Sadiq Khan pledges 'zero tolerance to antisemitism' as he attends Yom HaShoah event


New Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has told the JC that he wants to be a Mayor for all its citizens, pledging "zero tolerance towards antisemitism".

Mr Khan's first public engagement since his election was this afternoon's national Yom HaShoah ceremony, where the announcement of his presence prompted thunderous applause among the 3,000-plus crowd at the Barnet Copthall Stadium in north London.

Speaking afterwards, he said he had felt "privileged" to be there, adding: "I want to be Mayor for all Londoners and there are Londoners who are Holocaust survivors. They want a Mayor who understands the horrors of the Holocaust. And it's important for me as the Mayor to reflect on that, and to be educated on it as well."

And in the light of the suspension of more than a dozen Labour MPs, councillors and activists over allegations of antisemitism, he stressed "the need to understand, not just as the Labour Party but as a civilised society, that racism is racism, and there can't be any hierarchy when it comes to racism. It's really important that message is sent loud and clear from City Hall."

Having met survivors and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, he reflected: "My fear is that each year there are fewer and fewer survivors and you can't beat first-person testimony. So I'm very pleased that it's been recorded so that successive generations can understand the horrors of the Holocaust."

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev and 200 survivors, veterans and refugees were also at the ceremony. In an emotional address, Rabbi Mirvis called for community members to be "a new generation of heroes", taking up the educational baton from survivors.

"Throughout our schools, our cheders, our synagogues, there are shadows," he said. "There were more than one million children among the dead who never lived to raise families. We are the ones who must come forward and spread the message so the Shoah may never be forgotten.

"We owe it to the six million, to our brave survivors and to the children who perished in the Shoah - the shadows who will never leave us."

Echoing the sentiments, Mr Regev said that "preserving the memory of the Holocaust is more important today than ever before.

"Jews are still being vilified and targeted just for being Jews, in the Middle East and in the heart of the West.

"Israel is being targeted with the same slurs that have been thrown at Jews for time immemorial.

"Friends, this crazy obsession with the Jewish people and their state has a name - it's called antisemitism. But we are no longer a stateless people searching for a safe haven, no longer powerless. We are sovereign."

Survivor Ben Helfgott told the crowd that the day "evoked painful memories" for him. But the Holocaust must continue to be spoken about, because "evil is ever-present. We must learn how love and friendship and tolerance can counterbalance evil and keep it at bay.

"Our generation of survivors cannot last forever. But the lessons will, because you will remember and keep teaching them."

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