Jeremy Hunt reveals one of his best school friends is a Chasidic Jew

In an interview with the JC, the Tory leadership contender recalls the “surreal experience” of being invited to the friend’s wedding in Israel over 30 years ago


Jeremy Hunt has spoken of how one of his best friends at school has grown up to become a Chasidic Jew.

Speaking to the JC, the Tory leadership contender recalled the “surreal experience” of being invited to the friend’s wedding in Israel over 30 years ago.

The Foreign Secretary said the friendship was “perhaps” one of the reasons that he now has such an “understanding of the Jewish community”.

He 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.

“Of course the soldiers were unable to put down guns because they can never be separated from his weapon.”

Mr Hunt said he preferred not to name his friend.

The Tory leadership candidate admitted that his role as 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”.

Asked if it was the case that the Conservative Party was taking the Jewish vote for granted as a result of the deep resentment for Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Hunt said: “No one should ever take the support of the Jewish community for granted, but I am someone who is a passionate supporter of Israel. 

“I don’t always agree with things that happen in Israel and I’m very open when I don’t.

“But in the end the big debate this century is going to be between open and close societies - countries that share our democratic values and countries that don’t.

“Israel is a beacon for democratic values in one of the most troubled regions in the world. We should always remember that.

“I also happen to be someone who feels very strongly is that the reason we had the Holocaust before was because good people said nothing. And it is very, very important that we call out antisemitism.”

Mr Hunt was scathing over what he described as Mr Corbyn’s “blind spot” on antisemitism.

He said: “Jeremy Corbyn can’t tell the different between criticising Israel and criticising the Jewish people.

“And that is a terrible shame on our country, that we have a leader of political party who wants to be Prime Minister who can’t make that distinction. That’s why I think it needs to be called out at every opportunity.”

But he added that if the Tory Party wished to remain outspoken about antisemtism within Labour, he welcomed calls for an independent investigation into allegations of Islamophobia in her own party.

Asked why he was the better candidate that Boris Johnson to take on the Labour leader over antisemitism, Mr Hunt said: “I’m speaking for myself.”

He also restated his belief that he rather than Mr Johnson was the Tory leadership hopeful more likely to take the UK out of the European Union by October 31 “because I’m the one who can negotiate a deal.”

Mr Hunt added: “I’m a business person by background. I set up and ran my own business for 14 years and I understand negotiations.

“Boris and I have said we’d be prepared to leave on October 31 without a deal. But Parliament has repeatedly tried to block that and I think it would again. So the safest way to leave quickly is to choose someone who can negotiate a deal.”

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