London council backs down from canceling Hanukkah celebration plans

A representative of the London Jewish Forum told the 'Post' that the council's initial decision had been made from an overabundance of caution, not hate.

 Havering Council moves forward with Hanukkah celebrations after meeting with Jewish community. (photo credit: London Jewish Forum)
Havering Council moves forward with Hanukkah celebrations after meeting with Jewish community.
(photo credit: London Jewish Forum)

The London Council of Havering has decided to enable Hanukkah celebrations to proceed, after announcing on Thursday the cancellation of plans due to the ‘conflict in the Middle East,’ following a discussion with the London Jewish Forum.

The Hanukkah celebrations will now proceed as planned on December 12.

The London Jewish Forum and Essex Jewish Community Council issued a joint statement after meeting with the Havering Council at the Town Hall. They stated that they had been able to reassure the council of all the concerns outlined in the council’s initial statement. 

Ray Morgan, the leader of Havering Council, said, “We had a very constructive meeting to discuss our concerns and I fully appreciate why this is such an important instillation for the Jewish community. We look forward to... the permanent [menorah] installation and our first Hannukah ceremony. We also look forward to continuing to work closely with the Jewish community and other faiths on our commitment to a cohesive and inclusive borough.”

Daniella Myers, who later spoke to the Jerusalem Post about Havering Council’s decision, had said in a public statement that “The London Jewish Forum thanks the Council for meeting us at short notice and for their careful consideration of our views. The London Jewish Forum was able to provide a wider picture, which had important implications beyond Havering. Our community has been listened to and as a result, we are very pleased to say the planned installation of the Havering Menorah will be going ahead.  We encourage all those who want to celebrate with the Havering Jewish Community to join us on Tuesday 12 December.”

 A Hanukkah menorah with lit candles. (credit: FLICKR)
A Hanukkah menorah with lit candles. (credit: FLICKR)

What was said in the meeting?

Myers stressed to the Post that the initial decision by Havering Council had been one made out of an overabundance of caution and not hate. She said that the Council had fears that a Menorah would be vandalized, and so had planned a temporary event in its place.

The Council was assured that while Jews have been targeted by an increase in hate crimes, the Jewish community had no intention to hide themselves, Myers said. It was also stressed that it was particularly important that Jews do not hide themselves during this festival, as there is much religious significance to be placed on the placement of a menorah in front of a window.

Myers also stressed that during the meeting she informed the Council on how their initial decision had transcended beyond Havering and had become a concern of the UK Jewish Community and the wider Jewish world. The Council had also been informed that Israeli media had reported on their decision because of the deep meaning that Hanukkah celebrations had to global Jewry.