Our Maidenhead synagogue is sad to see Theresa May go

Dr Rabbi Jonathan Romain laments his local MP leaving Downing Street

May 30, 2019 15:28

Whatever their political views, on a personal level, members of Maidenhead Synagogue have been saddened by the resignation of Theresa May as Prime Minister. Both the town and the congregation have benefitted from the higher profile her premiership brought.

Mrs May has often been to the synagogue for various events during her 22 years as MP, and she found time for appearances even when she was Home Secretary, and as Prime Minister.

This included a visit last year when she opened the shul’s Jewish history walkway, designed for visiting schoolchildren to step through 4,000 years of Jewish history in a few moments.

At the reception afterwards, she nodded with approval when I told her that many synagogues now have female rabbis leading them. Aware how religious she is herself, but without having any idea that her departure might come sooner than expected, I joked that if ever she needed a new job, she’d be welcome to apply here. She laughed and responded, “I don’t think you’d want to have me”.

In our own relationship, there have been some awkward moments when I publicly campaigned against her and her government’s policy on faith schools (I’m against, she’s in favour) or assisted dying (I’m in favour, she’s against), but that never stopped cordial relations. Unlike some other politicians, she is able to differ civilly and without rancour.

There are those in the community who disagree with her political stance, but even the most die-hard opponent would admit that she is a superb constituency MP, putting a lot of time into local concerns. This continued even when she entered Downing Street.

 It is also clear that she feels an affinity with religious life in general. As a practising Christian, going to church every Sunday, she appreciates the faith of others and is pleased when she sees it flourishing.

Although she often visits local schools or friendships clubs, she is particularly assiduous in accepting invitations to interfaith events. The local group spans Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and Bahais, and it is rare for her not to attend several events a year.

We also see a side to her that the wider public do not: although she is often described as “wooden” or “robotic”, she feels much more at ease locally, and is warm, chatty, and humorous.

It is so different from her perceived persona, that those who meet her invariably express surprise at how engaging she is.

Whatever history’s verdict on her as PM, she remains a good friend to the Jewish community.

May 30, 2019 15:28

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