The King has consistently gone above and beyond in support of British Jews

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The King has consistently gone above and beyond in support of British Jews

News Editor Justin Cohen and Community Editor Michelle Rosenberg reflect on a lifetime of service to this country's Jewish community

Charles, as Prince of Wales, raises a hammer he used to nail a mezuzah at the Jewish Centre in Krawkow (Photo: Arthur Edwards/The Sun)
Charles, as Prince of Wales, raises a hammer he used to nail a mezuzah at the Jewish Centre in Krawkow (Photo: Arthur Edwards/The Sun)

A joke story suggesting the then Prince Charles was converting to Judaism four years ago remains Jewish News’ most clicked Purim spiel.

Perhaps it was the fact that for years he has proudly worn the most famous kippah in Britain – a velvet head covering emblazoned with his crest as Prince of Wales – that gave the story even a shred of credibility.

More likely, though, it was the extraordinary number of engagements the new king has undertaken in the community over the years – and the enthusiasm with which he has thrown himself into causes close to communal hearts.

Britain’s King Charles III speaks to UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis as he meets with faith leaders during a reception at Buckingham Palace, London September 16, 2022. (Aaron Chown/Pool Photo via AP)

From lighting Chanukah candles with kids to becoming the first Monarch to attend the installation of a chief rabbi and from supporting Holocaust survivors to a visit to Yavneh school where he fashioned a crown out of balloons, the now Charles III has been at the forefront of the Firm’s close ties with Anglo-Jewry.

In recent years he’s also been joined on the communal scene by Camilla, the new Queen Consort, whose dancing hand in hand with Lord Levy to hava nagila at Jewish Care won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

It was with Charles’ role in Krakow’s Jewish community centre that his association with Shoah survivors began in 2008.

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

So moved was he by the plight of the city’s elderly residents, who faced poverty after living through the horrors of the Shoah, that he returned to the UK with the idea of creating an old age home for them.

World Jewish Relief was approached for help and, after extensive research, recommended to the then Prince of Wales that his vision would best be met with a new community hub where survivors could meet in comfort while mingling with younger people.

King Charles with his great friend Rabbi Lord Sacks.

The royal who has now ascended the throne put his “heart and soul” into the project, according to Nigel Layton, the charity’s former chair.

That included everything from making a personal donation to “talking about it all the time and holding events” and even flying to Poland to help affix a mezuzah at the opening in April 2008.

Current WJR chair Maurice Helfgott tells Jewish News that the patronage of His Majesty, the former Prince of Wales is personal:

“His passion for our mission, wholly authentic. His energy and engagement, electrifying. We are extremely grateful to celebrate the Coronation of a Monarch who we have come to know well – and trust completely.”

Prince Charles, who is patron of World Jewish Relief, met staff and families whose Ukrainian relatives have escaped the conflict (Photo: PA)

Helfgott calls the Coronation a moment of “profound celebration” for the organisation and for the Jewish community.

“We are grateful,” he continues, “for Their Majesties’ remarkable friendship to the Jewish community, and particularly for the 8 years the former Prince of Wales has spent as World Jewish Relief’s committed and actively engaged Royal Patron.

“Whether speaking at our Annual Dinner, celebrating Channukah at Clarence House, or as recently taking the initiative to visit our humble offices to thank us (!) for our response to the war in Ukraine, His Majesty’s conviction in the value of our global work, and his unwavering commitment to actively supporting us, is a great source of motivation and inspiration to our team, trustees and global partners – but very, very much also to the whole Jewish Community’.

G5JX7G The Prince of Wales, who attended the Bevis Marks Synagogue in London, during a festival of celebration to mark the Synagogue’s tercentenary.

Jewish News% was present when His Majesty told a WJR dinner that his family’s links with the community – including his grandmother’s saving of Jews during the Shoah and attending a school in the 1960s where he learnt from Jewish immigrants – helped inspire his efforts to reach across communities.

As with the Krakow project, it was Charles’ idea to commission leading artists to produce paintings of seven camp survivors for the Royal Collection.

Recognising that the number of survivors is dwindling fast, he and the new Queen Consort invited the subjects and their families to the Queen’s Gallery in January and spoke of his hope the artworks would serve as “a guiding light for society” – a light many will be hoping he continues to perpetuate now he is king.

Prince Charles speaking at a WJR event

To mark the historic occasion of the coronation, Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust tells Jewish News: “We raise a l’chaim and offer our heartfelt Mazel Tov as King Charles begins this new chapter. We join the Jewish community and communities of all faiths and none, in extending our warmest congratulations and thank him for his consistent heartfelt support for our Holocaust survivors. Nearly every Holocaust survivor you ask will share with you their joyous experiences of meeting the King or a member of the Royal family, always with a smile on their face. Congratulations Your Majesty!”

