Eric Moonman 1929 – 2017: ‘He managed to do so much for so many’
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Eric Moonman 1929 – 2017: ‘He managed to do so much for so many’

Arieh Miller, chief executive of the Zionist Federation, pays tribute to his organisation’s former president Eric Moonman, who has passed away

Eric Moonman with his wife, Gillian
Eric Moonman with his wife, Gillian

On 22 December, Professor Eric Moonman, former MP and president of the Zionist Federation, passed away at the age of 88 – mourned by his wife and three children.

Eric was a powerhouse of the Jewish and Zionist community, both as an MP and in his personal life, pioneering new and exciting initiatives to stand up for Israel in the UK.

From a young age, Eric started to get a taste for politics. Born in Liverpool on 29 April 1929, Eric undertook a seven-year apprenticeship aged just 13 with WJ Pugh Printers and then later the Liverpool Echo. Even during his post-war National Service, Eric not only took courses in military studies, but also in public speaking.

In 1954, he gained a place at the University of Liverpool to study social science. While there, he continued to use all he had learnt during his apprenticeship and became editor of the university magazine.

This time was also Eric’s first formal step into politics, as he became the chairman of the university Labour Society.

In his political career, Eric fought and won two marginal seats, most notably helping Harold Wilson to increase his parliamentary majority when he won the constituent seat of Billericay in 1966.

After losing that seat at the next general election, Eric returned to Parliament as MP for Basildon in the 1974 general election, serving for one more term.

Following his terms as an MP, Eric’s political life turned to health policy where he was a key figure within Islington, serving as the chairman of Islington’s Health Authority from 1980 to 1990.

Throughout his career, whether as a politician or engaging in multiple other activities, Israel and the Jewish community played a central role in all that Eric did. He made some major and key contributions to the UK’s relationship with Israel.

As chairman and then president of the Zionist Federation, Eric pioneered the UK’s only Lobby Day of Parliament for Israel, organising it together with Christian Friends of Israel, even up until the plans for 2018.

He used his expertise and understanding of how to work with politicians and his love for Israel to ensure that Israel’s voice was heard throughout the hallways of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.

Since before he was in parliament, up until very recently, Eric had a big impact on the UK-Israel relationship, as well as Israel’s standing worldwide.

In 1974, Eric set up a group, under the umbrella of the World Jewish Congress and the European Jewish Congress, to look at the way Israel represents itself internationally.

That group, made up of professionals from around the world, met twice a year and, in 1980, was taken over by the World Zionist Organsiation, and later also by Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

As well as his work for Zionism, Eric served twice as senior vice president of the British Board of Deputies, and continued as a Deputy, being heavily involved with the Board’s work.

A longstanding Everton fan, Eric spent much of his life travelling between London and Liverpool and continued to meet with many colleagues and friends, old and new, together with his wife Gillian.

All those who met Eric would agree that he was a passionate, opinionated, and supportive man, who made everyone with whom he worked and engaged feel like what they were doing together was his life’s work, yet he was able to do so much for so many.

Eric is sorely missed by all those at the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as all who had the pleasure to meet him. May his memory forever be a blessing.

Zichrona u’livrocha.

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