London council U-turns on decision to not put up annual Chanukah menorah installation

The decision follows a meeting on Friday morning between Havering Council and community leaders


LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 22: The first candle on the Menorah is lit during the Chanukah in the Square event a at Trafalgar Square on December 22, 2019 in London, England. The London Mayor hosted the annual event in Trafalgar Square to mark the beginning of Hanukkah, which is also known as Chanukah or the Festival of Lights. The Jewish festival is observed over a period of eight days and commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BC. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

A London council has U-turned on a decision not to put up its annual menorah installation to mark Chanukah.

The London Borough of Havering, which is independently run, announced earlier this week would not be putting up the display “in light of escalating tensions from the conflict in the Middle East”.

But after outrage from Jewish community leaders, the council agreed to install the nine-branched lit candelabrum outside Havering Town Hall in Romford.

The London Jewish Forum (LJF), Essex Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Aryeh Sufrin, executive director of Chabad North East London and Essex and Romford Rabbi Lee Sunderland held a meeting with Havering Council leaders on Friday where an agreement was reached.

Councillor Ray Morgan, council leader said: “We had a very constructive meeting to discuss our concerns and I fully appreciate why this is such an important installation for the Jewish community.

“We look forward to completion of the permanent installation and our first Chanukah installation.

“We also look forward to continuing to work closely with our Jewish community and other faiths on our commitment to a cohesive and inclusive borough.”

Daniella Myers, director of the LJF, who wrote to Councillor Morgan over the concerns, said: “The London Jewish Forum thanks the council for meeting with us at short notice and for their careful consideration of our views.

“The London Jewish Forum was able to provide the wider picture, which had important implications beyond Havering.

“Our Community has been listened to and as a result we are very pleased to say the planned installation of the Havering menorah will be going ahead.”

Rabbi Sufrin said: “Following a positive meeting at Havering Council, we are absolutely delighted that Council leader Ray Morgan carefully listened to us and has come to the conclusion that we will all continue with our original plans for Havering Town Hall to host our menorah for the duration of Chanukah.”

In their original statement on the decision, the council hit back and accused Jewish groups and campaigners of “politicising this and making accusations of antisemitism”. They said on Thursday: “This is categorically untrue and such statements are likely to incite further unrest in our communities.”

The statement added: “We appreciate this is a hugely sensitive issue but in light of escalating tensions from the conflict in the Middle East, installing the candelabra now will not be without risk to the council, our partners, staff and local residents.

“We would also be concerned with any possible vandalism or other action against the installation.”

They continued: “However, due to an increase in the number of hate crimes in Havering, both towards the Jewish and Muslim community, and after consulting with the leader of the council, we believe it would be unwise to move forward with the installation which could risk further inflaming tensions within our communities.”

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