Archbishop Exclusive: ‘My Cousin The Rabbi’

Justin Welby’s comments, on the eve of his enthronement at Canterbury Cathedral today, came during an interview with the Jewish News in which he also voiced opposition to Israel boycotts, revealed plans to visit the Jewish state this summer and praised the Chief Rabbi as “one of the most significant religious thinkers”.

The past few months since being named as Archbishop have been transformative for Welby, not just because of his elevation within the Church of England but because he learned for the first time – as a result of a Daily Telegraph investigation – of his family’s Jewish roots.

Chemist Dr Gerhard Weiler, a cousin of the Archbishop’s father Gavin, fled with his family after Hitler came to power, later being registered as an “enemy alien” in the UK.

The 57-year-old former bishop of Durham said he was “really, really pleased” to discover details of his Jewish ancestry, but added: “It’s quite sobering to think I had a bunch of second cousins that didn’t escape.”

The great-grandfather of the man who will be formally confirmed today as the leader of 80 million Anglicans worldwide, along with three of his brothers, headed to London more than four decades earlier. The father-of-five told the Jewish News: “Once we’ve moved in properly, we’re going to meet up with some cousins who I had no idea about. One of them is a rabbi who recently wrote to me. He’s one of the senior teachers at a Jewish college in London. We’ll try to meet up, or get them to Lambeth Palace to do something fun to celebrate. To discover you’ve got a family you didn’t know about is really exciting.”

He also revealed he hopes to visit the grave at Hoop Lane Cemetery in Golders Green of his great-grandmother Amalie, who lived in Hampstead until her death in 1914. The Cambridge-educated former oil executive comes to office just eight months after Anglican-Jewish relations were severely strained when the Church’s Synod voted to affirm support for a programme accused by the Board of Deputies of producing “very partisan activists” on the Middle East.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel takes participants to the region for around three months, but critics point out that only a fraction of that time is spent in Israel, before accompaniers return to give public talks about their experiences. The private member’s motion also expressed support for Israelis and Palestinians working for peace and for aid agencies in the region.

Welby said last summer’s vote – on which he abstained – had “clearly” damaged relations.

And in an unusual step he said: “On reflection, I’d have voted against. I wasn’t quite up to speed when I went into that vote. I think the situation in the holy land is so complicated that we always have to show we recognise this and I don’t think the motion adequately reflected reflected the complexity.”

He said he would have wanted something added to the text saying the Jewish state, like any other legitimate country, has the right to “live in security and peace within internationally-agreed borders and the people of the region have the right to justice, peace and security, whoever they are.”

While Welby said the situation caused by the Synod vote was “a concern and something we keep an eye on”, he stressed that he was not in a position to instruct the democratic Synod on how to vote.

Given that the EAPPI is not a CoE initiative, he added, it also wasn’t in the church’s “gift” to introduce a system of oversight of presentations made by returning participants, as urged by community leaders amid concern over the content of some talks.

But the 105th Archbishop wanted to “encourage” an “excellent” proposa, recently announced, for participants to spend a weekend with a Jewish family in Haifa.

The Archbishop – who said interfaith relations have always been “very important” to him – has gained vast experience in the field of reconciliation over the past decade, lecturing on the subject at the US State Department and undertaking work in Africa and elsewhere.

Asked whether he planned to voice his views on overcoming the impasse in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the 57-year-old said his reconciliation work had, in fact, taught him to speak out “extremely carefully… and only if I think I can make a significant difference.”

Welby said he was “very much looking forward” to making his first visit to Israelin his new role in June, when he will continue the series of meetings started by Dr Rowan Williams with Israel’s chief rabbies. “My wife and I went on honeymoon there and it’ll be her first time back since.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

Blair speaks of Israel friendship as he opens new Mill Hill shul centre

The new £3.2 million Ner Orre Community Centre, which took a little over a year to build, is set to become a “hub” for the local community, which with 1,000 member families had outgrown previous facilities. It features six classrooms, a hall and youth lounge in addition to the rebuilt Annie and Samuel Levy Hall, named in memory of longterm member Lord Levy’s parents.

