A Ukrainian-born billionaire has funded a new giant menorah for the annual Chanukah in the Square event...
after the existing one — which was designed by a convicted child sex abuser — was scrapped.
The Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG), backed by Jewish magnate Mikhail Fridman, was approached in late September by the event’s organisers, the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), Chabad Lubavitch and the London Jewish Forum.
The previous menorah was designed, built and presented by Menachem Mendel Levy, of Golders Green, who was jailed for three years in 2013 for the indecent assault of a child under the age of 16.
The decision to discard the structure was prompted by a public campaign by Levy’s victim, Yehudis Goldsobel, who waived her right to anonymity.
GPG has committed to fund a temporary menorah for this week’s event, in Trafalgar Square, as well as a larger, permanent one to be used from 2019.
A design for the permanent one has not yet been chosen.
Simon Johnson, the chief executive of the JLC, told the JC that the decision to discard the previous menorah was made “over the summer”, but the announcement to do so came in late October due to several logistical and financial complications.
Mr Johnson said: “We were determined not to use [the existing menorah] this year.
"The delay in announcing it was related to issues with the disposal of the old one, the design of the new one and, in particular, whether it would be temporary or permanent.
“If GPG had not funded it, we would have come up with an alternative. We were looking at a whole range of extremely low-cost alternatives. No conversation would have started with GPG unless we had decided to use a new menorah.
“Now that we have a new one, the whole community can unite under the Chanukah light… and allow everyone to focus on the joy of Chanukah.”
Since 2017, GPG has supported UK communal organisations, and last week announced it had offered “major funding grants” to the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade (JLGB), the Partnership for Jewish School (Pajes), World Jewish Relief (WJR) and JW3. GPG’s primary aim is to help Jews to develop their Jewish identity, primarily focused on — but not limited to — the Russian-speaking community.
Chanukah in the Square will take place in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday December 5.