New year message: My heart goes out to those affected by this tragic year

Rabbit Herschel Gluck stands amid a crowd at a Stand Up To Racism event.

Rabbi Herschel Gluck OBE speaks at a Stand Up to Racism event earlier this year. - Credit: Polly Hancock

The year 2020 has truly been an exceptional year. In all my 62 years as a Hackney resident I have not seen anything like it. 

First of all, I would like to convey my sincere condolences to all those who have suffered during this year. 

My heart goes out, to all those that have lost a loved one, to those whose lives have been turned upside down, to those who have been in isolation, and to those who have been adversely affected in any way by Covid-19 and the tragic affects and inconveniences of the "new normal". 

My heart goes out to each and every one of you.

We have also witnessed this year, tremendous and exceptional acts of altruism.

Expressed in many heart-warming examples of care and empathy for others, including for complete strangers, performed by many Hackney people, both as front-line workers and as volunteers. Often even in both capacities.

We have seen the best in many people, unsung heroes, everyone a star who deserves our heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation for their quiet, devoted care for people in our borough, and beyond. 

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Our inner-city boroughs have large immigrant and Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities who have suffered disproportionally from the pandemic.

They have also been disproportionately among those heroically dealing with the ravages of the situation on behalf of us all, both as front-line workers and as volunteers.

In addition, very sadly, many of these communities have had to suffer the indignity of increased hatred and violence by those with an irrational fear and loathing of the "Other". 

I am informed that many members of minority communities, including some front-line workers, are so afraid of attacks on London Transport that they have to take cabs to and from work, despite their meagre salaries!

The brutal murder this year of George Floyd in the USA, by people acting as agents of the state, has shone a light here as well, on the discrimination against Black and other minorities and served as a wakeup call for the need for real and meaningful change in the way Black and other minorities are treated in our society.

The Jewish community has also suffered a very disproportionate number of deaths from Covid-19.

This painful situation has been further compounded by a massive increase of daily antisemitic attacks on random men women and children, which sadly shows no sign of abating.

This year is also the year of Brexit. 

In our borough's there are many people from EU Countries who have made their home here and have contributed very significantly in improving and enhancing our lives and welfare. 

Many of them are deeply concerned and worried about their future here.

We have a moral duty now, to reciprocate and to demonstrate our recognition of the good and benefits that we have received from them, by assisting and caring for them now in their time of need. 

With the arrival of the Covid-19 vaccine which I hope and trust we will all take up and benefit from, though we are not out fully of the woods yet, there is, thank God, a more optimistic feeling of hope and anticipation for better times ahead in 2021. 

This is an appropriate time to remember all the kindness and devotion of so many people during this past year, and to build further on the good communal spirit and unity with which our borough is so blessed.

With my best wishes to Everyone for a good, happy, and healthy New Year.

  • Rabbi Herschel Gluck is president of Shomrim North and East London.

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