LONDON (May. 15)
Warm appreciation of Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s attitude towards traditional Judaism and support for his political efforts were voiced here by Sir Israel Brodie, the Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Britain and the Commonwealth. Sir Israel, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, said that Begin, “who does not hesitate to invoke divine help–(ezrat hashem) — in his speeches, “has created a “very favorable impression” among Orthodox Jews.
Begin was “more positive” towards religion than his Labor Party predecessors who often had to be “pushed,” Sir Israel said. For decades, Orthodox Jews had been unhappy at the way in which Labor Zionists had emphasized the secular demands of Israel. However, by his more positive attitude towards traditional Judaism, Begin had helped to bring together divergent sections of the Jewish world.
Sir Israel, who was 83 last week, also reviewed the changes which Israel had made over the past 30 years. Until the establishment of Israel, there had been a lot of animosity to Zionism. But once Israel was established there was an immediate change, and many of those who had opposed Zionism in theory, supported the Jewish State in practice, he observed. In the past 30 years, Sir Israel added, the idea of belonging to one family had increased, as a result of common suffering and of common hopes.
A life-long Zionist, Sir Israel was appointed British Chief Rabbi in 1948, in the month of Israel’s independence declaration, and remained in office until 1965, on reaching the statutory retirement age of 70. He had previously been senior Jewish chaplain to the British armed forces. Born in Newcastle, England, he studied at Jews College, London, and Balliol College, Oxford. Between the two world wars he spent 15 years in Melbourne, Australia.
For the past 20 years, Sir Israel has been president of the Conference of European Rabbis which he launched in 1957 when he was Chief Rabbi and has remained chairman of the Conference’s standing committee which meets twice yearly. The Conference began a three-day meeting today in Paris to discuss major problems affecting Jewish life.
The scheduled guest of honor at the opening Conference session was Rabbi Chaim Yaakov Levin, who served as a rabbi in the United States for 30 years before returning to Israel to assume the rabbinate of Pardes Channa. He is due to deliver an address on the spiritual links between Israel and the diaspora.