Along with WJR and the Jewish Museum, the Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade, (JLGB) and Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) have enjoyed his patronage.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, HMDT CEO tells Jewish News: ‘In 2001, as Prince of Wales, His Majesty attended the very first Holocaust Memorial Day National Ceremony in Westminster Hall. It was so fitting that our first national commemoration began in the heart of our democracy attended by our future King. This was so important in ensuring that Holocaust Memorial Day became such a prominent moment in our national calendar where everyone from Buckingham Palace to Birmingham Council House, from Merthyr Tydfil Central Library to HMP Magilligan marks this important day.”

Neil Martin OBE, chief executive of JLGB, tells Jewish News that the Coronation marks an “historic day” as King Charles is crowned the new monarch of our great nation: “As members, leaders, staff, and trustees of the JLGB and on behalf of our President, we extend our heartfelt Mazel Tov to King Charles on this momentous occasion.

Martin says the King’s decision to become JLGB’s patron in 2020 has “inspired a whole new generation of British Jewish children and young people to be a credit to their country and community, as they strive to be their best selves as worthy and useful citizens.”

As British Jews, he continues, “we celebrate the diversity and respect for different faiths that our nation embraces. We look forward to a future filled with hope, unity, and progress under King Charles’ reign. As our JLGB motto says may he ‘go from strength to strength’.”

“We wish King Charles a long and prosperous reign, filled with wisdom, compassion, and leadership. As he as already shown our community on so many occasions, may he be a shining example of dignity and forethought to us all.”

Handout photo issued by the Israeli Government Press Office of the Prince of Wales speaking at the World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem on the first day of his visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. PA Photo. Picture date: Thursday January 23, 2020. See PA story ROYAL Charles. Photo credit should read: Oded Karni/Government Press Office/PA Wire

His Majesty has been Patron of the Jewish Museum since 2008 when it became the former Prince of Wales’ first patronage of a Jewish Community organisation with a remit in the United Kingdom.

“This long standing relationship” the Museum told Jewish News, “reflects King Charles’s deep commitment to promoting and preserving British Jewish Heritage and the Jewish faith.”

If a man should be judged by his friends, then Charles must be a good place to count on the effusive support of The Sun’s veteran photographer Arthur Edwards, who said the “self-deprecating” royal didn’t get the praise he deserved as prince for supporting those in need, including the fact his charities raise more than £100m annually.

Another friend was Lord Sacks. The King first got to know the then chief rabbi on the flight back from Yitzchak Rabin’s funeral in 1995 and would later attend a gala marking his retirement as chief rabbi.

They became so close that Charles sent him a six-page handwritten note following his father’s death and, when the renowned author passed away in 2020, led tributes to “an inspired teacher and true friend” who he’d “miss more than words can say”.

Clarifying HM’s pledge to be defender of faith when he becomes King, Lord Sacks told Jewish News in 2018: “He is saying that because of his own Christian beliefs he can respect other people’s different religious beliefs. He’s reflecting the diversity of Britain. The Queen has in her own way reflected this so he’s continuing a fine family tradition.”

His work as a bridge was recognised with the presentation of an award from the Council of Christians and Jews last year.

Not that there haven’t been challenging moments. In 2018, Charles faced questions after the emergence of a private letter from 1986 in which he appeared to blame “an influx of foreign Jews” for Middle East unrest and urged the US to “take on the Jewish lobby”.

Clarence House moved quickly to clarify that he was simply reflecting the views of some he had met in the region, rather than his own.

One ongoing bone of contention – the absence of an official Royal visit to Israel – foreign trips are determined by the foreign office – was decisively ended with visits by Prince William in 2018 and then Charles himself in 2020, when he marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz at Yad Vashem. During that visit, he hailed the Israeli geniuses maintaining the entire structure of the NHS”.

At a Buckingham Palace reception organised with the Board of Deputies shortly before the pandemic, HM said his support for communal causes was the least “I can do to repay” the “blessings” brought to Britain by its Jews and described being touched to have grown up knowing synagogues include a prayer for his family every week. That prayer may have now changed to reflect this accession last week – but the relationship between British Jews and the new Monarch is likely to remain one of mutual appreciation.

Likewise with his heir, the new Prince of Wales, who we can expect to see continuing to take on some of his trailblazing work.

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