Marie van der Zyl – President, Board of Deputies
September 2021 / Tishrei 5782
This past year has been a difficult one for the Jewish community. Like the rest of the country, we have had to cope with disruption, and for many, the heartbreak of the ongoing pandemic. On top of this we have also had to deal with a frightening upsurge in anti-Jewish racism.
When there is conflict in the Middle East there are usually consequences for Jews in the UK but this year what we experienced was beyond anything I can remember. Antisemitic incidents rose by 500 per cent and none of us will forget the convoy of cars driving through our streets with shouted threats and misogynistic abuse plus other well documented attacks.
This is intolerable and the Board of Deputies acted quickly to ensure that the Government was aware and prepared to take whatever measures were needed. The Jewish community held meetings with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel. I called for the proscription of Hamas in its entirety. We also called for the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism by social media companies and their new regulator Ofcom. I am glad to report that the Government has now written to social media companies to request them to adopt the IHRA definition.
While the epidemic has ebbed and flowed we have worked with the Government to share important messages in order to keep everybody safe and we have advised on safe numbers for prayer and religious occasions. We have also had the sad but necessary duty of collating numbers of deaths. Our community has enthusiastically embraced the vaccine which is one of the main reasons why numbers of deaths has been mercifully few in the past few months.
Those who know the Board of Deputies will understand we work on a diverse set of issues. It is impossible to list everything in a short message. However, I will give a mention to the Commission on Racial Inclusivity which reported this year and which made 119 recommendations, with profound implications for UK Jews. I would also like to thank all the new organisations which have joined this year, making us even more representative of the community. We will continue to work just as hard on your behalf in the coming year.
Marie van der Zyl
**Deborah Cohen, Peter Strauss and Dilys Tausz are Belsize Square’s representatives to the Board of Deputies. If you would like to discuss any matters relating to the Board of Deputies with them, please contact the office for their contact details**