The Olympic kippah for Jewish volunteers

By Marcus Dysch

Volunteers at the London 2012 Olympic Games will be offered the chance to wear an "Olympic kippah" as part of their uniform.
The specially-designed yarmulke will form part of the official attire for Jewish members of the 70,000-strong volunteering team.
The London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) has held discussions with representatives of the Jewish community to discuss provisions, including kosher food, which will be needed for Jewish competitors and visitors to the capital.
Alex Goldberg, of the Jewish Committee for the London Games (JCLG), said: "We are steering LOCOG towards the model used by the British Army, which is quite advanced in yarmulke wear. There are examples of matching yarmulkes to uniforms.
"We have not got there yet, but the Olympic yarmulke may well be a crocheted one, in the same colour as the uniform."
An Olympic snood may also be produced, in the hope that religious women volunteers will come forward to offer their services at the Games.
"Strictly Orthodox people may want to volunteer and they should have the chance to have appropriate uniforms," said Mr Goldberg. The JCLG is stepping up its preparations for the Olympics and discussions with LOCOG on a range of issues affecting the Jewish community are said to be progressing well.
JCLG was consulted on the creation of the Games' mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, which were launched last month.
In their first online adventure, Mandeville discovers the history of the Paralympics, which were founded by Sir Ludwig Guttman, a German Jewish doctor who settled in London after fleeing Nazi persecution.
Jewish Olympians from previous Games will also be recruited to help promote London 2012 to the community.
One ambassador is likely to be the Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott, who represented Britain at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, and again four years later in Rome.
He captained the weightlifting team on both occasions.
Others approached for the roles include Susie Halter, who swam for the Hungarian team in the last London Games in 1948, and Allan Jay, who competed in fencing for Britain at five Olympics, winning two gold medals in Rome in 1960.
JCLG also hopes at least one ambassador will come from abroad. Boaz Kramer, an Israeli wheelchair tennis player who won the silver medal in the Paralympics doubles competition in Beijing in 2008, is likely to offer his services.
Mr Goldberg said: "Boaz wants to meet the British Jewish community and go into schools. He is a great role model.
"There are a number of countries who have realistic Jewish medal hopes for 2012.
"We already have Jewish sporting heroes here in London. We need to make the Olympics relevant to our community and to show that we can overcome some of the stereotypes in the community about our involvement in sport."
Jewish schoolchildren are likely to play a prominent role in the welcoming ceremony for the Israeli team, he said.
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Unusual coalition gov’t leaves British Jews uncertain on policy

By Winston Pickett

LONDON (JTA) – With Britons uncertain of how the country’s first coalition government since World War II will go about governing, the country’s Jewish community appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach to the new Conservative-Liberal Democrat government.

During the campaign, many Jews expressed alarm at Liberal Democratic positions on Israel.

Now party leader Nick Clegg, who last year called for a European arms boycott of Israel, is Britain’s deputy prime minister. And William Hague, the Conservative Party leader who during the 2006 Lebanon war called Israel’s military response to Hezbollah’s attack “disproportionate,” is the new foreign minister.

What influence that will have on British foreign policy is, like much about the new government, a political unknown.

The new prime minister, David Cameron of the Conservative Party, has been a strong backer of Israel. It is one of the many issues on which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have fundamental philosophical differences. Others include how to trim the country’s deficit and bring spending under control.

“With so much on the government’s plate, Israel -- along with foreign policy in general -- will be put way on the back burner,” said Robin Shepherd, foreign policy director of the Henry Jackson Society think tank and author of “Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel.”

“Given that both parties in the coalition will be preoccupied with the economy and that the Conservative Party has shown no real interest in the Middle East anyway, the British Foreign Office will find itself in an immensely powerful position to influence the direction of policy,” Shepherd said. “In other words, the Arabist-oriented bureaucracy is likely to inherit a lot of power by default as top politicians attend to other matters.”

Candidates affiliated with the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats said the Jews should not worry.
“I don’t think the Jewish community has anything to fear,” said Robert Halfon, a Jew and prominent figure in Conservative Friends of Israel who won a parliamentary seat last week for the Conservatives representing Harlow, north of London.

