Rishi reshuffle: The Jewish movers and shakers in Sunak’s new government

Seven key ministers in Rishi Sunak's government are either Jewish, descended from Jews, or married to Jews


After arriving at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday, Rishi Sunak began the task of appointing around 140 Conservative MPs and Lords to positions on the government payroll, something that has taken most of the week.

His choices for key cabinet posts have been the subject of many headlines, with Suella Braverman’s reappointment causing controversy after she was sacked as home secretary just six days prior for what has been described as a “really serious breach” of security protocols.

That row rumbles on, but in the meanwhile the new prime minister has continued to fill both the key posts at the top of government, as well as the positions much lower on the rungs of the ministerial ladder.

Grant Shapps, who is Jewish, made headlines after Braverman’s sacking when he was brought in as her replacement, but that only lasted a matter of days when Sunak brought Braverman back and shifted Shapps over to the role of business secretary.

Meanwhile, Jewish MP Robert Halfon has also been appointed to the government, as have fellow members of the tribe, Lucy Frazer and Dominic Raab.

As the government begins its work combatting the many difficulties currently facing the UK, here is a full list of the Jewish movers and shakers in government.

Dominic Raab – Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice

Dominic Raab has made a return to government in two of the roles he previously held under Boris Johnson – Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Justice.

After being first elected to Parliament in 2010, Raab has also held the roles of Brexit Secretary, Foreign Secretary, and Lord Chancellor.

Raab is the son of a Czech-Jewish refugee who arrived in the UK in 1938 at the age of six fleeing the Nazis. His family decided to flee because the Munich Agreement gave the Sudetenland part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany. His father died when Raab was 12 years old.

The Deputy Prime Minister also spent a brief period as a volunteer on Kibbutz Sarid in Northern Israel before studying law at Oxford University.

Raab told the JC in 2020 of his “pride” at his family’s Jewish ancestry. He heard stories of the family’s ordeal in Eastern Europe from his grandmother, who “lived to a ripe old age” and lived close to his family home.

“Dad rarely spoke about his past or where he came from. Part of that was horror, part of that was that he was a classic, assimilated Jewish man,” said Mr Raab.

“My grandmother was different — she was a Czech who married a Hungarian man, which is where the name Raab comes from. She was scarred, not just by what happened, having left behind her parents and all the other members of the family who perished.

“She felt a huge sense of loss — and, I suspect, guilt for having left her parents behind. They tried to persuade them to come — my dad, his grandparents, I think his uncle was with him. They left and went through Tangiers refugee camp and then arrived in the UK in 1938.”

Mr Raab said the loss of his father and the deaths of large numbers of his family in the Shoah had made him appreciate what was “precious in life.”

Grant Shapps – Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Grant Shapps has also been appointed to Rishi Sunak’s cabinet, heading up the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

He had become the first home secretary Jewish home secretary in nearly 30 years following Suella Braverman’s resignation from Liz Truss’s government, but he was moved from the post by the new prime minister, who controversially decided to reappoint Braverman.

Shapps had joined the ranks of several other British Jews to serve as Home Secretary, after previously serving as Transport Secretary under Boris Johnson and Tory party chairman under David Cameron, before being fired after allegations of him using alter egos to shape his online image.

A former BBYO president, Shapps told the JC in a 2010 interview, that he was "totally Jewish" saying: "I don't eat pork, we only buy kosher meat and we don't mix meat and milk. I like being Jewish and I married a Jewish girl. It's like a way of life and it's good to be able to instil some of that sense of being in your kids."

Lucy Frazer – Minister of State in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Luzy Frazer has been appointed by the prime minister to be a minister in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, which is being led once again by long-time cabinet minister Michael Gove.

Frazer was elected as a Conservative MP for South East Cambridgeshire in 2015, and had done an internship at Israel's Ministry of Justice soon after she graduated from Cambridge.

She is descended from Jewish immigrants. Her grandfather, Dr. Hyman Frazer CBE, was headmaster of Gateway Grammar School in Leicester, and she has continued her family’s passion for education.

In her maiden speech in the House of Commons in 2015, Frazer said: “My great-grandparents fled to this country with nothing, with no possessions and no money, not even speaking the language, and Britain gave them a home. It gave them hope and it gave them a future. They integrated into our society, such that my grandfather was awarded a CBE for services to education. I am so proud to be part of this great country and to be in a position to give back to our communities.”

Robert Halfon – Minister of State in the Department for Education

Jewish MP Robert Halfon has been appointed for a second stint as a minister in the Department for Education, which is now led by Gillian Keegan.

