Last updated: 2004-09-08
It gives me very great pleasure to send you a Rosh Hashanah greeting in this, my first full year as President of the Board of Deputies.
Over the past year I have been extremely proud to be President of an organisation which has worked tirelessly to protect and defend the interests and concerns of the British Jewish community. Our steadfast determination to ensure that issues such as shechita and antisemitism are properly addressed by the Government enables our community to continue freely to practise our religion, as is our right.
Thankfully, the number of terrorist attacks in Israel has reduced over the past year as a result of successful counter-measures taken by the Israeli Government. However, without a partner for peace and an active peace process, Israel will not be able to live in the peace and security it longs for. The Board invests considerable resources to counter the anti-Israel propaganda and the constant stream of misinformation that is prevalent in the British media. Unfortunately, attacks on the community at home have risen substantially. The recent attacks on South Tottenham Synagogue and Aish Haâtorah remind us to remain vigilant at all times. I would never have imagined that, in Britain in 2004, I would see the destruction of our religious buildings and the desecration of sacred books. However, these attacks only serve to create a greater sense of unity and purpose within our community, and this past year has shown a greater willingness on the part of communal organizations to work together. The Board plays an integral part in this.
The threat to shechita has not disappeared, and the Board, through Shechita UK, will continue to lead the communityâs fight to remove the unwarranted slur that shechita causes very significant pain and suffering to animals. Shechita is a humane method of slaughter. It should be accepted as such.
We remain indebted to the CST, who protect the safety of our members on a daily basis and who work with the Board to ensure that the authorities take our concerns seriously. Recently, the Board was attacked for condemning the visit of a Muslim cleric whose views include killing Jews, executing homosexuals and beating women. I repeat that people whose visits are inflammatory and likely to incite racial hatred have no place in the UK. The Board plays a vital role in interfaith work, and such visits do not help community relations. We have also witnessed the BNP increase its vote in recent elections. This neo-Nazi party has never changed its spots: it remains antisemitic and deeply racist. Britain prides itself on its multiculturalism, and the BNP and other extremist groups of both the left and the right must be exposed as the frauds they are. We continue to bring these issues to the attention of Government, the police and the media.
I pray that this New Year will bring fresh hope and peace for the people of Israel, as well as a sense of security to Jewish communities worldwide. An attack on any Jewish person or Jewish site is an attack on every single one of us, wherever it might occur. The Board will do everything it can to provide for the interests and safety of all those it represents.
On behalf of my fellow Honorary Officers and the staff of the Board, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy and healthy new year.
Lâshanah tovah tikatevu.
Henry Grunwald QC