The Daily Telegraph
The monarchy is a friend to all faiths
King Charles has shown eagerness to continue his mother’s tradition of promoting reconciliation
In an address at Lambeth Palace in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II said: “The concept of our established Church is occasionally misunderstood. Its role is not to defend Anglicanism to the exclusion of other religions. Instead, the Church has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.” A beacon of tolerance during the 70 years of her reign, the Queen was the embodiment of this message. Respecting all people with sensitivity and dignity, she reached out with friendship to other faiths within her realm and they were all enriched by her warmth, concern and encouragement.
In this context, on ascending the throne, the late Queen saw interfaith dialogue and reconciliation as crucial ingredients of a successful and harmonious post-war Britain. One of the very first charities to which she pledged her support in 1952 was the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ). It had been established in the midst of the Holocaust in 1942 by Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz and the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple. The Queen’s personal involvement in CCJ over many subsequent years would bear testament to her respect for other faith traditions and her desire to promote diversity and reconciliation.
The Queen’s deep interest in and respect for Jews and Judaism was evident when, seven years ago, my wife Valerie and I had the privilege of staying overnight at Windsor Castle as guests of Her Majesty and Prince Philip. No effort was spared in preparing kosher meals of the highest standard for us. After dinner, the late Queen and Prince Philip led us on a tour of the Royal Library. A Czech Torah scroll, given to her by the Memorial Scrolls Trust, was put on display for us. This was one of 1,564 sacred scrolls which had been confiscated and earmarked by the Germans for display in a planned museum in Prague dedicated to “the destroyed Jewish people”. Members of the Royal family took to heart the significance of this Torah scroll, which is a symbol of Jewish faith and survival.
In her first year on the throne, the late Queen also became a patron of Norwood, the UK’S largest Jewish charity supporting vulnerable children and their families, children with special educational needs and people with learning disabilities and autism. She showed interest and gave support to Norwood throughout her reign.
When the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust was established in 2005, the late Queen readily agreed to become its patron and was passionately dedicated to numerous acts of memorial. I witnessed first hand her concern for the Jewish people and her empathy for our traumatic past when, in 2015, I accompanied her to Bergen-belsen, her first visit to a concentration camp.
On the Sabbath morning following the announcement that Elizabeth II had passed away, synagogues around the country were full of congregants, eager to pay respects and hear a moment of history. On every previous Jewish Sabbath and festival morning, prayers had been recited for the life and wellbeing of “our Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth”. Now, for the first time, we prayed for “our Sovereign Lord, King Charles”.
King Charles has shown an eagerness to continue in his mother’s tradition. In 2013, our community was deeply honoured when he interrupted his summer holiday in Scotland to attend my Service of Installation as Chief Rabbi. His encouragement to all faith groups is well-known and, having succeeded as patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust in 2015, he has shown a particular commitment to Holocaust memorial and education. Earlier this year, His Majesty unveiled in Buckingham Palace seven portraits that he had commissioned of Holocaust survivors, which, he said, would stand as a “living memorial” and a “permanent reminder”.
In her 2004 Christmas broadcast, the late Queen said: “Discrimination still exists. Some people feel that their own beliefs are being threatened. Some are unhappy about unfamiliar cultures. They all need to be reassured that there is so much to be gained by reaching out to others; that diversity is indeed a strength and not a threat.” From the experience of the British Jewish community, we know that King Charles will, most certainly, continue to convey this important message. The future stability of our society depends on it.