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‘Baffling’: Hounslow Council criticised after axing Jewish exhibition over 'safety fears’

A prior Jewish Living Experience event. The exhibition due to begin last month was postponed due to safety fears  (Board of British Deputies)
A prior Jewish Living Experience event. The exhibition due to begin last month was postponed due to safety fears (Board of British Deputies)

Hounslow Council has been criticised after calling off a planned exhibition about Jewish culture amid safety concerns.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews has run the Jewish Living Experience exhibition for 40 years. The group said the exhibition is designed to teach non-Jews about Jewish life and tradition.

According to documents seen by The Times, Hounslow Council decided to postpone the event on November 16, just four days before the exhibition was due to start.

Edwin Shuker, vice-president of the Board of Deputies, said: “At a time of hugely increased antisemitism around the country it is baffling that any council would choose to cancel an exhibition with the potential to provide context and understanding.

“We have asked for a meeting and been refused. The Jewish community will not accept being marginalised.”

Within the report, council documents allegedly show that preparations for the event had begun as early as April, with the exhibition due to start between November 20 and December 1 at Hounslow House, the council’s headquarters.

A meeting of the local standing council on religious education (Sacre) on April 25 heard: “All primary schools would be invited to attend over three sessions during the school day. It was hoped that other faith communities would attend an evening session, as well as a short Sacre meeting.

“The Board of Deputies of British Jews were excited to be visiting Hounslow; lots of dignitaries would attend the opening ceremony.”

The decision comes after Havering Council made a u-turn over its plans to cancel it’s Hanukkah celebrations.

Officials at the east London town hall had said it would be “unwise” for the traditional menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum lit during the eight-day Jewish holiday, to be installed outside Havering Town Hall in Romford.

The council said the event may risk “inflaming tensions within our communities”, sparking criticism from Jewish community leaders that it was a “miserable decision”.

But on December 1, the council made a hasty u-turn after a meeting with local Jewish community leaders.

A spokeswoman for Hounslow council said: “Hounslow is one of London’s most diverse boroughs and we cherish and celebrate this diversity.

“The decision to postpone the two-week exhibition, due to take place in a public space, was not taken lightly and we appreciate the disappointment and inconvenience it caused.

“However, due to the current situation in Gaza and associated increase in reported hate crimes, there is significant heightened risk to personal safety across London and consideration of this had to take precedence.”