Historic moment for Anglo-Jewry as Chief Rabbi receives a knighthood

Board President Marie van der Zyl, Ukraine envoy Melinda Simmons and TV presenter Rachel Riley also named in New Year Honours list


Britain's King Charles III meets Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis during a reception with faith leaders at Buckingham Palace in London on September 16, 2022, following the death of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on September 8. - Queen Elizabeth II will lie in state until 0530 GMT on September 19, a few hours before her funeral, with huge queues expected to file past her coffin to pay their respects. (Photo by Aaron Chown / POOL / AFP) (Photo by AARON CHOWN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

In a historic moment for the Anglo-Jewish community, King Charles has bestowed one of Britain’s highest honours on Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, a Knighthood as Commander of the British Empire.

Rabbi Mirvis was given the award for his “significant services to the Jewish community, to interfaith relations and to education”. 

Vernon Bogdanor, a professor of politics and government who has written for the JC, was awarded a knighthood for services to political science.

President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews Marie van der Zyl, British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons, television presenter Rachel Riley and Julian Lewis MP were also named on the New Year Honours list.

As part of his work in interfaith relations since being appointed in 2013, Chief Rabbi Mirvis has organised ground-breaking Jewish and Muslim interfaith workshops and has travelled to Greece and India and, most recently, went on a historic visit to the UAE.

He has spoken up for China’s persecuted Uyghur Muslim population and spoke at a London mosque to call for unity following the terrorist attack on a Muslim place of worship in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019.

Maurice Ostro OBE KFO, Vice President of The Council of Christians and Jews, said about the Chief Rabbi: “This honour is not awarded to faith leaders simply because of their positions, and it is a testament to how he has gone above and beyond his role as Chief Rabbi and his recognition as a leader by both faith and non-faith communities.

“The knighting of the Chief Rabbi will not only be celebrated in the Jewish and Muslim communities across the UK but by communities of all faith and none. It also underlines how the establishment has started to recognise the importance of interfaith engagement as well as the vital contributions of our faith communities and the important role they play in making our country a truly great Britain.”

On receiving the news of his knighthood, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said: “I am enormously honoured and deeply humbled by this award. It will be particularly moving for me to receive this award from His Majesty The King, in his first year as our monarch.”

Theatre producer Sonia Friedman OBE, What Works adviser David Halpern, Suzanne Kantor of HMRC, pollster Peter Keller, and chair of Horniman Museum Eve Salomon will all receive a CBE this year.

Julian Lewis, MP for New Forest East and Chair of the Intelligence and Security committee, will receive a knighthood.

Marie van der Zyl, elected president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews in May 2018, has been given an OBE for her work in faith and integration.

She said: "This is a true honour and a great surprise. It is a tribute to all the work we do at the Board of Deputies to represent and advocate for our Jewish community. I could not have achieved what I have without the support and help of everyone here, including our wonderful staff team and my fellow honorary officers and deputies, all of whom are volunteers who give so much time and effort for no reward. This is as much for them as it is for me.”

His Majesty's Ambassador to Ukraine, Melinda Simmons, will receive a Damehood for her service to foreign policy and for her continued work in supporting Ukraine.

Sue Cipin, chief executive officer of the Jewish Deaf Association (JDA), has been awarded an OBE for her services to people with hearing and visual impairments. 

Ms Cipin said: “I am thrilled to have been awarded an OBE, which belongs to all our inspiring and committed staff and volunteers who do such incredible work. Being a part of the JDA community is not only crucial to our clients, it feeds the souls of all of us who are lucky enough to work here. JDA is part of who I am and I feel truly blessed to be a part of the JDA family.”

There is an OBE also for the president of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and ex-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, for his service to faith and to integration.

Smajo Beso, educator at the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, will be awarded an OBE for services to Genocide Education and Commemoration.

Lady Sarah Dorfman, wife of Sir Lloyd Dorfman, who is Jewish, will become an OBE for her services to ballet and dance, as well as journalist and broadcaster John Suchet.

Holocaust Educational Trust trustee Michael Karp will receive an OBE for his dedication to Holocaust education and remembrance, as will Susan Pollack MBE for services to Holocaust education and awareness.

Lily Ebert BEM, who this week celebrated her 99th birthday and featured in King Charles’ portrait documentary of Holocaust survivors earlier this year, will receive an MBE for services to Holocaust education.

Other MBE Recipients this year include Yvonne Bernstein and Chaim (Harry) Olmer BEM both belonging to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and Harry Heber of the World Jewish Relief and the Association of Jewish Refugees.

Michael Brown will receive a BEM for services to Holocaust education.

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “Holocaust survivors who have been educating over decades and those who have begun sharing their testimony more recently, are rightly awarded for their courage and dedication. Huge mazeltov and enormous thanks to the brave and indomitable Susan Pollack OBE, Lily Ebert MBE, Harry Olmer MBE and Harry Heber MBE, Yvonne Bernstein MBE and Michael Brown BEM for their determination and commitment to educate the next generation about the horrors of the Holocaust. We are indebted to you.”

Linda Rosenblatt, Chair of the World Jewish Relief Connections Committee, is set to receive an MBE for services to charity in the UK and abroad, as will Mark Gardner, Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust (CST).

Mr Gardner said: "I am delighted to receive this honour, which also reflects the amazing work of our volunteers and staff."

Television presenter and mathematician Rachel Riley will also receive an MBE as one of the UK’s most prolific, outspoken, and successful voices tackling anti-Jewish racism.

Dr Naomi Katz Sacks, Clinical Director of the West Hill Health Primary Care Network, received an MBE for “service to the NHS during Covid19”. Dr Katz Sacks was involved in developing and managing triage and provision of clinical services in the early stages of the pandemic. Later, she established one of the first vaccination centres in the country and recruited a team of volunteers to back up its work.

Rabbi David Kale, Faith Leader of Belfast Synagogue, will also be recognised with an MBE for his work in the Jewish community of North Ireland.

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