Chanukah Makes Friends: London's Mayor Reaches Out To City's Jews

Chanukah Makes Friends: London's Mayor Reaches Out To City's Jews

by M. Phillips - London, UK

December 10, 2007

In a first for London’s Jews, the city will host its official Chanukah Menorah lighting Tuesday night in the iconic Trafalgar Square—the most trafficked public square in central London.

According to London’s Mayor Ken Livingstone’s office, which is co-sponsoring the event with Chabad-Lubavitch of Hendon, 5,000 are expected to attend as he joins Chabad’s Rabbi Gershon Overlander on the cherry picker.

A tradition that began four years ago, Mr. Livingstone first lit the menorah to raised eyebrows among UK’s Jewish community, chafing from his hostile comments about Israel. The Mayor’s proposal this year,  to underwrite the construction of an original 32-foot steel menorah designed by Mendy Levy for Trafalgar Square, and to co-sponsor the ceremony, is seen by some as his offering of an olive branch to the city’s Jewish community.

In a press release issued by the Mayor’s office, Mr. Livingstone is quoted as saying that he looks forward “to welcoming people to celebrate Chanukah on Trafalgar Square this year. The giant Menorah will provide the opportunity for all Londoners to experience part of the Jewish community's rich culture and tradition and celebrate the contribution the Jewish community makes to the capital."

Mr. Livingstone has also cooperated with London’s Jewish community in other recent events including Simcha on the Square, a celebration of Jewish culture on Trafalgar Square; publication of the Jewish cultural guide and the Jewish community in London report; work with the London Jewish Forum and the Jewish Museum; and the annual Holocaust Memorial Day event at City Hall.

The Menorah has been fitted with low carbon ‘LED’ light bulbs commissioned by the London Climate Change Agency (LCCA). Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron is driving the initiative to introduce LEDs to London. “LED lighting technology offers the maximum CO2 reduction of any light and is very important in tackling climate change.”

“This Chanukah Menorah, a symbol of life and light, has been specially built for Trafalgar Square and I am proud that we are showcasing this clean green light which will help sustain our environment,” she said.

The Mayor’s office will also be sponsoring hot latkes, donuts and chocolate Chanukah “gelt” enough for 5, 000, at the menorah lighting.

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