1 November 2022
7 Cheshvan 5783
The National Jewish Assembly was delighted to host its first Zoom Debate. The topic was “Should a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre be built in Victoria Tower Gardens, near Parliament?” This was the first public debate ever on this subject.
The NJA welcomed over 100 guests to the event, comprised of a sizeable contingent of NJA members in addition to attendees from the general public. All participants were invited to speak for up to three minutes each and were encouraged to offer their views on the issue – whether they were in favour, in opposition, or undecided over the proposed plans. The debate was chaired by the NJA’s chairman, Gary Mond.
A digital poll allowed respondents to indicate anonymously whether they were in favour of, in opposition to, or undecided on the proposal. The poll was taken twice – once at the beginning before speeches and again at the conclusion of the event – to gauge how sentiment changed over the course of the debate. The results of the first poll indicated that 16% were in favour, 62% were in opposition, and 22% were undecided. The second poll found that 12% were in favour, 82% were in opposition, and just 6% remained undecided.
Participants in the one hour 45 minutes debate included Baroness Ruth Deech, who spoke about her concerns regarding the proposed memorial and learning centre. Additionally, a spokesperson for the Save the Victoria Tower Gardens campaign group said that, overall, the debate comprehensively undermined the Government’s continued claims that the proposal had overwhelming Jewish community support, and they were very heartened to see how many people, when presented with arguments from all sides of the debate, concluded that this was indeed a flawed proposal. They added that they hoped that the Government, and MPs who may be asked to vote on the issue, will take note of this verdict.
Gary Mond, NJA Chairman said: “From the voting figures, it was clear there was substantial opposition to the current plans. A key point was that most – even those who were not necessarily opposed to the memorial – felt that more debate and consultation was needed, especially as there was a profound belief that the concerns expressed were not being heard.”
The NJA has received substantial positive feedback for holding the debate. Additionally, several participants noted with concern that the Board of Deputies has failed to consult on this subject either with its own Deputies or with the wider Jewish community.
The NJA thanked all speakers for sharing their views during the debate and plans future events on other contentious subjects relevant to British Jews over the course of the next few months.
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