More than 40 councillors from across the south coast this week attended a seminar on getting to know the Jewish community.
The event in Hove was hosted jointly by the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Sussex Jewish Representative Council and the Jewish Leadership Council.
Local representatives from Bournemouth to Kent attended sessions on antisemitism, Israel, the Brighton Jewish community and serving smaller communities.
Speakers shared a number of actions that Councillors could take: From marking Holocaust Memorial Day and supporting interfaith awareness to adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism.
Board of Deputies Vice President Amanda Bowman commented: “Councillors are vital in local decision-making and a critical voice on wider issues in their own party. Ensuring that they understand the Jewish community’s concerns and interests is crucial and it was great to see so much interest and goodwill from all those that attended.”
Beryl Sharpe, President of the Sussex Jewish Representative Council said: “The seminar has been very good for the community, and has helped us build on our already extensive contacts with local representatives”
Russell Langer, Public Affairs Manager of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “It was encouraging to see so many councillors from the south coast and surrounding areas at the seminar who were genuinely interested in the community and what they could do to be supportive. We were pleased to be able to provide insight and understanding to councillors on social care, housing, security and social cohesion and the value we place on social action and education.”
The Leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Ken Rhatigan said: “The Seminar was informative but also left me questioning about how I should be reaching out to smaller and dispersed communities. It was a wonderful event to be invited to and I hope that when there are other opportunities to see another point of view inside the Jewish Community you will extend the hand of friendship again.” Councillor Rhatigan highlighted the contribution of Vera Schaufeld MBE, who spoke about her experience as a Kinderstransport refugee during the antisemitism session. He added:
“The highlight was of course Vera and her moving testimony about the Kindertransport , as she talked about leaving her family and her life after, without anger or rancour. A lesson to us all in accepting all life throws at us. I was moved to tears as she made her simple story so intense with the inclusion of what the teacher said on her return to school.”
Photo: Board of Deputies Vice President Amanda Bowman with Council Leader Ken Rhatigan of Basingstoke and Deane