The former prime minister wished those involved a hearty “mazeltov” and, in front of an audience that included his wife Cherie, Chief Rabbi-elect Ephraim Mirvis and Israeli Ambassador Daniel Taub, described the driving out of Jews from England in the 13th century as a “disaster”, before hailing the work of today’s communal institutions, including Jewish Care, Norwood and the CST.

He insisted such bodies were underpinned by values including family, education and charity “as an aid for people to make more of their lives and be empowered to do what they wish to do”. He added: “That, for me, is what the Jewish community at its best represents in our country. And its vibrancy is a testament to the fact the Jewish faith is based on compassion and sense of obligation to the broader community and to others.”

Blair touched on his role as envoy to the Quartet – for which he will shortly embark on his 98th visit, saying: “People say I am a friend of Israel – sometimes it’s a compliment and sometimes it’s not. But I am and I’ve become more so since I’ve begun visiting there regularly.” While he said he could level criticism at Israeli governments, he added: “I’ve got to know the country and the people,
but also something of what makes Israel, Israel. These values of respect for the family and education and community are there.”

The centre’s unusual spelling of Orre – meaning light – forms an acronym of the
names of the parents of Rita and Stanley Davis, the project’s principal donors. During the ceremony, Stanley affixed the mezuzah to the front door of the building, while Lord Levy added the mezuzah to the Levy hall.

Blair said he joined the celebration at the centre “with a sense of gratitude for what you do in this community centre, for what the Jewish community do in our country and for what the Jewish community and the Jewish faith represent in our world today. I’m proud to have been part of (today).”

Mill Hill’s Rabbi Yitzchak Shochet said: “The commitment and generosity of so many enabled this dream to become reality. It reflects the incredible community spirit in one of the fastest growing and leading communities in Anglo-Jewry.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

Miliband: ‘My Debt To Israel’

His comments came during a session with 300 community members last Thursday, organised in partnership with the Board of Deputies, at which the Labour leader also stressed the importance of religious practises being preserved and fiercely condemned George Galloway’s recent refusal to debate with an Israeli.

Offering a glimpse into how his background informs his views, Miliband, who is bidding to become Britain’s second Jewish-born premier in 2015, recalled visiting his grandmother in Israel when he was aged just seven and asking about the identity of relative in a photograph on the mantelpiece. “My grandmother teared up,” he said. “It was her husband who’d been killed in the camps. From that moment onwards, I realised the state of Israel was giving my grandmother incredible sanctuary. So, I have huge respect, admiration and a debt not just to Britain but also to Israel.”

While he told the audience at the Royal College of Surgeons that “it doesn’t mean I always agree with the government of Israel”, he added: “I am totally intolerant of those who question Israel’s right to exist – totally intolerant.”

Asked by one audience member if he’d describe himself as a Zionist, Miliband said: “The answer is ‘yes’, because I consider myself a supporter of Israel. I think it’s important… that as somebody who supports not only Israel’s right to exist but has huge respect for what Israel does. I count myself in that category.”

But following a flurry of media reports on those comments and frenzied debate on Twitter, a Labour source later stressed: “Ed did not use the word ‘Zionist’ to describe himself” but had “made absolutely clear that he is a strong supporter of Israel”.

On boycotts, the Leader of the Opposition left no room for interpretation, describing such campaigns as “totally wrong”. He added: “We should have no tolerance of boycotts. I’d say that to any trade union leader, any Labour Party member, anybody who asked me. How do you create a two-state solution? Not with boycotts.”

Becoming the highest profile political figure to wade into Galloway’s recent walkout from a debate at Oxford. He told the gathering he’d been “shocked” by the Respect MP’s “shameful behaviour”.

Turning to some of the most pressing issues facing the Jewish state, Miliband expressed hope that the incoming Israeli administration will help advance the two-state solution. Pressed by Board vice-president Jonathan Arkush on Iran, he echoed the British Government by urging a “twin track” approach of sanctions and attempts at negotiation.

