Jewish challenger to Clark in New Zealand


Polls show the son of a Holocaust survivor is leading the incumbent for New Zealand prime minister.

Helen Clark, who has led the island nation since 1999, on Friday announced a Nov. 8 date for new elections. Polls have consistently shown over the past 18 months that John Key, the National Party leader, is leading his Labor Party rival.

Key’s mother, Ruth Lazar, fled Austria on the eve of World War II, escaping to Britain in 1939 where her aunt had paid a British soldier to marry her in a desperate bid to escape the clutches of the Nazis. Ruth’s brother, mother and grandmother made it out of Austria, but other members of the Lazar family weren’t as fortunate.

One of Key’s two sisters, Sue, changed her surname back to Lazar after her marriage ended. She is active in the small Jewish community of Christchurch.

While Key, 47, does not practice Judaism, he says he identifies with his Jewish roots. He has attended countless Jewish functions in the past year, the most recent on Sept. 7 when he appeared at the reopening
of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation following its $6.63 million refurbishment and the celebration of the contribution of the Jewish community in Parliament on Sept. 9.

If elected, he says he intends to visit Israel, where he has cousins, and pay his respects at Yad Vashem.

Key would be the country’s third Jewish prime minister.

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