Dec 12

Thousands Celebrate Chanukah in the Square

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson led the celebration of Chanukah in Trafalgar Square on Monday evening, attended by over 5,000 Londoners.

Europe's Largest Menorah, at 18ft stands in London's iconic Trafalgar Square

The Jewish community in London gather each year in one of London’s most iconic venues to light Europe’s largest menorah, standing at 18ft tall. The menorah will remain in the square for the duration of Chanukah, with a new light being lit each one of the festivals eight days.

Boris Johnson hands out chanukah gelt to children

The annual event marking the Jewish festival of lights was organised by the Jewish Leadership Council, the London Jewish Forum and Chabad-Lubavitch UK, supported by the Mayor of London, a key event in London’s winter festivities.

The event featured live performances from Neshama, the Jewish Lads and Girls Brigade Brass Band, the Choir of the Wolfson Hillel Primary School and the renowned male-voice Shabbaton Choir. Dreidleman also made his first appearance in the UK, dancing with the crowds and later on stage with the Mayor.

The Mayor of London, along with the Chief Rabbi and Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub handed chanukah gelt (chocolate gold coins) to children, whilst the crowds were given doughnuts, both being traditions associated with the festival.

Bentzi Sudak, CEO of Chabad-Lubavitch explained the importance of the event, “Chanukah is a holiday of miracles. But it’s not just miracles of thousands of years ago, we also celebrate miracles of here and now. Today, the entire community coming together and celebrating proudly like this in the streets of London joining thousands of Jewish communities around the world is also a miracle“.

Adrian Cohen, Chair of LJF greeted Boris’ arrival “It’s been a great year for London with the Golden Jubilee, the Olympics and the Paralympics and what better way to help bring this year to a close than to light the world’s largest Chanukiah in Trafalgar Square, with its message of tolerance and freedom.  Who better to light it than the effervescent, perpetual source of energy and light than the Mayor of London himself, the one and only Boris Johnson.

Children from the Hillel Wolfson School Choir perform in front of the National Gallery

Mick Davis, Chair of the Jewish Leadership Council said “Soon we will light this giant menorah, and we should all take a moment to remember the miracle of Chanukah; a moment to remember how lucky we are to live as Jewish in this great city; and a moment to remember those around the world who live in oppression and are denied those fundamental freedoms.  May the light of this menorah shine a light upon all of their lives as well as our own.

Jeremy Newmark, CEO of the JLC said “It was a magnificent celebration.  A really special moment that crystallised the thriving vitality of Jewish life in the UK.  We were delighted to see the numbers grow once again for an event that is now firmly established as part of London’s civic calendar.

Rebbeca Saunders (9) and Indigo Smith (8) from JCoSS, the Jewish community’s first cross-communal school also addressed the crowd.

Other speakers taking part in the event included Gerald Ronson, Chair of CST, Leonie Lewis, Co-Chair of the Faiths Forum for London & Louise Jacobs – CEO of the London Jewish Cultural Centre.

A reception was also held at the Trafalgar Hotel to thank event organizers and sponsors, including Community Security Trust & adot.com where Deputy Mayor for Policing Stephen Greenhalgh and Barnet & Camden Assembly Member Andrew Dismore spoke.

Boris Johnson celebrating Chanukah with Dreidelman on his first appearance in the UK