Matthew Harris, a Liberal Democratic candidate in Hendon who finished third in a race won by the Conservative candidate, said, “I think British Jewry will be pleasantly surprised by this government, and particularly by the quality of the five Lib-Dem Cabinet ministers that will be taking up their posts. Whether on faith schools, security and even Israel, I think people will find the Lib-Dems and this coalition to be broadly supportive of Jewish interests.”

For the time being, official Jewish bodies made do with issuing pro forma statements congratulating the new government.

The country’s Jewish umbrella group, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, put out a statement saying it “warmly welcomes the new prime minister, David Cameron, and his coalition Conservative/Liberal Democrat government” and that it “looks forward to a constructive, fruitful working relationship with Mr. Cameron, his Cabinet and his wider team together with a continued, regular dialogue with politicians of all parties and key civil servants.” 

Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, had no comment.
“As a strategic body, it is not our role to provide a running commentary on a government that has yet to finalize its Cabinet and set out key policies,” he told JTA.

Leaders of various Jewish organizations are hoping the candidates’ pledges to the Jewish community, made in interviews with the country’s main Jewish newspaper, the Jewish Chronicle, will hold fast.

Both Clegg and Cameron promised support for security for the community. Clegg pledged to put 3,000 more police officers on the streets, and Cameron backed the funding of security around Jewish institutions, including schools.

As for the faith schools themselves -- a major concern for many British Jews -- new Education Secretary Michael Gove is long considered a staunch advocate of Jewish communal interests, particularly in countering anti-Semitism. Gove, a former Times columnist and the author of "Celsius 7/7" critiquing what he deemed as the lax policies of Britain and the West toward terrorism, has publicly voiced his support of state-supported Jewish schools and pledged that the schools "will not have to pay for security" under a Tory government.

Both Cameron and Clegg said they backed changes to the current “universal jurisdiction” legislation, which allows British magistrates to issue arrest warrants for visiting foreign politicians and military staff. The law has been used to target Israeli officials and soldiers for alleged war crimes, in some cases scaring away Israeli officials from visiting Britain.

Cameron and Clegg also have spoken out forcefully against anti-Semitism.

As news of Britain’s new coalition government sank in, Jews also were trying to assess how the government’s priorities for cutting spending would affect domestic Jewish interests.

“It’s too early to know how a deficit reduction program will impact on funding for state-supported Jewish schools and social services,” said David Seidel, a community organizer in Brighton and a member of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. “Ditto for the final outcome of the new government’s policies generally, as well as whether the government can remain stable.”

In post-election analyses, it appeared that the Jewish community, like the rest of Britain, swung Conservative in last week’s vote.

In an analysis by the London Jewish Forum of 18 parliamentary constituencies, 40 percent of Jews voted Conservative, 37 percent voted Labor and 19 percent voted Liberal Democrat. That differed only slightly from the London-wide general vote, which went 34 percent Conservative, 37 percent Labor and 22 percent Liberal Democrat.

“This is a shift from a dominant Labor preference in years past and is something that is important to keep in mind on the local level where day-to-day Jewish interests are represented,” said the director of the London Jewish Forum, Alex Goldberg. “When faced with budgetary cutbacks promised by the new coalition government, grass-roots alliances are key." 

2012 Tribute to Munich Victims

by Justin Cohen

Lord Janner is spearheading efforts to secure a minute's silence during the London Olympics in memory of the eight Israeli athletes killed during the Munich Games 40 years earlier.
The Labour peer, who sits of the Jewish Committee for the London Games, is hoping the tribute will take place during the opening or closing ceremony. It will be down to the International Olympic Committee to decide whether to take on the proposals.

"We will do our best to make sure that the memory of the victims of the Munich massacre are remembered in an appropriate way at the Games," said Lord Janner. "We hope that this will be marked in one of the olympic ceremonies as well as by the community and City of London."

