Brexit schmexit. How Jewish are Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt?

As the leadership hopefuls seek to burnish their credentials with Tory members, we rate them on the only scale that matters


Jeremy 'My Best Friend Is A Chasid' Hunt

Jewish genealogical expert Doreen Berger has spent time combing Jeremy Hunt’s family tree, but failed to find the frailest twig of Jewishness.

Undaunted, Mr Hunt made his bid for a Jewish connection this week, telling the JC about his experiences at the Chasidic wedding of one of his best friends from his time at Charterhouse School — which, as a Christian boarding school in Godalming, Surrey, is an unlikely place for a nascent Chasid.

Describing the event — which took place more than 30 years ago — Mr Hunt said: “One of my best friends at school was Jewish and he went on to become Chasidic.

"His wedding was something I’ll never forget. It was a surreal experience going to a synagogue where not only was there a screen down the middle separating men and women, but where the men, including Israeli soldiers with their guns, all danced together.”

The Tory leadership candidate admitted that being Foreign Secretary had allowed him to “engage around the issues” involving the Jewish community more fully than when he was Health Secretary.

But he said his “fundamental support” for both the community and for Israel was “always there”.

Our verdict: two per cent Jewish for chutzpah

Boris 'Descended From A Rabbi' Johnson

Nominally Anglican but with Muslim ancestors from Turkey, at first sight Boris Johnson is not very promising JC material, even though he’s said that his commitment to Christianity is like the reception for Magic FM in the Cotswolds. 

However, his mother’s great-grandfather was Jewish, although this does not make Mr Johnson halachically Jewish. Elias

Avery Lowe arrived in the USA from Russia in 1891 with his parents. He became a palaeographer at Princeton and was a friend of Albert Einstein.

Johnson family members believe Elias was descended from rabbis. And genealogist Doreen Berger believes the missing Jewish link could be a revered Lithuanian rabbi with a penchant for Latin and Greek — Rabbi Elijah Ragoler, born in 1794.

He shares a surname with Sarah Ragoler, Elias Lowe’s mother. 

The rabbi argued against Reform Judaism but, according to the Jewish Encyclopaedia “insisted upon the avoidance … particularly of insulting words,” advice that may be useful to Mr Johnson.

Sarah Ragoler and her husband Chaim Lowe, a silk merchant, were the grandparents of Mr Johnson’s mother, the artist Charlotte Johnson Wahl, whose second marriage was to a Jewish American academic, Nick Wahl.  What’s more, Mr Johnson spent time on a kibbutz as a teenager. 

Our verdict: five per cent Jewish

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