Prince Charles has spoken of the “immense blessings” British Jews have brought to the country – and insisted his support for communal causes “is the least I can do to try to repay” them.
The heir to the throne also revealed how his father Prince Philip helped a Jewish boy facing antisemitic bullying in 1930s Germany, as he addressed a varied guest-list of 400 at the first Buckingham Palace celebrating the community’s contribution.
Describing the ties between Anglo-Jewry and the Crown as “special and precious”, he added: “I say this from a particular and personal perspective because I have grown up being deeply touched by the fact that British synagogues have, for centuries, remembered my family in your weekly prayers. And as you remember my family, so we too remember and celebrate you.”
Guests at the historic reception – organised over several months with the support of the Board of Deputies – included high-profile figures like the Chief Rabbi, Howard Jacobson, Robert Peston and Nigella Lawson. But he said he wanted to offer “particular gratitude” to the less known volunteers and charity workers who made up the bulk of the guest list.
The Prince said the festive season was a fitting moment to celebrate the “contribution of our Jewish community to the health, wealth and happiness of the nation. In every walk of life, in every field of endeavour, our nation could have had no more generous citizens, and no more faithful friends”. The UK, he insisted, is “enriched by the diversity of its constituent parts. Its whole is so much greater than its parts”.
Addressing the gathering – which included rabbis from all denominations but no candidates amid sensitivity in the lead up to next week’s election – His Royal Highness said he was “immensely proud” of his grandmother Prince Alice who is recognised as Righteous Among the National for hiding a Jewish family during the War.
And he went on to tell a lesser-known another story of courage in his own family that too place in 1933 when Prince Philip was spending a year in school in Germany. “He helped an older schoolboy who had been identified as a Jew and badly mistreated by other boys,” Charles recalled. ״His act of compassion is a source of great pride and inspiration to me.”
Recalling how Britain welcomed Jews fleeing pogroms or the Nazis on the Kindertransport, he said: “In turn, many thousands of Jewish people played a vital role in the war effort. My own great uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was enormously proud of the airman, RAF Flight Sergeant Jack Nissenthall, whose missions behind enemy lines would have been a certain death sentence had he ever been captured. This is a legacy in which all share.”
He spoke of his own work in supporting Jewish causes including attending Kindertransport reunions organised by the Association of Jewish Refugees, as well as being patron of World Jewish Relief and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.
“I see this as the least I can do to try to repay, in some small way, the immense blessings the Jewish people have brought to this land and, indeed, to humanity,” he said. “In the Hebrew Scriptures, which provide so much of the ethical underpinning of our society, we read in The Book of Deuteronomy, the inspiring exhortation: ‘Choose life!’
The Jewish community of the United Kingdom have fulfilled that divine command in countless ways, and our society has been immeasurably enriched as a result.”
Guests were serenaded on arrival at the Palace by the sounds of a JLGB band. In an extra historic twist, a group of around 20 guests took part in an impromptu evening prayer service by the throne – led by Jewish Leadership Council CEO Simon Johnson.