Nearly 1,000 guests heard the guest of honour and Leader of the Opposition, the Rt. Hon. Ed Miliband MP, pledge last night at the CST annual dinner to continue government funding for security guards at Jewish schools if Labour win the 2015 General Election.
In a sincere and heartfelt speech, Mr. Miliband thanked the Jewish community for the warmth he has been shown since becoming Labour leader and said “I feel more part of the Jewish community than at any time in my life.” The Jewish community, he said, “is an incredibly inspiring community and CST is at the pinnacle of its inspiration.”
CST is a charity that relies on donations to do its work and our annual dinner is the most important fundraising event in our calendar. However, it is much more than that: it is an opportunity for all our supporters, Jewish or not, to come together to show their determination to support democratic values and to oppose antisemitism, bigotry and extremism. We thank all our financial donors for their generosity in allowing CST to do our work.
Last night, CST’s financial supporters were joined by Cabinet ministers and Shadow Cabinet ministers, Members of Parliament from all parts of the House of Commons and senior Police officers from across the country. We thank all our partners from the Police, Government, political parties and other communities for their support throughout the year. We would also like to thank all the Rabbis who attended last night’s dinner, including Rabbi Mendel Lew and Rabbi Shlomo Odze, who performed grace before and after meals, respectively.
CST Board member Lisa Ronson gave the introductory address. She spoke of the history of antisemitism faced by successive generations, before asking whether her own children, when they grow up, will still have to fight for the same cause that she and her father, CST Chairman Gerald M. Ronson CBE, have fought.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis spoke of the Jewish festival of Purim, which falls next week. He described how in the story of Purim, Mordechai uses information that he gathers about a plot against the Jews of Persia to develop and successfully implement a strategy to protect them. CST, he said, “is the Mordechai of our time”. He thanked CST for allowing the community to function and for helping him to do his work as Chief Rabbi in safety.
Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub commended the “discrete, professional and effective” work of CST. In Britain as in Israel, he said, the “dedication and watchfulness of courageous individuals” is necessary for “the quiet miracle of a normal life.”
CST Deputy Chairman Lloyd Dorfman CBE introduced our keynote speaker, the Rt. Hon. Ed Miliband MP. Mr. Dorfman spoke of how Mr. Miliband’s family history was a testimony to the freedoms that Britain can offer:
Mr Miliband, you know from your own family’s history during the Holocaust just how fragile democracy can be. Indeed, this was something you spoke about recently at the Holocaust Memorial Day event in Westminster; and you well understand just how precious our freedoms are.
For as European Jews, your family inevitably suffered its fair share of tragedy at the start of the War. But your father managed to escape from Europe at the last moment in 1940; and other members of your family were successfully sheltered and hidden by non-Jews.
And I feel, in many ways, your family’s story is a testimony to how we must fight antisemitism. For, yes, we absolutely have to take responsibility for our own actions, but we should also never assume that we are completely alone in this struggle.
There are good people to be found in all avenues of life, of all faiths, and also of none. And in this room tonight, there are many such good people.
Many of our guests this evening have also had difficult family histories. Like you, they have overcome adversity and have succeeded in their chosen fields: and this is what Britain’s democracy and freedoms have allowed your family, and so many of our families, to achieve.
You yourself are of course now the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition: in many ways, this makes you a chief guardian of our democracy. Next year you could well be Prime Minister, but whether as our country’s leader, or in Opposition, you are a shining example of what a Jew can achieve in Britain today.
Mr. Miliband spoke movingly of his family history and the role played by non-Jews in Belgium and in Poland in saving the lives of his family members. He said that this history taught him three important lessons, which were:
- “We have to counter antisemitism wherever we find it. We must be eternally vigilant against antisemitism…we must have zero tolerance of antisemitism because it is never innocent, however it is meant it is never innocent. That’s why, for example, we must have no tolerance of hate preachers who come to this country and try to preach antisemitism.”
- “It is incredibly important to support the State of Israel… Israel provided sanctuary to my late grandmother and I will be forever grateful for the sanctuary that Israel provided and what it did for my family. That is why we should have zero tolerance of people who question the right of the State of Israel to exist and we must always be vigilant about this. And it is also, in my view, why we should have no truck with boycotts; because boycotts are part of the problem not part of the solution.”
- “The third lesson…is summed up in a Hebrew phrase, “Tikkun Olam”: repairing the world… that idea of repairing the world is important to people across this room, across this community and certainly across the political spectrum.”
Mr. Miliband went on to praise the work of CST in the 20 years since CST became a charity:
Friends, I want to also begin tonight by marking 20 years of the work of the Community Security Trust. And it is a remarkable 20 years and a remarkable organisation.
Just to give an example of its work, I had the privilege earlier today of speaking to two young people… who are part of the Streetwise programme that last year, CST’s programme, helped 20,000 young people across our country. And in an incredibly moving conversation [one of them] told me about his day long session that he’d had with Streetwise, how it had taught him how to deal with antisemitism, and how indeed he had faced antisemitism in his life.
And it is just one example of the incredible work that CST is doing. Not just the Streetwise programme, but the incredible work of its staff and its 3,500 volunteers who give up their time simply for the purpose of protecting and overseeing the community.
And the third thing I want to say about what is remarkable about CST is the way in which it doesn’t simply build support and self-confidence in the Jewish community but reaches out beyond the Jewish community. Most memorably and movingly of all when the terrible murder of Lee Rigby happened it was CST that worked with Tell MAMA, an organisation countering hate against Muslims, to help them to ensure calmness in the community. That is just yet another example of the extraordinary work that CST does.
Significantly, Mr. Miliband announced that after discussions with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP, who was also a guest at last night’s dinner, a future Labour government would continue the funding of security guards at voluntary aided Jewish faith schools. This funding, introduced under the current coalition government, amounts to around £2m per year. It is provided in the form of a grant that is administered by CST but from which CST itself does not benefit financially.
The evening concluded with Gerald Ronson’s closing speech, in which he spoke of the changes in antisemitism since CST became a charity 20 years ago:
Our guest speaker, Ed Miliband, spoke about the Holocaust. I am very glad that he did so, because it brings the maximum focus on what antisemitism and security are actually all about. Remember that after World War Two and the Holocaust, many people thought antisemitism had somehow burned itself out – as if it had finally killed enough Jews to satisfy its appetite.
But that was not what happened. British Jews fought in the war and came home to find that the fascists were still spreading their poison. I joined that fight over 50 years ago and so did many other people who are here with us tonight.
Now, the next generation is also joining the fight. The alternative is that they bury their heads in the sand and hope that it all just goes away. But things have never worked that way and in our modern world, you can be sure that strategy is actually more stupid than ever before – because antisemitism never stands still and it always preys upon weakness. To oppose antisemitism needs brave men and women – with physical strength and moral courage.
In our video, you saw the bombings from 1994. Back then, CST was the Community Security Organisation. Our staff and volunteers worked with the Police to ensure the Jewish community had the 24 hour protection it needed. We helped the Police to decide which buildings would have armed officers outside them: and then we protected the rest.
When the crisis ended, the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police both agreed that we had to become a registered charity, despite no such charity ever having existed. Now, CST stands as proof of what British Jewry can achieve when we work together.
Today, CST is repeatedly held up as the primary example for everybody else to follow. The Government and the Police say this, as do Christians and Muslims, and Jewish communities around the world, and the official anti-racism bodies of the Council of Europe and the European Union agree.
L to r: Metropolitan Police Commisioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM, Rt. Hon Ed Miliband MP, Gerald M Ronson CBE