Lord Levy is a philanthropist, a Labour peer and a former aide to Tony Blair.
Most significant Jewish moment?
It was when I was travelling to and from Damascus in Syria on official trips as Prime Minister Blair’s Personal Envoy to the Middle East. I was going there with Foreign Office officials to see the late President Hafez al-Assad.
On one occasion I was there over a Shabbat and I asked to go to the only remaining active synagogue. There was just over a minyan in attendance. I of course had to go into the synagogue with very heavy security, but this did not take away from the excitement and emotion. I led part of the service and did the Haftarah. I literally had tears in my eyes as did virtually everyone else who was there. This was, for me, a unique and very special moment.
Which biblical character would you like to meet, and why?
I think I would be fascinated by Ruth — her honesty, integrity and commitment which made her, in my opinion, a truly historic figure. I would be interested to hear her views on how she would fare today in front of the Beth Din over her conversion.
Whenever I speak to the youth of our community, whether it be JFS, JLGB, UJS or others, I always feel truly inspired. Although perhaps this is not just a mitzvah, but a great pleasure too.
Israel for me is…
A combination of a deep love and commitment but now mixed with a sense of confusion, anxiety and frustration. My commitment to Israel goes back to my grandfather, the late Rev Abraham Birenbaum, a truly committed Zionist, and, of course, my late parents. In my youth, as a member of the B’nei Akiva movement, I developed a great love of Israel and I was subsequently inspired by leaders such as the late Yitzhak Rabin.
However, my confusion and frustration stems from the country’s political system, the way governments are put together, the merry-go-round political leadership that does not seem to allow for new visionary leaders and leaves, in my opinion, a major vacuum.
Last time you went to synagogue?
I went to the synagogue last Shabbat and I try and go every Shabbat and Yomtov.
Favourite Jewish book?
My name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok.