Britain’s Sephardi leader Rabbi Joseph Dweck has revealed he chatted to the Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Aramaic — the language spoken by Jesus — as they were waiting for the coronation to begin.
Rabbi Dweck, who sat next to the archbishop during the service, added that the Christian leader was “asking me more about Orthodox Judaism, which was interesting”.
The Senior Rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, Britain’s oldest Jewish community, described the mood there as “buoyant and joyful”.
He told the JC: “There was just great majesty. The choir was beautiful, the music was beautiful, and there was a feeling of renewal and excitement.”
Rabbi Dweck was seated with other faith leaders in the North Transept. “I sat next to the Archbishop of the Syrian Orthodox Church and we spoke in Aramaic with each other,” he said.
“And I was sitting in front of Rowan Williams, so we spoke about him studying Biblical Hebrew.”
As with Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the timing of the coronation presented Rabbi Dweck with the challenge of representing his community in a deeply Christian context while also respecting the sanctity of Shabbat.
“I was grateful to be able to say Shabbat Shalom to the Chief Rabbi there,” Rabbi Dweck said.
“We were the only two rabbis at the event to represent the Jewish communities, Sephardi and Ashkenazi.”
Rabbi Dweck said: “The anointing itself comes directly from the Bible, from Torah. The Archbishop blessed the King with the Birkat Kohanim (priestly blessing) after he crowned him.
“Zadok the Priest, you know, comes from the crowning of King Solomon. So that was very interesting to me.”
Rabbi Dweck expressed his gratitude for having been invited to represent his community, and for the King’s commitment to preserving and respecting the Jewish community and other faith groups in Britain.