On the road with the United Synagogue

On the road with the United Synagogue

For the JC published May 14 2018

Israel’s president has pledged the country’s solidarity with the UK Jewish community in the wake of attacks from the left and right of the political spectrum.

In a warm and sympathetic address, Mr Rivlin spoke to 160 members of the United Synagogue (US) who were in Israel on a mission to celebrate the country’s 70th anniversary.

The seventh-generation Jerusalemite president, to huge applause, welcomed the delegation — made up of US synagogue members from around Britain — to “Jerusalem, yes, the capital of Israel”.

“I know that today it is not easy to be Jewish in Britain,” he said. “You have many challenges. Jewish schools need bomb-proof windows, and your shuls need protection, night and day.

“You face hatred on the right. You face hatred on the left. You face hatred from radical Islamist groups”.

Israel, said Mr Rivlin, did not “have a war with left-wing ideas, or right-wing ideas”.

But, he declared: “We will stand up and we will speak out when these ideas are twisted, to teach hatred of Jews, and God-forbid, to attack Jews. Israel stands side by side with you – just as you stand with us.”

Describing the US trip as “an important bridge in the strong relationship between the UK and Israel”, Mr Rivlin said he was immensely looking forward to welcoming Prince William to Israel. “His visit is a sign of the strong friendship between the British and Israeli peoples. It is a chance to show him, and all the British people, our wonderful country, and it is a wonderful country,” Mr Rivlin said.

The programme of the US mission, the largest to visit Israel for many years, was planned around celebrating different aspects of Israel in the 70 years since the Declaration of Independence, including a visit to Independence Hall itself where David Ben-Gurion announced the beginning of the state.

For British Jews there were moments of pride and poignancy throughout the trip, as they learned about the difficult treatment British soldiers meted out to European Jewish survivors in the Atlit detention camp; pride as Ambassador David Quarry spoke warmly of the strong relations between Britain and Israel, and poignancy as the group helped 88-year-old Asher Cailingold say kaddish for his sister Esther, the only British woman killed in the War of Independence.

Mr Cailingold, who became head of the Jewish Agency in the UK, was marking the 70th anniversary of her death when the US delegates were visiting Mount Herzl, where she is buried.

The Atlit event was enlivened by an address from 91-year-old Moshe Klein, who in 1947 was the commander of the Palmach underground forces in Cyprus, battling the British mandate and helping Jews to escape from the detention camps.

Jews who have made aliya from the UK, and a meaningful contribution to the state, also spent time with the US delegation.

They included Major Keren Hajioff, now head of the Israel Defence Forces’s public diplomacy unit, who emigrated in 2009; former Ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub, who — together with his wife Zehava and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and his wife Valerie, spent Shabbat with the group; Times of Israel editor David Horovitz; Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld; and the wine expert Adam Montefiore, a descendant of Sir Moses and the only member of the extended Montefiore family to have emigrated to Israel.

Built into the programme earlier this month was a celebratory Shabbat with the participation of the Chief Rabbi and Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, who works for the US in Israel, and Rabbi Michael Laitner, who heads the US Jewish Living Division and is assistant rabbi at Kinloss Synagogue in Finchley, North-West London.

  • 14 May, 2018