The Prince of Wales paid a fulsome and affectionate tribute to Britain's Jewish community this week in a wide-ranging address to mark the 250th anniversary of the Board of Deputies.
Prince Charles, long established as a keen amateur historian, addressed a warmly responsive audience at Guildhall, sending shivers down the spines of some when he recalled that in Guildhall's Great Hall, where he was making his remarks, the trial had taken place in 1594 of Queen Elizabeth I's Jewish doctor, Rodrigo Lopez.
"The Queen tried to avert his execution, but in vain," said the Prince. Nevertheless, she had broken with precedent after his death by giving the Lopez family the right to retain property. It was, the prince suggested, just one of the many long-standing ties between the royal families of Britain and its Jewish community.
Praising the "deep and vibrant contribution of British Jews to every sphere of British life," Prince Charles declared his belief that the "talents and contributions of our Jewish community are not sufficiently well known by the public at large, and not sufficiently celebrated."
It had been his wish, he said, and that of his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, who was also present, "to recognise that excellence and celebrate with you."
The contribution of British Jews was, said the Prince, "nothing new." As far back as 1700 the first Jew to be knighted, Solomon de Medina, was aiding the Duke of Marlborough by providing supplies to the army fighting the battle of Blenheim, supplies which, Prince Charles noted, included the food.
Sixty years later, a group of Jews presented a Loyal Address to King George III to mark his accession to the throne, an event which marked the founding of the Board of Deputies.
Prince Charles reminded his audience of the close ties between Queen Victoria and Sir Moses Montefiore, whom she had knighted. Montefiore, a distinguished president of the Board for 39 years, had had a special key made for the young princess to have access to his gardens
"Sir Moses so loved Jerusalem that he adopted it on his crest," Prince Charles recalled, adding that Montefiore had taken a little bit of Britain to Jerusalem by building "a Kentish windmill" there, and had brought Jerusalem to Britain
by being buried, in Ramsgate, in Jerusalem soil.
Prince Charles paid particular tribute to World Jewish Relief, and spoke warmly of the WJR Jewish community centre in Cracow of which he is a patron. He added: "We do not all share the same faith, but we should not forget that we are linked by faith itself, sustaining and enriching our national life."
Judge Lawrence Brass, the convenor of the Board's 250th celebrations, welcomed the hundreds of guests to Guildhall, headed by Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, the Archbishop of Westminster and the Bishop of Manchester. Leaders of Hindu and Muslim communities also attended, together with diplomats and deputies from all over the country. The coalition's Minister for Diversity, Lynn Featherstone, was present, together with MPs Simon Hughes, Sir Alan Beith, Denis McShane and the newly ennobled Monroe Palmer.
Board president Vivian Wineman, welcoming special guest Baron David de Rothschild, said the celebration was a significant event "not just for the Board, but for the entire community." So many Jews, he said, were grateful to Britain for the shelter it had offered to their parents and grandparents. As the oldest minority community in Britain, it was proud of its record of participation and philanthropy. It was a theme robustly echoed by the Prince of Wales.
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