Praise– and warnings – for the Prime Minister
Mental health and security were on the agenda when a JLC-led delegation met Theresa May this week
THERESA MAY has been informed of the work being carried out by Jewish organisations to tackle loneliness and other mental health issues.
The Prime Minister met the Jewish Leadership Council and other communal groups at Downing Street for round-table discussions on Thursday afternoon.
While issues such as antisemitism and the £50 million Holocaust Memorial project in Westminster remained high on the agenda, JLC chair Jonathan Goldstein stressed “the wide range of projects our community is working on, illustrating how faith-based charities work hard to adapt to the challenge of delivering a ‘shared society’ agenda.”
Expressing support for the government’s loneliness strategy, Mr Goldstein introduced Sarah Anticoni, chair of Partnership for Jewish Schools, who outlined how the JLC had formed a taskforce focussed on children’s mental health and wellbeing.
Mrs May was told mental health practitioners are to be placed in five pilot schools within next academic year.
If the programme is successful it will run in a number of other schools — with discussions already happening in Barnet about rolling it out.
But in a warning to the Prime Minister, Hannah Rose, President of the Union of Jewish Students, spoke of a “crisis” in the provision of mental health facilities for students.
Ms Rose told the PM that: “Jewish students face specific challenges in this field, and we would like to see greater training of service providers in cultural diversity.”
Louise Hager, of Chai Cancer Care, outlined her charity’s work on breaking the taboo of living with cancer.
Praising the government’s “steadfast commitment” to opposing all forms of antisemitism and for supporting the Holocaust Memorial project, JLC chair Mr Goldstein allowed Gerald Ronson, chair of the Community Security Trust, to give his assessment of the challenges facing his organisation and the community in the areas of security, hate crime and extremism.
Mr Ronson said we were now living in “unprecedented times” but stressed “getting hysterical” would help no one.
He spoke of the need for the “intellectual” as well as “physical battle” to be won against extremism.
Mr Ronson also praised the government for continued security guard funding at Jewish schools and other Jewish locations.
But he stressed that the number of schools drawing from the grant is increasing every year and the confirmation of funding comes late in the day, making it difficult for CST.
He asked the Prime Minister if the “grant could be brought forward or made into a multi-year commitment”, which would make matters easier.
President of the Board of Deputies Marie van der Zyl also asked the government to “carefully calibrate its engagement [with] those of Hungary’s Viktor Orban or Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamed, who trade in anti-Jewish tropes”.
Mrs van der Zyl also expressed concern that the political wing of Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade are proscribed by the EU as terror groups but not by the UK government.
This means that after Brexit their activities will become legal in the UK.
After the meeting, Mrs May said: “I was pleased to meet with the Jewish Leadership Council to discuss the challenges their communities face, particularly as we react to the shocking attack in Pittsburgh.
“Today’s meeting was an opportunity to pay tribute to the tremendous contribution British Jews make to this country… and to reaffirm my commitment to stamping out antisemitism in this country.”
Also speaking at Thursday’s meeting — which was attended by the JLC’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs Claudia Mendoza — was Mark Morris of the Work Avenue charity.
Mr Morris, representing the Charedi community, spoke of ongoing discussions with Ofsted and the Department of Education over school issues.
The JLC and other communal groups meeting the PM last week