More than 3,000 people gathered in Parliament Square to stand against antisemitism and hear passionate speeches about its rise.
The square filled with people holding signs that said “together against antisemitism” and “solidarity with British Jews”, four days before the General Election.
Though no speaker directly mentioned Jeremy Corbyn or Labour – which stands accused of institutional anti-Jewish racism under his leadership – the event had obvious political undertones.
Politicians including Lib Dem Chuka Umunna and the Brexit Party’s Yosef David attended and a poster van circled repeatedly and exhorting people to “wipe the smile off their faces”, picturing Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.
Robert Rinder, the lawyer, TV personality and grandson of a Holocaust survivor, gave an emotional speech in which he warned that Jews had sat “for too long in fear”, and “what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews”.
What started with the Jews, he said, “ends up as a malignant force in society as a whole… what starts with a mural ends up in murder.”
The rally, Rinder said, was “not about politics but there are certain things which disqualify you from the leadership of this country”, adding that being Jewish in Britain today should not have to be “an act of courage”.
Actress and writer Tracy-Ann Oberman listed to the crowd some of the hate-filled rhetoric to which she had been subjected since she began speaking out against antisemitism on social media.
She said she hoped “the political class would deal with this kind of thing”, but said they had not.
She said the Jewish community was currently caught between the hard left and the far right, and that misogyny was bound up with the abuse.
But she said: “I will not shut up, I will not be intimidated and I will not go away.”
Thanking journalists who had supported Jews, she also brought a message from actor Sanjeev Bhaskar, who said that the fight against antisemitism “is a fight for the soul of our society”.
Daily Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson also sent a message, saying that she received “thousands of letters at her publication from readers saying they were ready to form a Praetorian Guard around the UK Jewish community”.
Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Muslims Against Antisemitism, received cheers when he declared: “Britain is not Britain without Jews”.
Other speakers were historian Tom Holland and Trupti Patel, president of the Hindu Forum of Britain, who spoke of the close parallels and links between the Hindu and Jewish communities.