Voice of the Jewish News: Rays of hope amid the
Looking back at 2021, the temptation is to characterise it as a year of doom and gloom, in which the British Jewish community lost nearly 1,000 of its members to the ongoing pandemic, antisemitism remained a continuing blight, and there was, once again, renewed fighting between Israel and the terrorists of Hamas.
There were notable sadnesses, including the death in Manchester of a severely disabled baby girl, Alta Fixler, and an attack on Rabbi Rafi Goodwin near his Chigwell synagogue. Relations with the BBC were strained after its reporting of the antisemitic attack on a Chanukah bus full of teenagers.
But there were bright spots, too, and an optimism and confidence in our future, led by the Chief Rabbi, with the year-end launch of his Project Welcome, working in conjunction with the United Synagogue, a sort of ‘levelling-up’ for Anglo-Jewry.
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In 2021, the Board of Deputies published its groundbreaking racial inclusivity report, a first of its kind for any faith community, with guides for improving racial harmony across denominations.
Sir Keir Starmer’s clear determination to root out antisemitism from Labour led to a massive improvement in relations between UK Labour and the Israeli Labor Party. And that party’s former leader, Isaac Herzog, became the 11th president of Israel in July.
A long-heralded convulsion in Israeli politics led to the creation of an extraordinary coalition, which included, for the first time, an Arab party. After 11 years in power, Benjamin Netanyahu was obliged to stand down as prime minister. The previous year’s Abraham Accords offered new, unheard-of good relations with countries such as Bahrain and the UAE.
Lindsay Taylor-Guthartz completed a semicha programme in New York entitling her to call herself ‘rabba’ — and the popular educator, after a flurry, now continues to teach at the London School of Jewish Studies.
Lord Reading announced his decision to take Israeli citizenship, and the Imperial War Museum opened its stunning new gallery dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust.
So there were plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Bring on 2022!