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Jewish people “excluded” from Holocaust Memorial Day event held on the Sabbath

PUBLISHED: 12:30 26 January 2012

Cllr Mike Katz said he understood that some Jewish residents would not be able to attend Camden's Holocaust Memorial Day talk

Cllr Mike Katz said he understood that some Jewish residents would not be able to attend Camden's Holocaust Memorial Day talk

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Blundering Camden Council bosses have been accused of preventing Jews from attending a major Holocaust Memorial Day event by organising it on the Sabbath.

The Orthodox Jewish community observes strict religious rules on the Sabbath, which prevents them from using electricity or operating machinery from nightfall on Friday to nightfall on Saturday and prevents travel in cars or trains.

Despite this Camden Council’s official Holocaust memorial event takes place at the British Library at 6.30pm tomorrow (Friday, January 29) – two hours after the Sabbath falls in London.

Helen Style, who works at the nursery of Muswell Hill Synagogue in Tetherdown, said: “I think it is a huge shame. It will exclude an awful lot of Jewish people, and it is something so important.

“It is ignorant. There is no excuse for it in this day and age. It won’t go down well with the Jewish community in Camden.”

Camden Council has defended its decision to host the talk, attended by Equality Commission chairman Trevor Phillips, in the evening and insisted that back-to-back mayoral engagements to mark the day left no other time available.

Several synagogues contacted by the Ham&High said the timing would prevent members of their congregation attending.

Henrietta Levin, administrator at Belsize Square Synagogue, in Belsize Park said: “The timing would exclude all the Jewish organisations. We at the synagogue will commemorate it at our own services as we always do, but we won’t be attending because of the time.”

But she added that it was “noble” of the council to commemorate the day.

A South Hampstead Synagogue spokeswoman also said it would have been preferable for the event to be held at another time.

Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, echoed the concerns and described the timing as “unfortunate”.

He said: “The council is to be commended for marking this national day of remembrance. But holding the event on a Friday night will at a stroke exclude many of those to whom this means so much.”

A Camden Council spokesman said: “The council is very proud of our cultural heritage. We made every member of our faith mailing list aware of the event, including local groups and synagogues and received no objections.

“A number of members of Camden’s Jewish community have indicated that they will be attending the council’s Holocaust Memorial Day event and the Kaddish will be read by Stanley Freed to close the ceremony.”

Mike Katz, a Jewish Labour councillor chairing the debate, said he appreciated that Jewish residents may not feel able to attend.

Be he added that the community was fortunate that many activities had been staged throughout the week to remember the Holocaust.

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