British Jews concerned by Western Wall and conversion issues

British-Jewish leaders wish to see "fairness between different strands of Judaism."

November 5, 2017 19:00
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in London

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis in London. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)


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British Jews are concerned about the Israeli government's stance on the egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall and moves to limit recognition of Jewish conversion abroad, a number of communal leaders told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday morning.

They spoke with the Post in advance of meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Savoy Hotel in London where he had been staying.

“We want to see fairness between different strands of Judaism,” UK Board of Jewish Deputies President Jonathan Arkush.

Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said she was also trouble by racism within Israeli society and the government's support for anti-democratic legislation. She explained that in the past, Netanyahu has not appeared to pay heed to their concerns on these issues.

Netanyahu has said that he is the leader of the Jewish world, Janner-Klausner said.

“If he is the leader of the Jewish world, he needs to listen to the Jewish world,” she said.

Danny Rich, Senior Rabbi of Liberal Judaism said the meeting was short and he did not get a chance to substantively raise his concerns on these issues.

Arkiush said that to the extent some of them did come up in a round-a-bout way, Netanyahu responded by explaining that Israel was a democracy.

“It was very warm, substantive and open meeting,” Arkush told The Jerusalem Post.

This community is a very strong Zionist community, he said and honored by Netanyahu’s visit for such an historic occasion.

“We British Jews are incredibly proud of the part that Britain and indeed our community played in the creating and issuing of the Balfour Declaration, which was a critical milestone,” Arkus said.

“The world's most important imperial and military power, as Great Britain was then, was declaring that it supported the establishment a Jewish homeland in Palestine as it was then called,” said Arkush.

Without that declaration its unlikely the state of Israel would have been created, he said.

Dozens of events have been held including Thursday’s gala dinner at Lancaster House with Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May, Arkush said.

The government’s decision to mark the centenary with pride is significant and overrides the voices who have objected to it, he said.

“It is by no means sizable and almost meaningless,” he said.

May is a “genuine friend” of Israel, he said and her speech, particularly its strong condemnation of anti-Semitism was very well received.

The British government has been strongly supportive of Israel, Arkush said. This includes its refusal to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state.

“Our government understands it would be a futile gesture at the moment,” he said.

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