LONDON (Jun. 13)
A Kosher street party in the middle class London suburb of Kenton and the massed bands of Jewish Lads Brigade at the Tower of London were two of the hundreds of events in British Jewry’s spirited celebration of the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II in which the whole of Britain is now immersed.
Thanksgiving services in virtually every synagogue in the nation, concerts and choirs, fancy dress parades and fund-raising drives completed the picture of a community intent on showing that its affection for the British Monarch is no less deep and sincere than that of her non-Jewish subjects. By all accounts, the Jewish communities in the Commonwealth countries are celebrating with equal fervor.
JEWS LIVING IN ‘GOLDEN AGE’
Gratitude and personal affection have been the dominant themes in the addresses from synagogue pulpits. Looking back over the first 25 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, British Jews have realized that their community has been living in a “golden age.” They have enjoyed prosperity, peace and equality unrivaled in any previous period of Jewish life in these islands.
Although the Queen is only a constitutional head of state, Jewish gratitude for this period of happiness is focused on her and her husband, Prince Phillip, for the warm friendship which both have shown to the community. Rarely a month goes by without some member of the Royal family being associated in some way with a Jewish communal function, usually of humanitarian nature, such as the opening of an old age home or school.
Prince Phillip in particular has established an instant rapport with Jewish audiences. He has shown that he admires their traditions of communal service and that he relishes their spicy humor. This continuing interest in its affairs has been a source of deep reassurance to the community.
JEWISH MPS OPPOSE SEPARATISTS
The community itself reciprocates the concern shown to it by the Throne. It is no mere coincidence that Jewish Members of Parliament have been among the most vociferous opponents of the growing separatist tendencies in Scotland and Wales, expressing fears that devolution may lead to the destruction of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Although some Jews in Scotland and Wales support local nationalist aspirations, by and large they regard themselves primarily as citizens of Britain and link their own future here with the Kingdom’s preservation.
The Silver Jubilee also provides reminders of older affinities between Jewry and the British Crown. Last Tuesday’s service at St. Paul’s Cathedral had a strong Old Testament flavor. Heads of 35 Commonwealth countries, and representatives of more than 100 other states heard one of the clergy declare: “Out of Zion shall go forth the Law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” The Archbishop of Canterbury blessed the Queen with the traditional priestly benediction: “The Lord bless you and keep you…,” so familiar to synagogue goers, such as the Chief Rabbi, Dr. Immanuel Jakobovitz, and Lord Fisher, secular head of the Jewish community, who were also present.
These readings echoed the Coronation service in 1952, modeled as it was on the coronation of the ancient kings of Israel. The Queen, like all her forbears, was anointed with holy oil like that which Samuel poured on the head of David.
A whole crop of ancient legends also surround the Coronation Stone, in Westminster Abbey, said to have been Jacob’s pillow on the occasion of his famous dream and later one of the cornerstones of Solomon’s Temple. These are merely quaint fantasies. Nevertheless, there is no doubt about the antiquity of the special relationship between Jews and the kings of England, which lingers on into the present day.
LINKS WITH ANCIENT ISRAEL
Introduced to England by the Normans, the Jews of the Middle Ages remained the protected property of the King until their expulsion in 1290. The King needed the Jews as sources of credit, and they needed him as the guarantor of life and limb. After the return of Jews to England in 1656, power had shifted to Parliament and the King was no longer supreme. The Jews gradually acquired equality and liberty.
But even today Jews remain convinced that the Sovereign is the ultimate symbol of Britain’s freedom and democracy and the truest protector of its minorities. That is why Anglo-Jewry is praying just as fervently for the Queen’s next 25 years as it has for the 25 which have just ended.