Hounslow Council criticised for cancelling Jewish event

Image above: Hounslow House – where the event was set to take place

Conservative Leader “extremely concerned” about decision

Hounslow Council has faced criticism from Jewish organisations following the cancellation of an educational event, the Jewish Living Experience, slated to be hosted at its headquarters.

For four decades, The Board of Deputies of British Jews has been organising the Jewish Living Experience, an exhibition designed to familiarise the broader community with Judaism. This initiative, touring the country, invites local schools to educate children about Jewish life and traditions.

Initially planned for April at Hounslow House, the exhibition was discussed at Hounslow Council’s Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (SACRE) meeting on 23 October. SACRE, representing major faith communities in the borough, had endorsed the event.

The exhibition was scheduled from 23 November to 1 December , with local primary schools allocated three days for visits, complemented by volunteer guides from the Jewish community. The Times reported Hounslow Council’s decision to cancel the exhibition citing “personal safety” concerns. 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.”

A spokesperson 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.”

The leader of the Conservative Group on Hounslow Council, Peter Thompson, said:

“I am extremely concerned about Hounslow Council’s decision to cancel the Jewish Living Exhibition. We agree with the Jewish Board of Deputies that it is totally unacceptable to cancel an event aimed at increasing understanding around the Jewish community, particularly at a time when antisemitism continues to rise to horrific levels across our capital.

“The council must now urgently publish the police advice it received about their decision to cancel this event, and arrange for an alternative date for this important event as early as possible in the new year.”

Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, leader of Hounslow Council, extended Hanukkah wishes to the Jewish community in a video on December 8, amidst the ongoing controversy.