Hounslow Criticised After Cancellation of Jewish Education Event

Council says that decision was made on grounds of safety

The Jewish Living Experience Exhibition. Picture: Board of Deputies

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ChiswickW4.com and BrentfordTW8.com

December 8, 2023

Hounslow Council has been criticised by Jewish organisations for cancelling an educational event scheduled to be held in its headquarters.

The Jewish Living Experience is an exhibition which aims to explain Judaism to the wider community and has been run by The Board of Deputies of British Jews for forty years. It tours the country with local schools invited to attend so that children can learn about Jewish life and tradition.

The exhibition which had been arranged to be held in Hounslow House back in April was discussed at Hounslow Council’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) on 23 October. SACRE has representatives from all the major faith communities in the borough and it had endorsed the event and was due to hold its next meeting on 23 November immediately the Jewish Living Experience exhibition with members of the group invited to attend. The event was scheduled to continue until 1 December with volunteer guides from the local Jewish community talking visitors through the exhibits. Three days had been set aside for local primary schools to visit.

According to a report in The Times, Hounslow Council made the decision to cancel the exhibition on grounds of ‘personal safety’.

Edwin Shuker, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said, “At a time of hugely increased antisemitism around the country it is baffling that any council would choose to cancel an exhibition with the potential to provide context and understanding.

“We have asked for a meeting and been refused. The Jewish community will not accept being marginalised.”

A spokesperson for Hounslow council said, “Hounslow is one of London’s most diverse boroughs and we cherish and celebrate this diversity.

“The decision to postpone the two-week exhibition, due to take place in a public space, was not taken lightly and we appreciate the disappointment and inconvenience it caused.

“However, due to the current situation in Gaza and associated increase in reported hate crimes, there is significant heightened risk to personal safety across London and consideration of this had to take precedence.”

The leader of the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council, Peter Thompson, said, “I am extremely concerned about Hounslow Council’s decision to cancel the Jewish Living Exhibition. We agree with the Jewish Board of Deputies that it is totally unacceptable to cancel an event aimed at increasing understanding around the Jewish community, particularly at a time when antisemitism continues to rise to horrific levels across our capital. The council must now urgently publish the police advice it received about their decision to cancel this event, and arrange for an alternative date for this important event as early as possible in the new year.”

This Friday (8 December) the leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, issued a video on social media in which he wished Jewish people a Happy Hanukkah.

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