Board President Jonathan Arkush welcomed more than 80 MPs and peers to the Board’s Chanukah Reception at the House of Commons yesterday, hosted by Cabinet Minister Robert Halfon.
Chanukah candles were lit by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Home Secretary Theresa May, Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson and Jonathan Arkush.
Theresa May said she was pleased to have another opportunity to celebrate the Jewish religion and Jewish culture. “Britain is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe and that is the source of much pride and it is not just the enormous contribution that you make to our society, it is much more profound than that. It is measure of the vigour of our institutions and the health of our democracy that the Jewish community feel safe to live and flourish here.”
Tom Watson told the reception: “I want to tell you today how important it is to me personally, that my party the Labour Party continues to have a warm relationship with UK’s Jewish community. I know that my Labour colleagues feel the same.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron reflected on the meaning of the festival to him. He said: “What to me Chanukah speaks of is not just that reliance on God, it is our great sense of community and of people, spending this time of year with one another, and serving one another their needs.”
Angus Robertson the Scottish National Party’s Leader in the House of Commons, flourishing the tartan kippah he reserves for such events, said: “There is no room for antisemitism and all of us in public life have a responsibility to put that on record.”
Robert Halfon, who hosted the event, said: “The fact that in one of the greatest parliaments of the world, Jewish people can get together to celebrate Chanukah, the festival of light, shows why Britain is a very special country to live in and also shows to me why Britain is right to defend the values that we are cherishing tonight, defending those values across the world.”
Among others attending the event were Speaker John Bercow, Sir Eric Pickles, the UK’s Envoy on Post Holocaust issues, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell, Shadow Mental Health Minister Luciana Berger, Shadow Foreign Minister Stephen Doughty and many more.
Photo: Jonathan Arkush, Tom Watson, Theresa May and Board Chief Executive Gillian Merron sing Maoz Tzur at the reception