The Jewish community is one of London’s oldest minorities, with a continuous presence and history in the UK at least since readmission under Oliver Cromwell in 1656. From Bevis Marks, Britain’s oldest synagogue, built in 1701, to the state-of-the-art Jewish Community Centre for London that is set to open in 2013, Jewish heritage and culture is an integral part of London’s history.
Strengthening the Cultural & Visitor Economy through building Audiences for Jewish Culture
In preparation for the Olympic Games, a coalition of Jewish Communal organisations established the Jewish Committee for the London Games. Anticipating an influx of Jewish and Israeli tourists from across the UK and abroad, the Jewish Volunteering Network led the development of visitjewishlondon.co.uk as a central online resource for Jewish communal culture and activity targeted primarily at the visitor economy. Considering the long and rich history of our community in London, no visit to London by Jewish and Israeli tourists usually finishes without some accessing of Jewish culture and heritage. In developing this resource further, we hope that the Jewish community can deliver a financially sustainable resource which can not only develop a stronger visitor economy from Jewish audiences abroad but also provide a much needed sustainable platform to promote and expand audiences for Jewish culture to Londoners and domestically, both within and outside our community.
We also believe that Jewish cultural provision can play an integral role in increasing the number of foreign Jewish and Israeli students in London’s higher education institutions in order to maintain its competitiveness against other foreign markets as we are able to provide very specific cultural and pastoral needs unique to this market.
Jewish cultural providers would welcome opportunities to engage with London & Partners and the Promote London Council in order to explore and develop the potential of the Jewish visitor economy in attracting visitors to London and also securing greater exposure in London, nationally and internationally, of that offer.
Public Funding and Support for Culture
The current economic environment has significantly impacted on the financial resources available to mainstream and Jewish providers of culture and heritage alike. Austerity measures at national and local government level, particularly to the Arts Council England, have restricted public funding streams that the Jewish Cultural sector has previously accessed. The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have also led to a refocusing of Lottery funds toward sports and Olympic legacy specific projects, whilst there have been few opportunities for sub-regional projects to access Olympic-related funding for programming. Alongside dwindling private donations which have otherwise provided the bulk of income for Jewish cultural providers, the sector is now under extreme pressure to remain financially viable. The Jewish Museum London has been awarded Designated status in recognition of its pre-eminent national and international importance and, in 2010, completed a £10m redevelopment, supported by a £5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and partnership funding. Yet in contrast to Jewish museums throughout Europe, in cities ranging from Berlin, Paris and Amsterdam to Brussels, Stockholm and Vienna, the Jewish Museum in London receives no annual subsidy from public funds. Ben Uri, the London Jewish Museum of Art maintains the world’s largest collection of work by émigré artists, and has the aspiration to occupy a landmark building in central London by 2015.
We welcome the recognition within the Mayor’s Cultural Strategy of the importance of public funding and support for cultural activity as part of a mixed economy of income streams, and hope that funding priorities for culture are reassessed after the Games and will support Jewish and other minority community culture and heritage provision in London.
Protecting London’s Jewish built Heritage and Social History
Jewish migration and settlement has created a rich legacy of Jewish built heritage and social history, particularly in boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, the City of London and Hackney. However, many of these historic centres of
settlement have gradually dwindled as the communities have moved to other parts of London. In their wake, they have left behind a rich cultural history and built heritage, including synagogues and other institutions, well documented in 2007 by Jewish Heritage UK in its joint publication with English Heritage ‘Jewish Heritage in England’.
Without local residential communities, the maintenance of important Jewish built heritage as part of London’s cultural diversity is an increasing challenge. The Board of Deputies of British Jews has accepted title to a number of disused Jewish cemeteries in the East End and faces the continual challenge of maintaining them. A small number of former communal buildings in these areas remains in communal ownership and the community continues to explore new ways to enable these to remain sustainable.
The Jewish Community is keenly interested in ensuring that Jewish and other minority community heritage and culture is recognised within the London Plan. We also welcome the opportunity to engage with local authorities in order to enhance their Statement(s) of Community Involvement within their Local Development Framework(s) to ensure that important Jewish heritage sites are recognised and maintained as part of London’s historical, rich cultural diversity.
Delivering community engagement through Public Events, Festivals and Cultural Programming
The Jewish Community is passionate in its desire for public celebration of Jewish culture, festivals and the Jewish calendar events. We welcome recognition within the GLA’s cultural strategy that public events and festivals should deliver community engagement and strengthen the visitor economy. Jewish Book Week and the UK Jewish Film Festival run prestigious annual festivals while organisations such as the London Jewish Cultural Centre, the JCC for London, Spiro Ark and the Jewish Museum have a year-round programme of wide-ranging events. We have delivered high profile events such as Simcha in the Square, Klezmer in the Park, the annual Menorah lighting for Chanukah in Trafalgar Square and the entirely privately funded Salute to Israel in Trafalgar Square. Each of these events were delivered with public and substantial private funds in partnership with other organisations such as Jewish Culture UK.
Whilst we recognise that the current economic climate requires the exploration of new and innovative ways of delivery, we remain steadfast in our desire to work in partnership with the GLA and other public bodies through an open and positive dialogue to ensure we can showcase Jewish culture both to Londoners and visitors to the capital through public events and festivals.
Curriculum Impact on Cultural Provision
The Jewish Cultural sector is a key resource for the provision of curriculum enrichment opportunities, driven in particular through Religious Education within the Basic Curriculum and Citizenship as a foundation subject within the National Curriculum, with strong curriculum relevance also to History, PSHE and Citizenship education. The Jewish Museum London provides learning programmes for 13,000 school students a year, with over 90% coming from non-Jewish schools to include young people from varied faiths and backgrounds, whilst the London Jewish Cultural Centre maintains a Schools Speaker Programme for schools to hear the testimonies of Holocaust survivors. The opportunities provided by such programmes have an important role in promoting interfaith
understanding and dialogue and in enabling schools to meet their duties to promote community cohesion under the Education and Inspections Act (2006).
The community is concerned that the proposed downgrading of Citizenship under the National Curriculum Review, alongside the centralised arrangements for Religious Education provision through funding agreements between the DfE and Free Schools, will create barriers for schools to benefit from the important learning programmes offered by the community and will negatively impact on the sector’s sustainability. We welcome the opportunity to explore how Jewish cultural providers can continue to deliver added value for Academies, Free Schools and for LEA and SEA Standing Advisory Councils for Religious Education, in line with the recommendations of the Henley Review of Cultural Education (2012).
Jewish Communal Participation in Cultural Strategy and Consultation
Whilst the Mayor’s Commission on African and Asian Heritage did not explicitly include the Jewish community in its remit, despite our common history and shared stories of migration and integration, it did nevertheless highlight the importance of ensuring a diverse cultural offer to reflect those communities that have shaped London’s history and diversity today. Likewise, the lack of representation from the Jewish cultural sector within the Heritage Diversity Task Force may have exacerbated the perception that Jewish culture and heritage is not considered to be within London’s core cultural offer.
We firmly believe that it is vital for all minority communities, including the Jewish community, to participate in the strategic decision-making process and consultation concerning culture and heritage in London. We welcome the opportunity to contribute in the future to the work of the London Cultural Strategy Group, its Sub-Committees and work streams.