Zaki Cooper

Hail our new monarch, the true King of Faith

Charles has long been fascinated by religion and has been a stalwart friend of Britain’s Jews

May 04, 2023 13:19

Two years ago, when we at the Council of Christians and Jews were involved in presenting Prince Charles, as he was then, with our Bridge Award, it was a very special occasion. We had approached his office more in hope than expectation.

There were two factors in our favour. First, the previous year he had presented the award himself to Lord Rothschild at a reception. Secondly, there was his authentic and long-held interest in inter-faith harmony and collaboration.

Still, senior Royals are approached constantly with the offer of awards and their offices knock back pretty much all of them. It was therefore with amazement and considerable excitement that we heard back that he would be willing to accept the award.

Covid stymied our plans. But when the day eventually came, in July 2021, it did not disappoint. The Chief Rabbi presented the Bridge Award and quoted the famous line of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov: “The whole entire world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is to have no fear at all.”

In his own speech, the King picked up on the same concept, remarking: “Trying to build bridges between faith communities and to deepen mutual understanding has been a major part of my life’s work. So I cannot tell you how profoundly grateful I am for such a very special accolade.”

He went on: “We here know the vital role that faith communities have played across the world during this ghastly pandemic. Consoling the bereaved, caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and helping people financially.”

The point about the social contribution of faith groups is one he repeated in his first televised Christmas address last December: “Our churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and gurdwaras have once again united in feeding the hungry, providing love and support throughout the year. Such heartfelt solidarity is the most inspiring expression of loving our neighbour as ourself.”

This tells you something crucial about the King: he is extremely supportive of faith communities. He is not only fascinated by their theology but also recognises the social welfare work they do, day in, day out.

He also once described himself as “Defender of Faith” rather than “Defender of The Faith.” He has clarified that he was highlighting the duty the Church has to protect the free practice of all faiths.

He emphasised the point again in a speech at a gathering with faith leaders just a week after becoming King, where he said that he had always thought of Britain as a “community of communities”.

He said he had a “duty to protect the diversity of our country, including by protecting the space for faith itself and its practice through the religions, cultures, traditions and beliefs to which our hearts and minds direct us as individuals”.

The King’s engagement with the Jewish community has been extensive. He has a long-standing relationship with World Jewish Relief. He is also Patron of other causes such as the Jewish Museum, JLGB as well as the Bevis Marks Synagogue Appeal and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

He had huge admiration for the late Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks (describing him at his retirement dinner as a “light unto this nation”) and attended the installation of Chief Rabbi Mirvis.
His gesture to organise a palace reception for our community in December 2019 was born of an empathy about the buffeting the community had taken from antisemitism at the time.
He also has an enduring fascination with Islamic scriptures and history.

He established the Mosaic charity to help young Muslims in the wake of the 7/7 terrorist attacks in 2005. His has extensive links to the Hindu and Sikh communities, setting up the British Asian Trust in 2007.

Having acceded to the throne last September after more than 50 years as Prince of Wales, his role and focus has changed. While there are some obvious differences, the coronation could perhaps be compared to a bar mitzvah, with a public ceremony marking a transition from one phase of life to the next, with new responsibilities.

What is unlikely to change is the warm and positive relationship the King enjoys with our community.

Zaki Cooper is Co-Founder of Integra and previously worked in the Royal Household

May 04, 2023 13:19

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive