Rain fails to dampen the party atmosphere as thousands join London mayor to celebrate the festival of light.
Thousands braved the cold and rain to celebrate Chanukah at one of London’s most iconic landmarks on Wednesday evening.
The sound of Maoz Tsur and the Akiva School choir filled Trafalgar Square as Chanukah in the Square – the community’s flagship festive party – returned to the heart of the capital.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and free doughnuts aplenty were among the familiar sights at the event, organised by Chabad, the Jewish Leadership Council and London Jewish Forum and supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group.
And there was a first appearance for a new giant menorah after Jewish News revealed in October that the long-used candelabra partly designed by a convicted sex abuser was no longer to be used following a campaign by his victim.
Khan – who was introduced by Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl – told an estimated crowd of more than 3,500: “As mayor of London I’m so proud to see the menorah in Trafalgar Square. I am here to thank you for the contribution you make to making this the greatest city in the world.”
Saying the Chanukah story is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago, he stressed the need for Jews to be vigilant and other on other communities to show solidarity. “I want the world to know this Muslim mayor of London is proud to stand with the Jewish community,” he added.
Introduced by GPG co-founder Mikhail Fridman, the Chief Rabbi addressed the crowds before a countdown to the lighting.
He said: “We are proud of our synagogues, children, welfare organisations, charitable giving and, standing here in Trafalgar Square, we are proud to be citizens of this great city and proud to be British.”
To huge applause, he added: “We are proud of Israel and proud to be Zionists.”
Compered by comedian Rachel Creeger, revellers partied to the sounds of the Solomon Brothers and Kedma Band with Rabbi Belmont shul’s Marc Levene.
The event was again media partnered by Jewish News.
Among the other speakers were Israeli Ambassador Mark Regev and MP Luciana Berger.
The latter – who has been widely praised for fighting antisemitism in Labour – spoke about the power of resistance in the Chanukah story.
“It would have been easier for the Jews to submit to Greek authority, to give up their independence, laws and religion,” she said. “But they stood firm.
“My message to everyone this Chanukah is stand up for freedom, stand side-by-dude with one another in solidarity and take a stand against the evils of our time – misogyny, racism, poverty and hate.”
Warning that the battle of the Maccabees was not yet over, she added: “There are still plenty who want to snuff out the Jewish community’s identity and rights. When people try to tear us down we will resist, just like the Maccabees, and the righteous men and women down the ages.”