PRESIDENT MARIE VAN DER ZYL
For the past two years this message has focused on a pandemic which took our loved ones from us, destroyed incomes and tore families apart. Mercifully, the worst appears to have passed but, despite this, life for many of us has not been easy this year. The cost of living has spiralled out of control, with energy prices and household bills at a higher level than any of us can remember. Like the Covid epidemic which preceded it, there is not a huge amount any of us can do to change the situation as individuals. However, as a community, what we saw during Covid was a wonderful willingness to help our friends and neighbours, the elderly and the less able among us. This spirit is just what we need now when so many people are experiencing so much hardship. I hope and trust that we are all doing everything we can to help those in need.
Of course, we don’t need to be reminded that there are millions suffering in Ukraine, as Russia continues its senseless aggression there. We continue to both be inspired by the resolve of the Ukrainian people, and to pray for peace. I urge all those who are able to donate towards the charities collecting on behalf of the victims of this terrible conflict.
On a happier note, this summer we celebrate the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords which brought together Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco in a landmark agreement which has sparked new hope in the Middle East and the prospect of a peaceful future to the region. Sadly, not all parties have bought into the spirit of reconciliation which is why we campaigned hard for the UK Government to ban Hamas in its entirety and were delighted with the legislation which means that the organisation is no longer able to lobby for support in this country.
Over the past 12 months, we have advocated for the small but vibrant Belfast community which found itself struggling for its very existence after the Northern Ireland Protocol cut off its supply of kosher food.
When local, regional and Devolved Assembly Elections took place, we ensured that every candidate had access to a copy of our Jewish Manifestos, which outlined all of the key areas of interest and concern for Jewish communities across the country. And online, thanks to Board of Deputies campaigning, the Government wrote to social media companies asking for the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism so that racists will no longer be able to harass Jewish users with impunity.
Recent weather events have highlighted the importance of action against climate change. We have been working with our partner organisation EcoSynagogue to make a difference within our community and were out in force at the COP26 summit last November.
We are also working to facilitate the implementation of the ground-breaking Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community, which considered 17 areas of Jewish communal life and made 119 recommendations. We provide official inspection of religious education in Jewish schools through the Pikuach organisation and our team monitors and protects our religious freedoms.
The Board of Deputies is here to help and support Jews across the UK, whatever their interests and concerns.
I wish everyone a Shana Tovah and a happy year ahead.
Marie van der Zyl
President, Board of Deputies of British Jews