Zandra Rhodes, Solange Azagury-Partridge Among Fashion Figures at London Synagogue for Event Against Antisemitism

SPEAKING OUT, AND EATING: Some 100 British fashion figures including Zandra Rhodes, David Sassoon, Solange Azagury-Partridge, Suzy Menkes, Caroline Burstein and Caroline Rush gathered at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London on Saturday morning for a religious — and social — event hosted by Fashion & Beauty Against Antisemitism.

Cohosts Deborah Lyons and Mandi Lennard called it a “special fashion kiddush,” and after a morning of prayers, guests spilled into the synagogue’s reception hall to graze on traditional foods, including honey cake, cholent and latkes, fish balls and mini-bagels with chopped herring.

In between eating, hugging — and discussing the state of the industry — guests listened to Tracy-Ann Oberman, the British actress who’s playing Shylock in “The Merchant of Venice 1936,” in London’s West End, talk about Shakespeare’s controversial play.

Oberman, who’d read “The Merchant of Venice” as schoolgirl, described it as “hateful and horrible.” That’s why she was so eager to take on the role of Shylock, and reshape the character entirely — into a Jewish matriarch.

The actress, a familiar face on TV and the first British actress to play Shylock, said she called on generations of strong women in her family to inform her role in the play, which is set in East London in the 1930s.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO PUBLICATIONS DEVOTED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE ARTIST) Zandra Rhodes attends the BRIT Awards 2024 at The O2 Arena on March 02, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

Zandra Rhodes at the Brit Awards 2024 in London on March 2.

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

It was a time when the British Union of Fascists were terrorizing the East End, attacking and intimidating Jewish residents “but the people, the working class, the Irish, the trade unions, the ordinary heroes stood shoulder-to-shoulder” with the Jews, and defended them, Oberman said.

Benji Park, a fashion influencer, served as master of ceremonies, and reminded the crowd that “Jews formed the foundations of the fashion — or schmatta — industry.” He urged guests to attend the “Fashion City” exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands, which highlights the contribution of Jewish designers in turning London into a fashion city.

Lyons said: “It’s been an incredibly tough few months, contrasted by a tremendous sense of togetherness. We hope this kiddush will be an opportunity to amplify that sense of solidarity and bring some much-needed light to all of us.” 

She founded Fashion & Beauty Against Antisemitism last year following a wave of antisemitic crimes in the U.K. in the wake of the Oct. 7 terror attack in Israel.

As reported, Lyons drafted a petition denouncing antisemitism and urging people in the industry to speak for peace, or keep quiet. The letter attracted more than 1,000 signatories including Donna Karan, Bobbi Brown, Steven Klein, Nicky Hilton Rothschild, Carine Roitfeld, Bar Refaeli and Rachel Zoe.

Lyons is also the founder of the label Maison Lyons and cofounder of Last Yarn, a marketplace to discover, buy and resell surplus fabric.

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