The proposals are being supported by the JCLG, which also comprises the London Jewish Forum, Maccabi GB and UJIA. LJF chief executive Alex Goldberg said: "This will take a concerted international effort from politicians and sports associations, from both our community and outside of it."

It has previously been confirmed that a host city event will be held in memory of the victims. Two or three venues are currently being considered to host the ceremony, including Bevis Marks.

Meanwhile, 2012 organisers have asked the Jewish community to take a leading role in welcoming ceremonies for the Israeli Olympic and Paralympic teams in the Olympic village. JCLG hopes the event will see hundreds of young British Jews joining members of the Israeli team and IOC members.

Goldberg said: "This will be one of the main set piece events for Jewish youth in London. We are developing a programme to ensure that the entire community becomes involved through hospilitality events, sports programme, schools programme and volunteering opportunities before and during the Games."

Boycotter blames the Board for antisemitism in Britain

By Marcus Dysch

The Board of Deputies is to blame for rising antisemitism in Britain, according to a leading member of a Jewish anti-Israel group.

Tony Greenstein, of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), was speaking on the BBC1 debate show, The Big Questions, on Sunday morning.

During the wide-ranging discussion, Mr Greenstein said: “Of course there’s no justification for antisemitism, but there’s also no justification for the Board of Deputies calling rallies in support of the invasion of Lebanon and Gaza in the name of the British Jewish community. That causes antisemitism.
“It associates every Jewish person with the terror in Lebanon and Gaza.”

Among those debating issues including the desecration of Jewish cemeteries and the need for synagogues to employ security guards, were Alex Goldberg, of the London Jewish Forum; Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust; and Israeli-born anti-Zionist Professor Haim Bresheeth.

Prof Bresheeth said many people in Britain were “justifiably irate about what Israel has done in Gaza”.

Jonathan Sacerdoti, of the Zionist Federation, responded by saying attempts to burn down shuls in London had “nothing to do with Zionism or Israeli policy in the Middle East”.

Hadar Sela, who has dual British-Israeli citizenship, said: “If you have a gripe with Israeli foreign policy then that’s great, you’re entitled to have a gripe with it, but come to me. I’m Israeli. Come and make your gripe with me, not with British Jews.

“When things happen in Sri Lanka or China nobody takes it out on Chinese or Sri Lankan people in Britain, and so they shouldn’t. They also should not take it out on British Jews.”

Following the broadcast, the Board of Deputies defended the peace rallies it helped organise in London and Manchester at the height of the Gaza conflict in January.

A spokesman said: “It is regrettable that Mr Greenstein doesn’t feel that there was any justification for the rallies. Fortunately we know of at least 17,000 people between London and Manchester who would disagree with him.

“British Jews are desperate for peace in Israel and desperate for an end to terror. The suggestion that we should expect to be victims of hate crime because of that is insulting and dangerous.”

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Kosher Big Mac offer for the Olympics

By Leon Symons
  • A mouth-watering prospect has been raised for the London Olympics in three years’ time —and it has nothing to do with sport.

Orthodox Jews who are enthusiastic sports fans usually ensure they have something to eat at such events by taking a packed lunch.

But that might not be necessary if the Jewish Committee for the London Games, part of the London Jewish Forum, gets its way.

It has asked the Games’ organisers to set up kosher food stands provided by the Games’ main food sponsor, McDonald’s.

Alex Goldberg, chief executive of the London Jewish Forum, said: “We have told the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) that there is no reason why there could not be a kosher — and for that matter halal — food stand run by Mcdonald’s.

“LOCOG has to deal with food diversity, which it will probably do through its faith reference group, and is taking this quite seriously. There is certainly a commercial model with large numbers of Jews and Muslims living around the area of the Olympic Park who will want to go the Games. It makes sense to have food on offer that they can eat.

“McDonald’s has a large number of outlets in Israel, a considerable number of which are kosher. So it has experience of working with kosher food,” said Mr Goldberg.

He said that the Forum had received support for the move from the East London mosque in Whitechapel.

He added that food was not the only matter to be considered by the faith reference group.

