• APPG Co-Chairs meet to plan year ahead

     

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    Board of Deputies Chief Executive Gillian Merron and Parliamentary Officer Joel Salmon met with Wes Streeting MP and Oliver Dowden MP, Co-Chairs of the APPG on British Jews. Plans for the year ahead were discussed, which included Mitzvah Day and the annual Board of Deputies Chanukah Reception, which is co-hosted by the APPG. Plans were also put in place for a programme of events which will focus on Jewish schools and education as well as Jewish life in the UK.

  • New co-chairs elected at All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews

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    Conservative MP Oliver Dowden and Labour MP Wes Streeting have been elected as co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews, the organisation which aims to broaden and deepen connections between Parliament and the UK Jewish community.

    Mr Dowden, MP for Hertsmere, said: “I am delighted to have been elected as co-chair of the APPG. It is important to make a positive case for the Jewish community in this country. I look forward to working on a cross-party basis to speak up for the vibrant UK Jewish community.

    Mr Streeting, who represents Ilford North, said: “It’s a great privilege to represent a vibrant Jewish community in Ilford North and I’m really looking forward to championing our Jewish community nationally, working as the co-chair of the APPG on British Jews.”

    Former chair Dr Matthew Offord resigned as chair to take up a new role as Parliamentary Private Secretary to George Eustice in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

    Photo (left to right) APPG members Lord Alf Dubs, Matthew Offord MP, Baroness Sarah Ludford, Oliver Dowden MP,Tulip Siddiq MP, Jonathan Arkush, Wes Streeting MP and Ruth Smeeth MP

  • APPG on British Jews & BoD host annual Chanukah Reception at Parliament

    Board President Jonathan Arkush welcomed more than 80 MPs and peers to the Board’s Chanukah Reception at the House of Commons yesterday, hosted by Cabinet Minister Robert Halfon.

    Chanukah candles were lit by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, Home Secretary Theresa May, Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson and Jonathan Arkush.

    Theresa May said she was pleased to have another opportunity to celebrate the Jewish religion and Jewish culture. “Britain is home to one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe and that is the source of much pride and it is not just the enormous contribution that you make to our society, it is much more profound than that. It is measure of the vigour of our institutions and the health of our democracy that the Jewish community feel safe to live and flourish here.”

    Tom Watson told the reception: “I want to tell you today how important it is to me personally, that my party the Labour Party continues to have a warm relationship with UK’s Jewish community. I know that my Labour colleagues feel the same.”

    Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron reflected on the meaning of the festival to him. He said: “What to me Chanukah speaks of is not just that reliance on God, it is our great sense of community and of people, spending this time of year with one another, and serving one another their needs.”

    Angus Robertson the Scottish National Party’s Leader in the House of Commons, flourishing the tartan kippah he reserves for such events, said: “There is no room for antisemitism and all of us in public life have a responsibility to put that on record.”

    Robert Halfon, who hosted the event, said: “The fact that in one of the greatest parliaments of the world, Jewish people can get together to celebrate Chanukah, the festival of light, shows why Britain is a very special country to live in and also shows to me why Britain is right to  defend the values that we are cherishing tonight, defending those values across the world.”

    Among others attending the event were Speaker John Bercow, Sir Eric Pickles, the UK’s Envoy on Post Holocaust issues, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, London mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan, Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell, Shadow Mental Health Minister Luciana Berger, Shadow Foreign Minister Stephen Doughty  and many more.

  • APPG brings together politicians and Jewish school head teachers

    The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews convened a meeting between MPs and heads of Jewish schools last week in the House of Commons.

    Matthew Offord, Chair of the APPG on British Jews said: “It was extremely instructive to hear from heads of two of the Jewish community’s foremost schools and to share feedback with my APPG colleagues on what particular issues relating to Jewish faith education need to be looked at over the coming months and years.”

    The meeting, chaired by Matthew Offord, MP for Hendon, included presentations from two headteachers who briefed the MPs and observers on the various issues and concerns relating to Jewish education and faith schools. The meeting was also attended by Politics and Religious Studies Sixth formers from both schools, who were delighted to attend and watch democracy in action.

