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Special Interview What Makes Janner Run?

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“We Jews have the right, indeed the duty, to criticize Israel when we deem it necessary, but only within the confines of our own personal or communal family. Certainly not through the media, which should be left to do its best and worst in assessing Israel for its audience or readership.”

This view was expressed by the dynamic, volatile Greville Janner, president of England’s prestigious Board of Deputies of British Jews. The communal leader, a very young 55, pursues an exhausting daily round as a member of Parliament, Queen’s Counsel, lecturer and writer. But Janner seems to thrive on it. His name and face are very familiar outside the Jewish community through his frequent appearances on television, radio and in the press.

Janner, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, declared that during Israel’s involvement in Lebanon, anti-Semitic forces in Great Britain were quite virulent. “Anti-Semitism came out from under the rocks during those months,” he said, “but now it is somewhat more subtle and the threat, disguised as anti-Zionism seems to be even more from the extreme left than the extreme right.”

30 JEWS IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

He stated that “ours is the only Jewish community outside Israel that is not split. We may now have two I Zionist federations in our country, but our Board of Deputies is strongly united.” Janner said that there are some 360,000 Jews “belonging” to the community, but he estimated that another 150,000 were “unattached” to any Jewish communal or religious organization.

There are, he pointed out, 30 Jews in the House of Commons, of which he is a member, but at least half this number are not involved in the Jewish community.

TRADITIONAL LEADERSHIP OF JANNERS

Janner pointed with pride to the fact that when he assumed the leadership of the Board four years ago it was heavily in debt, but that he managed to double the budget during this period, increasing facilities and activities, eliminating the debt and achieving solvency.

It seems a tradition for Janners to lead British Jewry. His father, Lord Barnett Janner, who died in 1982 at the age of 90, had been a distinguished chairman in years gone by. Greville Janner’s tenure has two more years to go, but he anticipates, with keen relish, the challenges that may lie ahead.

“I have learned to cope by delegating functions and responsibilities, and I have the highest trust and regard for my fellow officers and in the entire membership,” he said. “I expected this job to be a burden, but it has turned out to be a joy. I’m determined to leave for my successor, a Board that will have an even greater impact on the social and communal life of Great Britain and on world Jewry.”

A RECENT ACHIEVEMENT

Among his recent achievements was the creation, last December, of the Commonwealth Jewish Council, comprising 16 commonwealth nations where Jews reside, including Canada, Australia, India, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Among the patrons of the Council are Jews who hold high government posts, or have distinguished themselves in other areas. The aim of the Council is to strengthen and solidify support for the Jews in smaller communities. Janner will journey to Canada in October to meet with Canadian Jewish Congress officials to further his new endeavor.

What makes Janner run? Many have asked this question, but after a long talk with this dynamic personality, this interviewer concluded that the Jewish world is sorely in need of more Janners, who regard Judaism as a growing force, and who possess some internal dynamo which enables them to serve their people and their nation with sweeping vitality and effectiveness.

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