“There will be issues such as whether or not Orthodox Jews would be able to pay on Friday for food on Shabbat. Both Tisha b’Av and Ramadan fall during the Games, so there will be talks about faith provision in the Olympic Village.”

A spokeswoman for the London 2012 Organising Committee said: “Our food strategy covers the issue of catering for diverse dietary requirements which includes kosher and halal food. This will be a key part of our catering requirements.”

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Boris meets Forum chiefs

By Leon Symons

Senior representatives of the London Jewish Forum discussed a range of issues with London Mayor Boris Johnson and his deputy Richard Barnes at City Hall on Tuesday night.
Housing provision in Stamford Hill and developing Jewish cultural events were among topics covered during the hour-long meeting.

Also on the agenda was establishing a common contract across London's boroughs for welfare services, which would help charities like Jewish Care.

LJF chief executive Alex Goldberg said afterwards: "It was a very constructive meeting from which we will be able to make significant improvements on Jewish life in London."

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London joins Jewish global cities

by Leon Symons

Jewish communities from the greatest cities across the globe are to be linked for the first time through the World Jewish Cities Project.

The new scheme was launched by London and New York when the London Jewish Forum met representatives of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council in the American city last week.
In the first phase of the project, Paris and Budapest will be approached to join and in the second phase Buenos Aires in Argentina, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo in Brazil, and Johannesburg in South Africa.

LJF chief executive Alex Goldberg said: "This is a very exciting initiative that has been born out of a scheme called '40 Cities' that was started while Ken Livingstone was mayor of London. The NYJCRC and the LJF have agreed to work together and we have formed links to take this forward.

"We believe cities are the future because today they are global and they have powerful mayors. There are great city Jewish communities who are of a certain size and dynamic who have built up relations with other communities and governments that would benefit from being brought together."

One example he pointed to was a medical and welfare link between NYJCRC and Jerusalem and which London has been invited to join.

"We will be talking to the key groups that make up the LJF about whether or not we will join," said Mr Goldberg.

As well as welfare and medical matters, the project will cover such diverse areas as education, development, leadership training, how the different communities deal with their city authorities and government and areas where they can form partnerships and exchange ideas.

"We are talking about some communities that have major infrastructures and can share their experiences of dealing with local and national government with those that maybe don't have as much experience.

"One area that will be examined is migration patterns. The NYJCRC wants to get in touch with British and Russian Jews there while we would like to hear from New York Jews living in London. This will open up all sorts of opportunities for us and for them," said Mr Goldberg.

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London Olympics to mark Munich killings

by Leon Symons

A special event to mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes is to be held during the 2012 Olympics in London.

A new body called the London Olympic Jewish Organising Committee, set up to link the capital's Jewish community with the Games, has held preliminary discussions with the London Organising Committee, the Israeli Olympic Association, and has had an initial meeting with the Mayor of London's office.

Alex Goldberg, chief executive of the London Jewish Forum, which has helped set up LOJOC, said:
"We believe it is important that arguably the worst episode in Olympic history is marked in a most sensitive way.

"We are liaising with the Israeli Olympic Association, which is representing the families of those who died in the attack and I understand that it will be up to the families to decide ultimately what the commemoration should be.

"All of this is at a very early stage and everything will have to go before the International Olympic Committee," said Mr Goldberg. "So far, we have had very positive responses."

LOJOC has been formed initially by the Forum, Maccabi UK and UJIA. Mr Goldberg said it was hoped other communal organisations would join them.

The new committee will develop a programme of events around the Games for a number of different

It wants to involve Jewish schools and their communities in meeting Jewish Olympians; the development of welfare, culture and religious services for Jewish athletes in the Olympic Village; a London 2012 Jewish website for visitors to the Games; the long-term legacy for the Jewish community within the five Olympic Boroughs and utilising sports to bring groups together and celebrate the cultural diversity of the city.

"This was a key platform that won London the bid in the first place," said Mr Goldberg.

"We know that in Atlanta and Sydney Jewish athletes visited members of the local communities, and we want to offer the same hospitality here for Jews who might be a long way from home."