Halfon was born to Jewish parents: his mother, Jennifer, is of Ashkenazi descent, while his father, Clement, is a Libyan Jew from a Sephardic family who now lives in Israel. His paternal grandfather, Renato Halfon, was an Italian-Jewish clothing manufacturer living in Libya until he was forced to leave in 1968, after which he joined Clement in England.

Halfon worked for a number of Conservative MPs before entering parliament himself, and held the post of political director for Conservative Friends of Israel.

Since entering parliament as the MP for Harlow in 2010, and has served in a number of parliamentary roles, including the Liaison Committee (Commons), Education Committee, and the Public Administration Select Committee.

He has also served in a number of government roles, including PPS to then-chancellor George Osbourne, Minister without Portfolio (attending Cabinet) and Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party. He also served as a minister in the Department for Education from July 2016 to June 2017 when he was sacked by then-prime minister Theresa May.

In 2011, Halfon told the Jewish Telegraph that one of the three things that motivate him in politics is "unashamed support for the State of Israel, as the only real democracy and progressive force in the Middle East".

He added: "I have always been very supportive of Israel. I have been to Israel many times for work and family, especially now that my father, who has become more Orthodox, lives in Jerusalem. I talk a lot about Israel in the House of Commons."

Tom Tugendhat - Minister of State for Security

Tom Tugendhat has been re-appointed Minister of State for Security in the government of Rishi Sunak, after being first appointed to the role by Liz Truss, who defeated him in the early rounds of the summer’s Tory leadership election.

Tugendhat’s Jewish grandfather grew up in Vienna and left shortly after the First World War, coming to Britain to study in the 1920s. He eventually converted to Catholicism in order to marry his wife.

In a 2020 blog post, Tugendhat wrote: “I’d never really considered myself Jewish before I entered parliament in 2015. At a push, I would have said I was Jew-ish. But even that was tenuous.”

He wrote about how “‘funny names’, like mine’ are used to question loyalty and challenge belonging.

“A historical throwback as out of place as ducking stools or witch hunters, is in Britain today and I’m seeing it for the first time. Antisemitism–in its varying shades–is still with us.”

He was subjected to antisemitism at the 2019 general election, saying moments after his victory: "It was a campaign that wasn't as always as clean as previous ones. For the first time I faced antisemitism, which I found particularly offensive and very surprising for a community like this and frankly rather distasteful.

"It's very un-Tonbridge it's very un-Kent and it's very un-British.”

Suella Braverman – Home Secretary

Home secretary Suella Braverman is not Jewish herself (she is a member of the Triratna Buddhist Community), but she is married to a man who she described last year as a "very proud member of the Jewish community".

Rael Braverman and Suella met through a shared love of politics, and their first date was her giving him a tour of parliament, which he described as “unusual”.

They got engaged in 2017, got married in parliament in 2018, and now have two children together.

Her family contributes to the Bushey Synagogue, and at an Asian-Jewish Business Network dinner last year, she said: “We are fans in my household of Larry David and Jackie Mason. I’m the number one supporter of Friday night dinners at my husband’s family – including chicken schnitzel.”

She also said that she had been “struck by the tangible energy and passion” of Israelis while visiting the Jewish state.

Robert Jenrick - Minister of State for Immigration

Robert Jenrick is not Jewish himself, but he is married to Michal Berkner, who is the daughter of Holocaust survivors. She was born in Israel, educated in the USA, and the couple are raising their three daughters in the Jewish faith.

Jenrick was first elected in a 2014 by-election in the Parliamentary constituency of Newark after the sitting MP resigned following a lobbying scandal. He sat on the backbenches until January 2018 when he was appointed Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury by Prime Minister Theresa May.

In June 2019, he represented the British government at the Israel-Palestine peace initiative, led by former-US President Donald Trump’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner. He was focused on the economic element of the plan, which he said offers the Palestinians a "more prosperous future" if they agree a peace deal with Israel.

Jenrick is also an active member of Conservative Friends of Israel, and wants to move the British embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, telling a 2020 reception: “As Housing Secretary I don’t like land-banking. I want us to build that embassy.”

In 2019, he was appointed Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, and in that role, he said: "I want tackling antisemitism and ensuring that the Jewish community feels protected and respected to be one of my priorities as Secretary of State."

On antisemitism in education, Jenrick is a strong proponent of the IHRA definition of antisemitism: "I will use my position as Secretary of State to write to all universities and local authorities to insist that they adopt the IHRA definition at the earliest opportunity... and use it when considering matters such as disciplinary procedures. Failure to act in this regard is unacceptable."

Jenrick has also worked to build the controversial Westminster Holocaust Memorial next to parliament, receiving death threats and antisemitic abuse as a result of his work.

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