Interfaith & Social Action
The Board of Deputies is recognised as the Jewish community leader on initiatives that promote good relations between the UK’s different faith and ethnic communities. We develop strong partnerships and dialogue on a range of issues of mutual interest, including education, equality and fighting extremism.
Through our engagement with organisations such as the Inter Faith Network, Council of Christians and Jews and Three Faiths Forum, we are strengthening and deepening relationships with Bahá’í, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, Sikh, Zoroastrian and other communities.
We have built long-standing relationships and have regular contact with all major Christian denominations in Britain, including the Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, Quakers in Britain the Baptist Union and others. We recognise that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be a touchstone of the relationship between Jews and Christians in Britain, and therefore we support two initiatives which focus on this.
The “Invest in Peace” initiative, the first of its kind at a national level, invites Christian and Jewish communities in Britain to come together in support of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding projects. Supported by the Board of Deputies and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, the first set of events in May 2017 allowed hundreds of people to hear from two bereaved parents – one Israeli and one Palestinian – about their hopes for peace and reconciliation. Further events are planned in 2017 and beyond.
The Board of Deputies also supports the Shalom Declaration, a unique initiative building bridges between Jews and Christians. Launched in Leeds, England in March 2015, the Shalom Declaration has been signed by over 180 Churches, ministries and prayer groups across the UK. It is a Declaration by Christians who wish to make a public stand with their Jewish brothers and sisters in appreciation of Israel.
We travel the country speaking to Muslim communities – so far including Glasgow, Manchester, London, Bradford, Leicester, Leeds and Birmingham. We don’t just exchange pleasantries over tea and biscuits, we go straight for the toughest topics: the Middle East, hate crime, violent extremism and religious values. And Nisa Nashim, the Muslim-Jewish women’s network incubated by the Board of Deputies, is an inspiring example of what can be achieved by Jewish and Muslim women working together.
In addition, we have a long track record of standing with Muslim communities in the fight against anti-Muslim hatred, working together with Muslim partners such as Tell MAMA. Since May 2017 alone, we have:
- Condemned former EDL leader Tommy Robinson, when we stated “Tommy Robinson’s record of anti-Muslim provocation means that he could never be a partner of a respectable or mainstream Jewish organisation”;
- Showed solidarity with Muslims following the terrorist attack in Finsbury Park, when Marie van der Zyl told Sky News Arabia “We know Muslims would stand with us if synagogue attacked, we’re here to do the same”;
- Dedicated the first of our “10 commitments” in the Jewish Manifesto to opposing “extremism and hate crime, including antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of hate.”
- Defended the Golders Green Islamic Centre from an anti-Muslim campaign against it.
- Complained to the Independent Press Standards Organisation over an article in The Sun, which called for a solution to “The Muslim Problem”.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities
Jews, Gypsies, Roma and Travellers have a great deal in common. They share a history of persecution that includes the Holocaust (known in the Romani community as the Porajmos). But these shared concerns are also contemporary – all communities are affected by rising hate crime. The Board of Deputies wants to raise awareness of the racism and other challenges faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities in Britain, while also taking steps to bring our communities closer together.
In March 2017 the Board of Deputies and Jewish human rights charity René Cassin held a roundtable between Jewish and GRT communal organisations. The roundtable, timed to mark International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March, was a landmark meeting, including rabbis, activists and lay leaders.
As in previous years, in 2017 the Board of Deputies addressed the memorial ceremony in Hyde Park to remember Roma and Sinti victims of the Nazis. Interfaith and Social Action Officer, Anthony Silkoff, told the gathering: “The open hostility and discrimination faced by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people in 2017 is obscene, and must be rooted out in Britain and across Europe.”
The Board of Deputies Social Action group promotes social action across the Board, and holds regular events and activities to raise awareness of issues such as homeless, climate change, gender equality and domestic abuse.
The Board of Deputies also convenes the Jewish Social Action Forum (JSAF), the focal point of the Jewish community’s vibrant social action and social justice sector, committed to making the world a better place for everyone. Whether through international development and relief charities like World Jewish Relief, Tzedek, and World ORT; or through human rights charities like René Cassin and the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE); or through volunteering charities like the Jewish Volunteering Network and Mitzvah Day, the UK Jewish community strives to stand at the forefront of the global movement for change.