LONDON, Sept. 8 (JTA) – In what is being called “an unprecedented gesture of tribute,” Britain’s Jews joined their countrymen – and the world – in paying respects to Princess Diana. Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – who declined to attend Diana’s semi-state funeral service because it occurred on Shabbat – instructed all members of the Orthodox United Synagogue, the country’s main synagogue body, to “join in the national mood of remembrance,” his office said. He also wrote a prayer for her, which began: “Almighty God, we come before You today, sharing in the grief of the British people and the world, at the untimely and sudden death of Diana, Princess of Wales.” It was recited in synagogues when the ceremony for Diana started at Westminster Abbey on Saturday morning. Sermons were dedicated to her memory and synagogues observed a national silence at the end of the Abbey service. The chief rabbi had previously joined the tens of thousands of British people – and foreigners – who signed the book of condolence at St James’s Palace, where her body had laid in rest prior to the funeral. He also wrote personally to the Princess of Wales’ two sons, Princes William and Harry. In a statement, Sacks said: “The Princess of Wales endeared herself to the Jewish community. We loved the way she broke through the barriers of protocol to speak directly to people in their loneliness and distress.” On Saturday, Sacks led a group of Jews who stood silently as the princess’s coffin was carried from Kensington Palace, her London residence, to Westminster Abbey. He then held a service of tribute at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, in central London, in the presence of the Israeli ambassador to Britain, Moshe Raviv. A Reform prayer for Diana, composed by Rabbi Jonathan Magonet, remembered that the princess “used her role in the public eye to fight on behalf of those whom we did not wish to see – the victims of AIDS, of hunger, of the machinery of war.” Meanwhile, Israeli flower exporters shipped an extra 5 million flowers to Europe, especially Britain, to meet a growing demand from those mourning the princess. Chaviv Ha’aze, marketing director of the Israeli Flower Board, said Israel usually exports about 10 million flowers to Europe during the first week of September, but that sales had risen to 15 million last week.
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