The London Olympics Jewish Organising Committee is looking to involve the capital's community in the Games. It is already working with the Games Committee, Government, other communities in the capital and various Olympic Associations from Israel and other countries.

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LJF call for re-think on marriage visa proposals

By Leon Symons A Proposed visa law could place obstacles in the way of arranged marriages in the strictly orthodox community

MPs will vote on whether or not to raise the age for visas sought by people abroad wanting to marry here who are aged 18 to 21. The proposal is one of five put forward by the Home Office in an effort to halt forced marriages prevalent in other communities.

However, if the measure is passed, it will have a dramatic effect on those coming to be married in Britain, particularly from Israel and America, critics say. The proposed laws would not affect people coming from the European Union.

Michoel Posner of Agudas Israel Community Services in Stamford Hill said: “It is extremely disappointing for the community that this is happening. The community fully supports the government’s initiative in combating forced marriages. Nevertheless, we feel very strongly that raising the marriage-visa age is not necessarily going to achieve that purpose. Government figures for last year showed there were 69 forced marriages of people aged between 18 and 20. I wonder how many would have been affected if this rule had been in force then.

“There were far more than 69 marriages involving people of that age in Stamford Hill alone last year. If this is passed, young couples will be forced to live abroad and that will have a serious effect on the community,” he said.

Alex Goldberg, chief executive of the London Jewish Forum and former community-issues director at the Board of Deputies, said the picture would be clearer when a Bill is published.

“The devil will be in the detail,” he said. “It has been accepted by Home Office Minister Liam Byrne and Home Office officials whom we met that there is no forced marriage in the Jewish community and that this measure will impact disproportionately on the Charedi community. People will have to get married elsewhere and then move here some time later.”

Foreign spouses may be asked to agree to learn English. Specialist teams may also be used to identify vulnerable people at risk of forced marriage.

FA Announce Respect Programme

by Andrew Sherwood

The Football Association have announced plans for a zero tolerance policy towards anti-Semitism and Islamophobic behaviour at football grounds across the country, following a summit hosted by the Metropolitan Police at the end of last season.

The talks, which were held between The FA, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the National Association of Muslim Police, identified six key areas which will be addressed over the course of the new season: how stewards manage incidents; the way football grounds are policed; how incidents are monitored; strengthening reporting mechanisms; the role of referees, and community engagement and involvement in football.

The idea is to set our clear action plans through both the Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia Group, with the group, which will be chaired by John Mann MP, scheduled to meet for the first time at the FA on 18 September.

Speaking on behalf of the London Jewish Forum, Alex Goldberg said: “The FA and Kick It Out have run a successful programme in combating racism in football, but anti-Semitism continues to exist in the game.

“This will be a high profile group which will be looking at combating anti-Semitism and we are looking forward to working on it.”
Maccabi GB will be one of those groups at their meeting, and their Chief Executive Martin Berliner said: “We welcome the fact that a structure has been put in place to address these issues and look forward to the meeting next month.”

To mark the launch of the Group, the Jewish News, together with the London Jewish Forum, in association with the FA are giving away five tickets for the England vs Czech Republic game next Wednesday evening at Wembley, as part of a multi-faith girls group attending the match. The winner can take one adult and three nominated friends the same age. The competition is only open to girls who are entering Years 5/6/7 at school. Nominated friends must be girls.

To stand a chance of winning, answer this question between 50-85 words: :How does sport bring communities together?

Send your name, name of parent/guardian, contact email address: and a phone contact of parent/guardian: The winner will be announced on Monday 18th at 13.00. All entries must be with Jewish News by 11.00 on Monday 18th. No entries will be considered past this point To enter the competition, go to

Forum gains a chief exec

By Leon Symons
The London Jewish Forum has poached a senior Board of Deputies administrator to be its first paid official.

Alex Goldberg, currently director of the Board’s community-issues division, has been appointed as the first executive director of the LJF and will take up the post later in the year.

LJF chairman Adrian Cohen said: “This marks a major step in the development of the forum. Alex brings with him enormous relevant experience in areas of community development and social cohesion that will enable us to advance our work in London.”