NEW YORK – Mark Winer, the former head rabbi of the West London Synagogue and president of the Foundation to Advance Interfaith Trust (FAITH) became the first American rabbi to receive a Member of the British Empire honor from the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, at Buckingham Palace on Thursday.
Winer, who holds dual American and British citizenship, told The Jerusalem Post it was a “phenomenal experience,” and the princess told him that she quite enjoyed all the interfaith programs in which she has participated over the years.
Winer was honored for his work in fostering interfaith dialogue, particularly between Muslims and Jews. He was particularly active in the media after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the US and 7/7 in the UK, calling for tolerance and understanding. His FAITH Foundation operates all over the world, including in Israel and Russia, and with plans to expand to South Africa, Abu Dhabi, and elsewhere.
“I forgot to bow right!” Winer said, adding that the princess herself did not seem to mind his slightly faux pas entrance. “You know the British, they do these ceremonies unbelievably well, but they do it with a wink. They know it’s a costume party.”
A MBE does not impart a special title upon Winer: “I’m one step above the Beatles and one step below Sir Elton John,” he joked to the Post in January when it was announced he would be honored. Winer was the only member of clergy of the 96 honorees on Thursday.
“I’m just going to continue trying to work in bringing people together,” he said of his future plans. He will be speaking at the House of Lords this coming week to a delegation of Pakistani Muslim women about the struggles of having two identities in a new country, an issue many Jews have dealt with over the years.