“No, it isn’t bound to work,” he conceded. “But it’s absolutely essential that we pursue that with all the vigour we can.”

Quizzed on domestic issues, the Labour chief pledged to accept for as long as he heads the party the right of the community to perform circumcision and religious slaughter and to “look in to” a new proposal to make studying a foreign language in primary school compulsory from next year (currently Hebrew is not one of seven designated languages).

Miliband said after the event: “It was a great privilege to
address the Board of Deputies at the Jewish News-sponsored event and have the opportunity to answer questions on a range of subjects. I’d like to thank everyone who took part.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

Miliband: I’ve No Tolerance with Boycotts

The Labour leader’s comments came as he was quizzed on a wide range of Jewish and general issues at a question and answer session, organised by the Jewish News in partnership with the Board of Deputies.

Asked whether he was a Zionist, Miliband said: “Yes, I am a supporter of Israel.” Widespread debate followed on Twitter, with Respect MP George Galloway among those to weigh in with their thoughts, but Miliband’s office have since claimed that the comments were misinterpreted, and that the politician was simply emphasizing his support for the state.

While stressing that he didn’t always agree with Israeli policies, he stressed: “I have no tolerance for boycotts” and would be happy to say so to trade unionists. “You don’t create a two-state solution with boycotts.” And he stressed that “we should have no tolerance” for those who question Israel’s right to exist. Miliband once again spoke of how his upbringing helped propel him to high office and of his family’s experiences in fleeing the Nazis.

“I have respect, admiration and indeed a debt to Israel for the sanctuary it gave my grandmother,” he said. Turning to other issues, he spoke of the importance of protecting shechita and brit milah and insisted that Galloway’s recent refusal to debate with an Israeli at Oxfo0rd University had been “shameful”.

The event – attended by a capacity audience of 300 including Louise Ellman, London Assembly member Andrew Dismore and columnist Jonathan Freedland – also saw Miliband being presented with a seder plate and haggada by Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer and Laura Marks, senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies.

Learn more »
Comments Off

Forward or backward? Moment of Truth for Lib Dem-Jewish Relations as Clegg Decides Fate of David Ward

The Bradford East MP was censured by his party’s chief whip two weeks ago after writing, ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, that he was “saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust could, within a few years of liberation, be inflicting atrocities on the Palestinians in the new state of Israel – and continue to do so”. Despite issuing an apology for “unintended offence” and pledging not to use the term “the Jews” again in that context, he later emailed the Jewish News asking if it would be more acceptable to replace the words “the Jews” with “the Jewish community”.

Lib Dem Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael met Ward over those emails on Monday and has since invoked the party’s full disciplinary procedures – which allow for a member’s possible suspension from the party or, in the most severe cases, permanent removal of the whip. A Lib Dem source said: “The chief whip was previously given an undertaking there would be no repetition of this language. On the face of it the emails to the Jewish News would appear a breach of that undertaking.”
Under the party’s procedures, Carmichael and Ward must now be joined at a further meeting by the party’s leader and deputy leader, but Nick Clegg’s participation in G8 talks in Mozambique prevents this from taking place before the weekend.
Carmichael told the Jewish News however that the parley would take place “at the earliest opportunity. It would be wrong to prejudge the outcome of that meeting. Obviously the use of these procedures is a very rare occurrence and is an indication of the seriousness the party attaches to this situation.”
While falling short of saying if further action would be taken against Ward when quizzed by Conservative MP Robert Halfon asked in the Commons on Tuesday, the deputy prime minister said: “I am unambiguous in my condemnation of anyone from any party including my own who uses insensitive, intemperate, provocative and offensive language to describe a long-running conflict about which people have very strong feelings. Everybody is duty bound to choose their words carefully and tread carefully when entering into this very heated debate.”
Following a Downing Street meeting last Thursday, Jewish community leaders said the chief whip had made clear the new case would be pursued in the context of a commitment by Carmichael in last week’s Jewish News that if “anything of this sort” happened again the consequences “would escalate significantly” beyond the official censure already imposed.” The leaders also pointed to the fact the original offending statement remains on Ward’s website. Speaking at Jewish News’ latest Q and A event last week, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, describing Ward’s words as “repugnant”, urged the Lib Dems to “be true to their word” about what would happen if sentiments were repeated. The JLC Jeremy Newmark said last night: “We respect the need to the chief whip to follow party processes and understand that the party leader’s overseas trip has contributed to the delay. However we are confident that this is being taken seriously and that there is an understanding that the timeframe is not elastic. Party processes must allow for swift action on anti-Semitism.” The Board of Deputies Jon Benjamin said Ward’s defiance “appears to be escalating rather than abating”. Weighing into the latest row, Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel Chairman Gavin Stollar said: “David Ward continues to dig himself into a hole. I was always taught when you’re in a hole stop digging.” The BBC reported that Ward acknowledged there was a “difference of opinion” on whether he had breached the party’s standing orders. He added; “I have already apologised. It’s a question about finding a form of words that make it possible for me to continue to ask questions about these things that are allowed to happen year after year.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

