Prime Minister Theresa May’s arrival at Downing Street has been welcomed by Jewish leaders and politicians as David Cameron was told he would “always be welcome in our community”.
The long-time home secretary entered Number 10 after her predecessor was applauded during his final prime minister’s questions and bid farewell with his family before tendering his resignation to the Queen.
In her previous role, May was at the forefront of the fight against terrorism and anti-Semitism – famously holding a sign proclaiming ‘je suis juif’ days after the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris and announcing a renewed funding for communal security as recently as March this year.
Her commitment to the community was underlined by her attendance at a long-scheduled dinner at the chief rabbi’s north London residence on Tuesday night, just 20 hours before becoming Britain’s second female premier.
Saying he was delighted to have the opportunity to give “my blessings”, Ephraim Mirvis said: “She has proved herself to be a friend and champion of our community and of other faith communities who share her values of tolerance and understanding.
“Theresa May becomes Prime Minister at a time of great political, social and economic uncertainty. Few people are more talented or better qualified to tackle these immense challenges. I recall the speed and the sensitivity with which she reached out to the Jewish community following the terror attacks on Jewish targets in Europe last year. As she made clear then – “Without its Jews, Britain would not be Britain”.
The new British leader also this week showed her support for Holocaust education when she backed the HET’s #shapethefuture campaign. As MP for Maidenhead, she enjoyed a close relationship with constituent and Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton and his family – hailing the release of a Royal Mail stamp in his honour following a Jewish News campaign.
Welcoming her accession to the top job, Sir Mick Davis, Chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, said: “She has consistently worked to support and understand the issues that affect British Jews, and we look forward to building on those foundations to create a strong and enduring relationship.”
Having served as the chair of the former PM’s Holocaust Commission which is to result in the creation of a new memorial and education centre in the heart of Westminster, Sir Mick added: “I wish to take this opportunity to, once again, sincerely thank David Cameron for his dedication and devotion to our country. He is a true friend of the Jewish people and the State of Israel, we wish him and his family well. He will always be welcome in our community.”
Board of Deputies Chief Executive Gillian Merron said the new prime minister has “been a great friend of the community and, during her time as Home Secretary, the Board of Deputies has had a very positive and close relationship with her. We look forward to that relationship continuing as she moves in to 10 Downing Street and we wish her every success in her new role at this challenging time for our country”.
Messages of congratulations also came from world leaders including Benjamin Netanyahu. May, who paid her first visit to the country in 2014, hailed the country’s tech prowess during an address to Bnei Akiva’s Yom Ha’atzmaut celebration at Kinloss. And in the wake of the Gaza conflict pledged: “No democratic government could, in the face of such danger, do anything but maintain a strong defence and security capability and be prepared to deploy it if necessary. That is why I – and the whole British government – will always defend Israel’s right to defend itself.” At a time of heightened fears in the community, she also held a series of meeting with community leaders including from the CST and pledging there is no “place for anti-Semitism in our country, whatever forms it takes”.
Conservative Friends of Israel’s Parliamentary Chairman Sir Eric Pickles MP, Honorary President Lord Stuart Polak CBE and Executive Director James Gurd said: “Theresa is a long-standing friend of Israel and the UK’s Jewish community, with a proven track-record in combating anti-Semitism.
“This represents an exciting new chapter in the UK-Israel relationship and CFI looks forward to working with Theresa to further strengthen the relationship between the United Kingdom and Israel”.
Paul Charney, Chairman of the Zionist Federation UK, said: “Time and time again, Theresa May has shown herself to be a committed and conscientious friend to both Israel and Jewish communities in the UK. We have no doubt that should the safety of either come under threat, she will stand firm in our defence.
“Under David Cameron, the relationship between Israel and the UK remained warm and open, and we look forward to that positive relationship continuing under May.”