suitable on medical grounds.

But she stressed she wanted a guarantee that " families, or their competent religious authorities, will be consulted before organs are taken."

After the meeting, Mrs May said: "I was pleased to meet with the Jewish Leadership Council to discuss the challenges their communities face, particularly as we react to the shocking attack in Pittsburgh.

 “Today’s meeting was an opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous contribution British Jews make to this country, to praise the community for its resilience and optimism, and to reaffirm my commitment to stamping out antisemitism in this country.”

Also speaking at Thursday's meeting - which was also attended by the JLC's Director of Policy and Public Affairs Claudia Mendoza -  was Mark Morris of the Work Avenue charity.

Mr Morris, representing the Charedi community,  spoke of on-going discussions with Ofsted and the Department of Education over school issues .


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