sorry seems to be the hardest ward

The Liberal Democrat MP who used Holocaust Memorial Day to accuse “the Jews” of atrocities against the Palestinians faced further punishment last night after asking whether he could repeat the criticism using the term “Jewish community” instead.

Bradford East MP David Ward was formally censured by his party after writing, ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, that he was “saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust could, within a few years of liberation, be inflicting atrocities on the Palestinians in the new state of Israel – and continue to do so”.

But despite issuing an apology for “unintended offense” and a written pledge not to use the words “the Jews” again in that context, the offending statement still remains on the politician’s website.

And last night, as chief whip Alistair Carmichael pledged that that action against Ward would “escalate significantly” if anything of “this sort ever happens again”, Ward wrote to the Jewish News: “Can you ask the Board of Deputies if they’re in agreement that I should replace the words ‘the Jews’ with ‘the Jewish community’? If so, I am perfectly happy to do so.”
Earlier in an email exchange with the Jewish News – in which Ward was given no less than three opportunities to say when the statement would be removed from his site but failed to do so – he asked: “Can you provide me with a more acceptable choice of words that I could use to criticise the treatment of the Palestinians?”

The latest slur came as the Jewish News learnt that community leaders, including representatives of the Jewish Leadership Council, are to meet senior Lib Dem figures over the Ward issue in Downing Street today.

Even before the MP’s words to the Jewish News, community leaders insisted the party had not gone far enough in taking action against him, with some even calling for the whip to be withdrawn. While stopping short of such a call in a statement on Monday, the Board of Deputies – which has written to Nick Clegg over the matter – pushed for “further action”. It added that the continued presence of the original offending statement online, “hardly inspires confidence in the sincerity of his apology. The continuing presence of the statement appears to amount to a breach of the undertaking he gave to the Chief Whip to refrain from using the phase “the Jews” in this context. Ward’s behaviour serves to demonstrate his defiance of the leadership of the Liberal Democrat party and of its censure. It also renders his undertaking worthless.”
In an exclusive article in this week’s Jewish News, Carmichael says both Ward’s language and timing were “unacceptable”. He writes it was “intolerable because it is inaccurate and offensive to equate and link all Jewish people with the actions of the Israeli Government. It was intolerable because the Holocaust was a particular crime against humanity that involved the attempted extermination of a people. Whatever view we take of the actions of the Israeli government, no one would attribute that end to them. And it was intolerable because the Jewish community, like the rest of us, will never forget Nazi cuelty, and deserve better than to be lumped together and called “the Jews”.
Carmichael stressed that the censure was the most serious measure available to him. He added: “I have also made it absolutely clear that nothing of this sort must ever happen again. If it were to, the already serious consequences for David Ward would escalate significantly.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

Latest Figures Show Rise In Social Media Anti-Semitism

Figures published today by the Community Security Trust show there were 640 incidents targeting community members and property during the 12 months to December – the third highest total in more than two decades – including a rise during the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

But the CST attributed the overall increase – including a 55 percent increase in the Greater London area – “largely” to a new data sharing system with the Metropolitan Police which saw officers pass on details of 100 incidents during the year.

