The King and us! Charles visits CST and JW3 to celebrate Chanukah

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The King and us! Charles visits CST and JW3 to celebrate Chanukah

His Majesty met scores of people from young to old - and even danced with Holocaust survivors during a busy day with the Jewish community.

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

King Charles III during a visit to the JW3 Jewish community centre in London as the Jewish community prepares to celebrate Chanukah.
King Charles III during a visit to the JW3 Jewish community centre in London as the Jewish community prepares to celebrate Chanukah.

King Charles visited the head offices of the Community Security Trust on Friday, before meeting scores of people from young to old – and even dancing with Holocaust survivors – at London’s JW3 community centre.

From the moment he walked over the entry bridge to JW3, Charles made himself at home, waving and smiling to a group of excited Rimon Primary School pupils who were making full use of JW3’s annual skating rink.

The King, received by Camden’s deputy lieutenant Roxane Zane and the JW3 founder Dame Vivien Duffield, was escorted into the building by the chief executive Raymond Simonson. He reminded the king that he already had a connection to the centre — the speech he gave as Prince of Wales, to mark the 250th anniversary of the Board of Deputies, is one of the key items buried in the JW3 time capsule in 2013, due to be dug up in 100 years’ time.

2M3PFJM King Charles III during a visit to the JW3 Jewish community centre in London as the Jewish community prepares to celebrate Chanukah.

First stop was in the reception area where a group of students from South Hampstead Girls’ School were packing toys and puzzles destined to be Christmas gifts for the children of asylum seekers, who already receive food packages on a weekly basis, prepared and packed by a team of volunteers.

The King’s party, in fact, had arrived with bags of food to donate to the regular produce being sorted — heavy offerings of rice and tinned tuna, as well as numerous other non-perishable goods.

Then — after joking with the South Hampstead girls about what wrapping paper they used — King Charles was off on a whistle stop tour of JW3, clearly delighted at what he was shown.

Upstairs he was introduced to students, mainly from the strictly-Orthodox community, taking part in a hair and beauty BTEC programme run by JW3’s Gateways, a unique education and vocational scheme that supports vulnerable young people at risk. One of the students, Eliana Anna Green, told the king she thought the course was “an amazing opportunity”, as she was learning skills which she hoped to use in future employment.

And then it was off to the JW3 kitchen, in which volunteers and refugees regularly prepare baked goods or hot food to go into the twice-weekly care packages. One refugee, Sefinat, screamed with joy at the sight of the king, falling to her knees in front of him as she could scarcely believe he was there. King Charles smiled broadly, and then left the group to make their ginger cookies. As one volunteer explained, “It would have been gingerbread, but we ran out of cinnamon”.

The King at CST.

Though not strictly speaking on his visitors’ tour, the king was fascinated by a krav maga (self-defence) class taking place opposite the kitchen. JW3 chair Marc Nohr, a krav maga expert, explained the origins of the discipline to King Charles. And in the next room there was a mothers’ and toddlers’ playgroup, prompting His Majesty to say: “You really have something for everyone here.”

It was the surprise element of the visit which delighted both king and members of the Jewish community alike. Throughout the tour, people repeatedly wished King Charles “long life”, after the death of his late mother. And a group of JFS film students, taking part in a programme in the JW3 cinema, were astonished to find the monarch walking through the building — and immediately 50 smartphones were whipped out to record the moment.

King Charles was able to see the almost final destination of the Buckingham Palace food donations as he met the volunteers who pack the food parcels every week. Beverly Frankel told the JN that the king had shaken hands with her husband Harvey — “I’m never going to wash that hand again,” Harvey said.

And then it was an emotional move into a reception tea for Holocaust survivors, many of whom the King had previously met when he gave them new year or birthday honours awards. The survivors did not know who the special guest they had been promised was going to be — one man guessed it would be Harry Kane.

King Charles III during a visit to the JW3 Jewish community centre in London as the Jewish community prepares to celebrate Chanukah.

But instead they were obviously thrilled as the King made his way around the tea tables, talking to survivors and then — to universal delight — joining in an impromptu hora. He later told Raymond Simonson that he thought the dancing was very like Scottish country dancing, with which he is very familiar.

Dame Vivien Duffield made a presentation of a chanukiah to the king, designed by artist Michael Aram, with the inscription that “one person’s candle provides the light to many”.

The last endeavour shown to the king was work done by the external charity, The Bike Project”, which provides bikes and training for refugees who want to attend job interviews.

On his way out the King met one of JW3’s kashrut supervisors, Aaron Isaacs, who was able to recite the blessing reserved for meeting a monarch. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to say this bracha”, Isaacs said.

Raymond Simonson later said that the visit had been “an extraordinary endorsement of the Jewish community and our place in British society. We wanted to show that we are about much more ‘joy’, and much less ‘oy’ to show the celebratory side of Jewish culture. We wanted to show our Jewish values. In a way, I can’t really put into words what this means. He saw the chanukia up outside, he saw kids with kippot, that was the internal side of what we do, and then he saw what we do externally”.

He added: “People were absolutely thrilled. They come here every week — but they don’t get to see the King every week. I thought he was so menscheldik today, the way he spoke to the children and to the survivors. I was warned by his team that once he got into that room (with the survivors) it would be difficult to get him out. It was just wonderful”.

Earlier, the King visited the Community Security Trust where he was welcomed by chairman Gerald Ronson and deputy chairman, Sir Lloyd Dorfman, before meeting with many of the charity’s volunteers, staff and trustees.

The King viewed a self-defence training session, visited CST’s 24/7 security control centre and was briefed on the full range of CST’s many activities, including support for the victims of antisemitism, expert online investigative research against terrorism, and the sharing of security advice with other faith and minority communities.

Ronson said: “The visit was a tribute to everything that CST does in protection of our Jewish communities.”

CST chief executive Mark Gardner said: “The King was warm, engaging and enjoyed meeting everyone at CST. The visit meant a lot to our volunteers, staff and trustees, and we thank the King for demonstrating his support for our work and the wider Jewish community.”

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