    Contributors spoke at great length of the importance of Religious Education to every school, not just schools with a religious character. This promotes tolerance and understanding of all cultures and religions in society today.

    The MPs listened to presentations from the headteachers of JFS and JCOSS. Some of the issues raised included: recognition for the effort made by the Board of Deputies – who ran a thorough campaign by galvanising all the schools to lobby local MPs –  and Matthew Offord to help safeguard Ivrit as a taught subject in Primary schools, including by helping to obtain a meeting between headteach

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    The headteachers’ presentations were followed by an interactive question and answer session which explored further the issues which had been raised. Students were then given an opportunity to enter the debate and asked pertinent and probing questions to the parliamentarians, headteachers and Senior Vice President Laura Marks who oversees the education department at the Board and the Education Minister; uncertainty over funding from September 2014 for children with special education needs; and the need for continued cultural and religious sensitivity around suitable exam content.

     

  • Jewish General Election Manifesto 2015

    Available in 2014

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    The Board of Deputies will be producing a general election manifesto for the 2015 elections. The Board will look to produce its first draft by April 2014 which will include seeking consultation from deputies and other Jewish Organisations. The manifesto should be completed by July 2014. In the lead up to the general elections the Board will look to hold hustings around the country with the regional Jewish Representative Councils in each region.

     

  • Special briefing ahead of debate on religious slaughter in the House of Lords

    The All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Jews together with Shechitah UK convened an urgent meeting for members of the House of Lords in January ahead of a tabled debate on religious slaughter in the Upper Chamber. A presentation on ‘Humane Animal Slaughter – The Jewish Approach’ was given by Deputy and campaign Director of Shechita UK, Shimon Cohen.

    The law currently allows livestock destined to become Kosher or Halal meat to be killed, without being mechanically stunned beforehand. Pre stunning an animal according to Jewish Law would render it automatically not kosher. Any change to UK law in this area would have wide reaching effects on the ability of Jewish people in the UK being able to access, distribute and consume kosher food.

    Despite the short notice the briefing attracted a good attendance. All Peers present were very grateful to be equipped with the thorough briefing material, provided ahead of the debate. We are grateful to them for taking up this issue and protecting this important religious freedom.

    The short debate; ‘The ethical, legal and religious factors that influence the way in which some animals are slaughtered in the United Kingdom’ was tabled by Lord Trees and held on the 16th of January. The debate mainly focused on the move to demand mandatory labelling of all non-pre stunned meat.

    We were delighted to see so many supportive peers speak so strongly in defence of shechita. Lord Sacks said on the subject said: “If a case is made for labelling meat to indicate how the animal was killed, this must apply to all methods of slaughter, not just some.” Lord Sheikh in turn noted his hope that religious communities would continue to work closely on the issue.

  • HMRC – Remarkable ‘U’ turn on Child Benefit and Child Tax Credits

    A difficult dispute over child benefit and child tax credits affecting the charedi community has now been resolved due to concentrated efforts of Chaya Spitz, Chief Executive of Interlink, Rabbi Pinter and Rabbi Baumgarten of the Orthodox Hebrew Congregations and Mr Michoel Posen of Agudas Israel Community Services.

    This effort was supported by the All-Party Group whose officers and members mobilised round the issue, demanding quick and transparent clarification from the HM Revenue and Customs and the Minister of the Treasury. By alerting officers and members of the APPG on British Jews and coordinating the action that need to be taken through the secretariat of the group, efforts were streamlined and coordinated well.

    Child Benefit as well as Child Tax Credits for eligible households, are available to all children up to the age of 16-20 who are in further, non-advanced education. Historically the HMRC has understood that yeshiva and seminary students were indeed eligible for these bene

    fits as the education being received was not considered advanced education. Due to this unexpected change in policy, many families of yeshiva and seminary students has their benefits suspended or refused, a small number of cases had made their way to the tribunal system.