Without those figures being included, the CST said, there would have been an 11 percent overall decrease. “These figures require careful analysis,” said director of communications Mark Gardner. “Discounting incidents from the new exchange system, the overall UK like-for-like level may actually have fallen slightly. Overall, we are very pleased with the information sharing with police and the figures should now be even more accurate than in previous years.”

In Greater Manchester, where the CST and police have run an incident exchange programme since 2011, the report shows a 34 percent drop. Last year saw a 27 percent fall in the number of violent anti-Semitic attacks from 95, with two of these involving grievous bodily harm or a threat to life.

Among the 69 assaults in 2012 was an attack on a customer in a London bakery who was left needing hospital treatment after being punched last July. A man was allegedly heard to say: ‘F****** Jews… I f****** hate the Jews.’ The same month, in Hertfordshire, a rabbi was on his way home from synagogue when a car slowed down and the driver threw a penny at him, shouting ‘There you go’.

Incidents of damage and desecration also fell to the lowest levels since 2005. However, 2012 saw a 13 percent rise in abusive behaviour (467), including graffiti and verbal abuse as well as more threats to people and property (39) and in offending literature, including mass mailings and individual hate mail (12).

The huge increase in incidents involving the use of internet based social media – 80 compared to 12 in 2011 – “reflects the growing relevance of social media as a place where Jews encounter anti-Semitism and the ease with which it can be reported, rather than being an absolute measure of anti-Semitism on social media platforms,” the report says.

Reacting to the report, a government spokesperson said: “Anti-Semitism is unacceptable and has no place in a civilised society. Hate crime, including religious hate crime, has devastating consequences for victims and their families, and also divides communities. We should all work together to confront this despicable behaviour.

“The government continues to deliver its action plan, which aims to protect victims and take firm action against those who commit hate crimes.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

David Ward Faces Fresh Lib Dem Action Over JN Comments

The Bradford MP David Ward was formally censured by his party’s chief whip after writing, just days before Holocaust Memorial Day, that he was saddened that the Jews, who suffered unbelievable levels of persecution during the Holocaust could, within a few years of liberation, be inflicting atrocities on the Palestinians in the new state of Israel and continue to do so.”

But despite issuing an apology for “unintended offense” and a written pledge not to use the words “the Jews” again in that context, the offending statement remains on the politician’s website 11 days on. And last night he wrote during an email exchange with the Jewish News: “Can you ask the Board of Deputies if they are in agreement that I should replace the words “the Jews” with “the Jewish community” – if so, I am perfectly happy to do so.”

Earlier in the exchange – in which he was given no less than three opportunities to say when the statement would be removed from his site but failed to do so – he asked: “Can you provide me with a more acceptable choice of words that I could use to criticise the treatment of the Palestinians.”

Jewish News understands the party called a meeting this morning with community leaders including representatives of the Jewish Leadership Council to try to draw a line under the matter and seek further active engagement following the original comments and censure. But they quickly realised that this would be insufficient after seeing the paper’s front page exclusive this morning.

And in a statement issued at midday, community leaders – from the Board of Deputies, CST, Holocaust Educational Trust and JLC – said: “Earlier this morning we met with Government Chief Whip Alastair Carmichael MP and Liberal Democrat Party Chief Executive Tim Gordon, at their request. The Chief Whip has assured us that Mr Ward’s latest comments will be dealt with as a fresh issue. It was made clear that this will be pursued in the context of Mr Carmichael’s commitment that if “anything of this sort” ever happened again the consequences for Mr Ward “would escalate significantly” beyond the official censure already imposed.”

They added: “During the meeting we repeated our bewilderment that the original statements remain on Ward’s website and our view that his prior apology has no credibility.”

