The whole country was shocked when, on 16th June 2016, Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox was murdered by a right wing extremist. For those of us in Leeds, her home, it felt very personal.  Her widower, Brendan was determined that his wife would be remembered not as a victim but by what she stood for and so The Great Get Together was created in memory of MS Cox’s maiden speech in which she said:

“We are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.”

Mr Cox urged local communities to come together and share food in events which celebrated what we have in common as well as our diversity.  Faith leaders, royals, politicians and celebrities helped to endorse the scheme.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis said:

“I am urging synagogues throughout the UK to take full advantage of this invaluable opportunity for community engagement on an unprecedented scale and I look forward to taking part.

“Breaking bread with those we care about has been a cornerstone of Jewish culture for millennia.

“That is why I believe that there is no better way than the Great Get Together to share what we have in common with those of all faiths and none.”

As part of this campaign, on 18th June, Etz Chaim hosted a hugely successful coffee morning which brought together 200 people of diverse faiths and communities in the local area.  Members from all of the four main Leeds synagogues were present and the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahai faiths were all represented.

Moving speeches were made by Malcolm Taylor and Rabbi Anthony Gilbert of Etz Chaim synagogue and by Rev Sharon Kaye, vicar of St John’s church.  Leeds North East MP, Fabian Hamilton, who had worked alongside Jo as a fellow Leeds Labour Member of Parliament spoke of her understanding of “the importance of identity and the sense of community”.