CST Annual Dinner 2013

28 Feb 2013 by CST

Last night, approximately 1,000 guests attended CST's Annual Dinner in Central London, where they warmly appreciated a sincere and detailed keynote speech on preventing extremism by the Home Secretary, the Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP.

CST is a charity that relies upon donations to do its work. This is our most important fundraising event: but it is also when the UK Jewish Community and its many friends express their determination to support democratic values, and to stand firm against extremism and antisemitism.

So, we sincerely thank our many financial donors for their ongoing generosity and commitment to this cause. Similarly, we thank our many friends and partners from the worlds of politics, policing, media and academia who helped make last night's event such a success. We also thank the many rabbis who joined us, including Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg and Rabbi Mordechai Ginsbury, who performed grace before and after meals, respectively.

CST Trustee, Brook Land, gave the introductory address, welcoming our guests and the Home Secretary, before thanking CST's security volunteers for their tireless work. Mr Land quoted the philosopher Jack Schwartz:

The paradox of antisemitism is that it is invariably up to the Jews to explain away the charges. The antisemite simply has to make them.

CST's Chair, Gerald M Ronson CBE, presented a commemorative plaque to the family of the late David Brecher, a founding trustee of CST, and a man whose warmth, wisdom and advice touched all who knew him. The plaque reads (in part):

A truly dedicated Trustee, Friend and Counsel who will be sorely missed.  With grateful thanks from all the Trustees, Staff and Volunteers at the CST.

Mr Ronson then made a presentation to the outgoing Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks. Mr Ronson noted how during the Chief Rabbi's tenure of over 20 years:

The very idea of faith and religion has come under much scrutiny. But you have represented our Jewish community with wisdom, determination and focus, bringing us respect when we have most needed it.

...On the subject of antisemitism itself, you have never taken one step backwards. Speaking up whenever it was most needed - and challenging the media and the intellectuals who only ever want to put Jews in the spotlight.

CST's Deputy Chair, Lloyd Dorfman CBE, introduced our keynote speaker, Home Secretary Theresa May MP. Mr Dorfman's introduction included:

Home Secretary, history has repeatedly shown us how extremism can feed off social unrest and economic hardship to ferment violence and hatred. And you will find a lot of support in this room for your efforts to keep foreign extremists out of this country, and to counter radical ideologies at home.

We work closely with partners in Muslim and other communities, and with your own counter-radicalisation experts, to help build a stronger society where extremism and hatred cannot flourish.

We will continue to do this, because it benefits not only the Jewish community but the whole of British society.

...faith communities in this country are part of its social fabric.  Whatever faith we belong to, we all deserve to be safe, and to be able to practice our religion openly and freely. And, on behalf of all British Jews, that is the vision that we at the CST share with you, as our Home Secretary.

The Home Secretary's speech was an intelligent, thought-provoking and forceful exposition on the subject of radicalisation and extremism - and how these trends should be monitored and opposed in a society that protects and cherishes its freedoms and values. The speech included:

A repeat of the Foreign Secretary's call for EU action against Hizbollah; opposition to foreign extremists and preachers of  hate entering the UK; explaining the links between violent words, the fostering of hate and violent deeds; support for the Prevent programme and noting the role of community intelligence in last summer's Khan case; stating that organisations that do "not endorse equality of all citizens of this country" will receive no backing from Government; thanking CST for its role in global efforts against Internet extremism; praising campus and Charity Commission moves against hate groups; and stressing the need for both counter-narratives, and to stop hateful discourse becoming normalised as it did in Nazi Germany.

The Home Secretary's closing words cited the example of one of her own constituents, Sir Nicholas Winton MBE, who organised the kindertransport that brought Jewish children to safety from Prague, immediately prior to WW2. She then concluded:

As the tragic history of the Jewish people demonstrates, we can never relax our vigilance. The battle against intolerance and extremism, and the murderous violence it spawns, is not going to end soon. The moment we cease to dedicate our efforts to eliminating extremism, the lethal bacillus starts to reproduce itself – and at a faster rate.

The virtues that we most need are the ones you have taught us: endurance, determination, and courage.

Endurance so that we never get tired of fighting extremism.

Determination never to tolerate it in our public spaces.

And courage. Courage so that, consistent with our basic values, we do whatever  is necessary to counter-act extremism and hatred -  when that will often be unpopular, difficult, and fraught with risks.

I shall do everything in my power to ensure that we demonstrate the virtues that you have so clearly shown us.

Thank you.

Gerald Ronson's closing appeal speech noted the recent terrorist plots against British Jews, all of which are the fundamental reason for CST's work. He stressed that last year's murder of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse, in the name of revenge for Palestinian children, showed that philosophical distinctions between anti-Israel hatred and antisemitism can often be entirely irrelevant. Opposition to Hizbollah was also clearly stated, as CST reconfirmed its commitment to help efforts at banning the group throughout Europe. His conclusion was as follows:

Last year I remember us worrying about where the Arab Spring would end up. We were right to worry, but...what about Europe, of which we are a part?

Travel, as I do, and you can touch the economic and political decline. You know where this ends up. In Hungary, fascist politicians want to draw up lists of Jews. Greece is maybe even worse...

And then there is France, Europe’s biggest Jewish community of over 500,000 people: but the constant strain of antisemitism and terrorism is causing French Jews to buy safe houses overseas in Britain, in Israel, wherever. And the French National Front gets millions of votes. The front page of last week’s Jewish Chronicle explained all of this; and our own Chief Rabbi has spoken clearly and strongly about what it all means.

For me,  what it means is that we need CST here in Britain. It means that we have to work in partnership across our Jewish community and across the whole of society, with good people of every religious or political persuasion.

We need to be strong, both morally and physically. Alive to the numerous threats, some of them direct, some of them indirect, but all of them combining to challenge our well-being.

We have a community to be proud of here in Britain. It’s a community worth protecting.

You know that we will not hide from the challenges, but understand that we can only do it with your help.

Thank you.

Below, photograph showing (from left to right) CST Chair, Gerald M Ronson CBE, Home Secretary Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP and Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM.


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“Since 2003, CST has been a stalwart supporter of ODIHR in its efforts to effectively monitor antisemitic hate crime in the OSCE Region. With its rigorous methodology and innovative partnerships with the British police, it is viewed by many as representing the gold standard for NGO responses to all forms of hate crime. I wish CST all success in its exciting new phase of work.”

Michael Georg Link
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights