Havering Council will not light Hanukkah candles over fears of ‘inflaming’ tensions

In a bid to avoid "inflaming tensions", Havering Council will not light Hanukkah candles this year. But the move has caused considerable hurt to the capital's Jewish community, ITV London's Sam Holder reports

A council will not light Hanukkah candles this year over concerns they could be vandalised as antisemitic hate crimes rise.

Havering Council in east London has 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.

It said going ahead could “risk further inflaming tensions within our communities” and the council’s leader has approved the decision.

The council also said the decision was made amid concerns about "any possible vandalism or other action against the installation".

It will still mark the beginning of the religious festival on December 7 with a “temporary instillation and event” which will be taken down after.

Town Hall bosses have called accusations of antisemitism “categorically untrue” and said they hope a longer-lasting instillation can remain in place next year.

Islington Hanukkah celebrations in 2021 Credit: PA

The council said in a statement: “The council has taken the difficult decision to pause the planned installation of the Hanukah Menorah outside Havering Town Hall this year.

“We appreciate this is a hugely sensitive issue but in light of escalating tensions from the conflict in the Middle East, installing the candelabra now will not be without risk to the council, our partners, staff and local residents.

“We would also be concerned with any possible vandalism or other action against the installation.

“There will still be a temporary installation and event to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah.

“This will be taken down after the event and we will look at a longer-term installation next year.

“However, due to an increase in the number of hate crimes in Havering, both towards the Jewish and Muslim community, and after consulting with the leader of the council, we believe it would be unwise to move forward with the installation which could risk further inflaming tensions within our communities.

“When we started work on the installation no-one could have foreseen the recent international events and we have been fully committed to installing the candelabra with a number of council teams working to support it.

“Sadly, there are some who are politicising this and making accusations of antisemitism.

“This is categorically untrue and such statements are likely to incite further unrest in our communities.

“The council flew the Israeli flag in solidarity following the heinous terrorist attack against the people of Israel and we continue to stand by our local Jewish communities.

A menorah is lit in Trafalgar Square every year to mark the Jewish festival of lights. Credit: PA

“However, while the war is ongoing we feel we must postpone the planned installation.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly and we will revisit next year when we hope community tensions will have subsided.

“Havering Council does not take sides in the current conflict and regrets the loss of life, injury and distress on both sides.

“We have informed our community and faith partners and will continue to provide support to all our communities and work with the local police to ensure that everyone feels safe in Havering.”

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