On Thursday evening, Prince Charles hosted a reception for the Jewish community at Buckingham Palace, as part of his long-standing work on inter-faith dialogue.
The Prince of Wales welcomed some 400 people from the Jewish community to the ‘family office’ for a pre-Hannukah reception. Here, he praised the contributions of Jews to British life, and across the world, also referencing the long-standing connection between the community and the Royal Family – and even revealed a family anecdote that had previously been unknown.
But the event has gone almost unnoticed, as Clarence House tried to keep the event low-key, so it didn’t appear that the Prince was involving himself in political debate ahead of the election. There have, therefore, been no official photos shared from the event.
The reason for this is that the Labour party is accused of rife anti-semitism within its group; there are more than 130 counts of anti-semitic behaviour being reported, and claims that the discrimination is institutionalised.
While the event had been – as with all royal engagements – months in the planning, there were concerns it might look like Charles was involving himself in the dispute, showing a bias against the Labour party.
The Jewish community have a strong respect for the Monarch; there is a prayer recited every Saturday in synagogue that prays for The Queen, as our Head of State, to give her strength to fulfil her duty.
Gathered guests, which included famous faces such as David Baddiel, Simon Sebag Montefiore, Tracy Ann Oberman, and Stephen Pollard, as well as representatives from organisations such as the Board of Deputies and the Union of Jewish Students, heard comforting words from the Prince.
“In every walk of life, in every field of endeavour, our nation could have had no more generous citizens, and no more faithful friends,” Charles said. “That is why I am so glad to have this opportunity to say thank you, albeit in a small way, for all that you do, and have done, across the country, in major national and international institutions, and in local communities the length and breadth of the land.
“The connection between the Crown and our Jewish Community is something special and precious. I say this from a particular and personal perspective because I have grown up being deeply touched by the fact that British synagogues have, for centuries, remembered my Family in your weekly prayers. And as you remember my Family, so we too remember and celebrate you.”
Praising the contributions made to society, Charles commented: “I am thinking not just of the most prominent members of our Jewish community who, through the ages, have literally transformed this country for the better.
“I am thinking also, crucially, of those who are not household names, but who are the cornerstones of their own local communities. They are the people who, I am delighted to say, make up the larger part of this evening’s guest list and to whom I want to offer particular gratitude.”
He went on to list famous Jews in British history, including Sir Solomon de Medina, who aided the British in their victory at the Battle of Blenheim, as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who “[described] himself to my great-great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, as: ‘The blank page between the Old and the New Testaments!'”
Finally, he turned to his family’s own famous Jewish connection: Princess Alice, mother of The Duke of Edinburgh.
“If I may say so, I am immensely proud that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, is buried in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives,” The Prince of Wales commented. “She is counted one of the Righteous among the Nations for her actions in 1943 when, in Nazi-occupied Athens, she saved a Jewish family by taking them into her home and hiding them.
“My grandmother was a formidable lady. When she announced her intention of being buried in Jerusalem, we all wondered how on Earth we were going to be able to visit her grave. She answered: “That’s perfectly alright, there’s a very good bus service from Athens!”
You might remember that The Duke of Cambridge visited Princess Alice’s grave on his trip to Israel last year, and back in 2015, The Duke of Edinburgh accepted an award on behalf of his mother for her brave actions.
We also heard about a time when Prince Philip was in Germany as a boy, and defended a fellow classmate from anti-semitic bullying: “In 1933, my father, who was spending a year in school in Germany, helped an older schoolboy who had been identified as a Jew and badly mistreated by other boys. His act of compassion is a source of great pride and inspiration to me.”
“In my own small way,” the Royal continued, “I have sought to recognise the contribution of the Jewish community by various means, whether in attending or hosting receptions for the Kindertransport Association, or for Holocaust survivors, or attending events for the National Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, of which I am patron, or helping to build a Jewish Community Centre in Krakow – where I was privileged to fix a mezuzah to the doorpost – or in agreeing without a moment’s hesitation to become patron of World Jewish Relief.
“If I may say so, Ladies and Gentlemen, I see this as the least I can do to try to repay, in some small way, the immense blessings the Jewish people have brought to this land and, indeed, to humanity.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Jewish community of the United Kingdom have fulfilled that divine command in countless ways, and our society has been immeasurably enriched as a result.
“Today, we have the opportunity to give thanks for the friendship we have forged, and the values we all share.”