In an exclusive article in this week’s Jewish News, penned before the latest controversy, Carmichael says both Ward’s language and timing were “unacceptable”. He writes it was “intolerable because it is inaccurate and offensive to equate and link all Jewish people with the actions of the Israeli Government and the state of Israel. It was intolerable because the Holocaust was a particular crime against humanity that involved the attempted extermination of a people. Whatever view we take of the actions of the Israeli government, nom one would attribute that end to them. It was intolerable because te Jewish community, like the rest of us, will never forget Nazi cruelty, and deserve better than to be lumped together and being described as “the Jews”.

Disagreeing with those that claimed the censure amounts to no more than a slap of the wrists, he stressed that it was the most serious measure available to him “alone” and is the first time he had made such a move. But he added: “I have also made it absolutely clear that nothing of this sort must ever happen again. If it were to, the already serious consequences for David Ward would escalate significantly.”

Even before the MP’s words to the Jewish News, community leaders had insisted the party had not gone from enough in taking action against him, with some even calling for the whip to be withdrawn.

While stopping short of such a call in a statement on Monday, the Board of Deputies – which has written to Nick Clegg over the matter – urges “further action” by the party. It added that the continued presence of the original offending statement online “hardly inspires confidence in the sincerity of his apology. Moreover, the continuing presence of the offending statement appears to amount to a breach of the undertaking he gave to the Chief Whip to refrain from using the phase “the Jews” in this context.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

Cameron Urged to Consider New Iran Sanctions

Issues as diverse as the Middle East peace process, anti-Semitism and education policy were on the agenda at the Downing Street meeting, which was organised by the Jewish Leadership Council and saw the prime minister reaffirm the need to fight boycotts and delegitimisation of Israel.

The delegation – which also included representatives of the Board of Deputies – urged Cameron to continue taking a personal lead in pressing the European Union to proscribe Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation.

They also thanked the premier for the Government’s “robust” stance on Iran’s nuclear programme, while urging him to consider further sanctions – believed to relate to IranAir. Amid continuing questions over the issue of funding for long-term elderly care, the delegation urged a swift resolution.

The JLC’s chair of trustees Mick Davis – who headed the delegation with Board of Deputies President Vivian Wireman – said: “The Prime Minister understood our concerns and was responsive to them. We stressed the need for the UK to help to support negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians by acting in a fair, balanced and even-handed manner.”

Opening the meeting, Cameron again welcomed the “enormous” contribution of Anglo-Jewry in areas including the Big Society, business and politics. And he said: “The Jewish community has been a model for others to follow in terms of successful integration into the UK.”

Learn more »
Comments Off

Trump Attacks Obama Over Israel

The billionaire property developer is one of the of the US leader’s fiercest critics and yesterday used an interview with the Jewish News to launch a fresh line of attack.

Following reports that Obama had repeatedly said Israel “doesn’t know what its best interests are” in the wake of last month’s highly-contentious announcement on settlement construction, Trump said: “He (Obama) has not been a strong supporter of Israel.” The presenter of the American version of The Apprentice – who describes himself as a “big fan” of the Jewish state – added: “Bibi loves Israel, he cherishes Israel, he eats and breathes Israel. He knows what he wants and how to get it.”

Trump – who claims the Israeli leader has shown “great intelligence” and “toughness” in recent years – said the world should expect “greatness” if Netanyahu returns to the premiership. “Things will happen that will be good for Israel.”

The interview came hours after the screening on Israeli television of an unprecedented message of support for Netanyahu, instigated and produced by British-born PR guru Jonny Daniels.

Trump told the Jewish News it was an “honour” to endorse Netanyahu. “He’s respected tremendously in the United States and all over. Even his strongest enemies respect him.” Daniels, 27, who is a consultant to Deputy Knesset speaker Danny Danon, said: “Donald Trump is a true friend of the people of Israel. His public support of the prime minister comes from a deep and honest understanding of the intricate situation in Israel.”

He said it is believed to be the first celebrity endorsement of its kind from America for a candidate in an Israeli election.

Learn more »
Comments Off