Many were astonished by how reverential and shaken the world was at the recent death of Queen Elizabeth, including streams of followed posts about the royal family and its relationship to the Jewish community in Great Britain, which, according to many, was one of excellence.
Photos of the new king wearing his royal kippah, facts about his circumcision and his relationship with rabbis abound.
According to the European Jewish Congress, there are 300,000 Jews in Great Britain, with the majority residing in greater London, a smattering in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and even the Channel Islands. The Jewish demographic breakdown is as follows:
• Secular Jews: 34%
• Ultra-Orthodox: 18%
• Modern Orthodox: 14%
• Reform: 14%
• Traditional but not religious: 10%
• Liberal: 6%
• Conservative: 2%
• Sephardic: 2%
There is much to tout in terms of the new king’s devotion to Judaism. Another delightful photo is of him donning his kippah, which was first sighted at the installation of Britain’s current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis in 2013. Charles was the first member of the royal family to attend an installation of a chief rabbi.
Stephanie and Michael Jenkins, London natives who now reside in Sandy Springs, left London in 2014, but were previously very involved with the West London Synagogue. Michael shared, “When the king was Prince Charles, I remember that he was circumcised. Charles did visit Israel on several occasions, but never the queen, probably as the U.K. had too much reliance on Saudi for oil, maybe politically inappropriate at that time.”
King Charles III, along with thousands of British Jews, was circumcised by Rabbi Jacob Snowman, a physician and one of London’s leading mohelim, or ritual circumcisers. The queen requested Snowman, who was well known in the London community. Some believe that the tradition dates to the early 1700s, when Britain’s King George I, who was born in Germany, imported the custom of German noblemen to have mohelim circumcise their sons, though some claim that this royal practice is far newer.
Unlike Queen Elizabeth II, who never visited Israel in her decades on the throne, in 2016 King Charles visited Jerusalem for the funeral of former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. While there, Charles visited the grave of his grandmother, Princess Alice of Greece, who saved Jews during the Holocaust and was named Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.
Those who watched the Netflix series “The Crown” saw a rather strange depiction of Alice eschewing a life of royalty. During the Holocaust, Princess Alice invited a Jewish family she had befriended to move into her apartment next to the Gestapo’s Athens headquarters. Princess Alice was brought in for questioning, but she refused to divulge that she was sheltering Jews.
King Charles visited Israel again in 2020 to attend the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Last year, King Charles commissioned new paintings for the official royal collection of art displayed in Buckingham Palace. The project was part of the prince’s aim to educate future generations and ensure that the horrors of the Holocaust are never forgotten. “Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust” went on display in Buckingham Place in January 2022.
A particularly important alliance was with the British Chief Rabbi, the very popular ccs, who served from 1991-2003 and maintained a strong friendship with the then-Prince of Wales. When Rabbi Sacks died in 2020, the king delivered an emotional eulogy. Sacks was knighted by the Queen in 2005 as a Life Peer in the House of Lords, taking his seat as Baron Sacks.
Stephanie Jenkins said, “I actually met Rabbi Sacks, a fantastic man. Our daughter interacted with him on several occasions when she was living in London as chair to a charitable committee, close to Rabbi Sack’s heart, where they would meet in his home.”
Stephanie Jenkins added, “Every shabbat and High Holy day, there is a blessing for the sovereign. We prayed for the welfare of Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, Prince of Wales, and the royal family. In 2019, at a royal Hanukah party at Buckingham Palace, King Charles praised Britain’s Jewish community and formally thanked them for these prayers.”
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Queen Elizabeth
- Great Britain
- European Jewish Congress
- Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis
- King Charles
- Stephanie and Michael Jenkins
- West London Synagogue
- Rabbi Jacob Snowman
- Prime Minister Shimon Peres
- Righteous Among the Nations
- Yad Vashem
- The Crown
- World Holocaust Forum
- Buckingham Palace
- Sir Jonathan Sack