    As of January 2014 HMRC have now concluded that any young person following yeshiva and seminary

    courses should be treated as in non-advanced education and therefore eligible for child benefit. Appellants in the courts have been notified of this decision and HMRC have now reversed its decision in favour. We delighted to report that suspended claims for many claimants have now been reinstated
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  • Report on Chanukah Reception in Westminster

    The Deputy Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Nick Clegg, was the Guest of Honour at the APPG’s Chanukah Reception in Parliament in December. He was joined by over 60 Parliamentarians from the three main parties, as well as senior Jewish community figures and representatives of other faith communities in what is one of the key political networking events in the Jewish calendar.

    Nick Clegg described the APPG’s Secretariat, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has been in existence for over 250 years as “the voice of reason and respect”. “The Board is an extremely important part of the British social and political landscape. The Board has always been a powerful voice of reason and tolerance and respecting all the diverse traditions that make up the United Kingdom,” he said. 

    “The message of Chanukah, sticking to the values you believe in through thick and thin, is especially resonant today. Expressions of intolerance, of extremism and hatred – I’m afraid abound today – must be countered by messages of tolerance and resolve to stand up for the values of unity and respect. I pay tribute to the work of Vivian Wineman and the Board, and celebrate what so many members of the Jewish community have contributed to this country for such a long time.”

    He also praised the cross party work of the APPG on British Jews, for “bringing people together, which is particularly important at this time”.

    A message was read out on behalf of Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband by David Lammy MP, in which he paid tribute to the Jewish community and particularly to the work of the Board, including President Vivian Wineman and cited the Maccabees, the heroes of the Chanukah story, as the archetypal fighters for religious freedom.

    Robert Halfon MP, who kindly hosted the event, spoke about the Board’s involvement in Jewish communal life, including through the vehicle of the new APPG on British Jews.

    Vivian Wineman spoke about the festival of Chanukah, and lit the Chanukiah, alongside Robert Halfon MP, David Lammy MP, Matthew Offord MP, Lord Monroe Palmer and Baroness Ruth Deech.

    The 150 guests were then treated to a performance of traditional Jewish songs by the Menorah Foundation choir, following an introduction by Matthew Offord MP, Chair of the APPG on British Jews. The event took place in the ornate surroundings of the Strangers Dining Room in the House of Commons. To watch a video of the event please click here.

  • Report on the APPG inaugural election of officers.

    Around 20 Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum attended the inaugural meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Jews in the autumn. The atmosphere at the meeting, was enthusiastic. Officers for the group were elected and the meeting was addressed by the President, Vivian Wineman.

    Hendon MP Matthew Offord was been elected to chair, Labour’s Ian Mearns, Lib Dem Lord Palmer and Tory Mike Freer were elected as vice chairs. Tottenham MP David Lammy will be treasurer Harrow East MP Bob Blackman will be secretary.

    Around sixty Parliamentarians from across the three main parties and beyond, from both the House of Commons and House of Lords, have pledged their support.

    The purpose of the APPG is to deal with a wide range of issues of concern to the whole Jewish community, including religious freedom, faith-based education, community-led welfare, medical ethics, Jewish culture, social action to name but a few. It will not deal with any issues relating to Israel or anti-Semitism which are well covered by the existing groups operating in those fields.

    Addressing MPs, Peers and community stakeholders at the meeting, Vivian Wineman said:

    “With the formation of the APPG on British Jews, we are making a bold statement about the fact that Jews in this country are part of a dynamic, flourishing and diverse community, confident in our traditions, and using our values to be part of building a better society, not just for Jews, but for everyone in this country. It is for this reason it is so gratifying that the APPG has built such support and momentum from Parliamentarians of all political hues in such a short period of time.”

    David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, said that:

    “I am excited about the fact that this APPG has been set up. It will allow all of the Jewish community to have their interests better understood in Parliament. I look forward to seeing the APPG enacting really positive changes for the Jewish community.”

    Lord Monroe Palmer, the Lib Dem Peer added:

    “The Jewish community, of which I am a proud member, has a long history of involvement in UK politics. What the APPG is set up to do is to act as a vehicle for honing all the excellent work already being done on behalf of the community.”

    Matthew Offord, the Conservative MP for Hendon, and Chair of the APPG, said:

    “I am very proud to be at the forefront of this initiative and am in no doubt that it will help to present the interests of the Jewish community to Parliamentarians in an efficient and productive manner.”