Rabbis urges planning authorities to approve UK Holocaust memorial plans

They intervene after controversy over the memorial's location


Rabbis have urged planning authorities to approve the proposed Holocaust memorial and learning centre next to the Houses of Parliament, after a series of public battles over its location and content.

The nine rabbis, who come from a cross-section of the community and whose shuls have around 5,500 congregants, wrote to Westminster Borough Council to say they "firmly believe no other site in the UK has the power and the significance of a site next to Parliament".

The plans have faced opposition from those who argue it is in the wrong location and the Imperial War Museum, which feared it clashed with its new galleries about the Shoah.

The dispute with the IWM has been resolved, with the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation saying it was "firmly committed" to working with the IWM, which is opening its new galleries in 2021.

But Wiener Library architect Barbara Weiss wrote in the JC in December that the memorial should not be placed in Victoria Park Gardens, saying the memorial and its underground learning centre would "fundamentally change the unique character of this small park".

She added it would "split the park into two, obliterate unique views of Parliament, destroy the calm beauty of the existing green swathe, and concrete over a large area of the grass".

But the authors of the rabbis' letter, who include Dayan Ivan Binstock from St John’s Wood Synagogue and Rabbi Joseph Dweck, the senior rabbi of the Sephardi Community of the UK, said: "At a time when we are sadly faced not just with growing antisemitism but also a rising tide of prejudice against minorities and the institutions of free speech and democracy, the proposed Memorial in Victoria Tower Gardens is more important than ever."

"Taken together with the existing memorials in the Gardens to Emmeline Pankhurst, The Burghers of Calais and Buxton, it will remind Parliamentarians and the public that the struggle for fairness, justice and equality are vital and never-ending," they wrote.

"Given the importance of the project, nationally and internationally, and the quality of the design of the Memorial and wider landscape works to the Garden and the Riverside, we hope that your Council will support this project.

"It matters a great deal to the Jewish community living in Westminster and we sincerely believe that the Memorial and Learning Centre will act as a beacon of light for the entire nation."

The rabbis said the memorial would "bear important messages... Not just of the need to protect against prejudice and racism and the costs of persecution, war and genocide, but also the stories of hope, nobility and survival".

The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government submitted the planning application for the memorial and learning centre, which people can comment on ahead of Westminster Borough Council voting it. 

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