British peer pledges support for Jewish life in Commonwealth

  • Mendelsohn2
South Africa’s Parliamentary Jewish caucus hosted Lord Jonathan Mendelsohn – a former front bencher in Britain’s Labour Party – as its guest of honour this week.
by SUZANNE BELLING | Feb 07, 2019

Mendelsohn, the President of the Commonwealth Jewish Council (CJC), spoke at the culmination of the African Jewish Congress (AJC) biennial general meeting in Cape Town on Tuesday.

He was effectively forced to stepped down as a frontbencher by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the beginning of 2018. More recently, Mendelsohn has publicly called Corbyn an anti-Semite in Parliament.

South Africa’s Parliamentary Jewish caucus – the three Democratic Alliance members of Parliament, Michael Bagraim, Darren Bergman, and Glynnis Breytenbach – welcomed Mendelsohn, who is still a Labour working peer in the House of Lords.

Mendelsohn said there was no informal Jewish caucus in the British Parliament, (but) “we have a very active group of Jewish peers interested in Jewish causes”.

He paid a warm tribute “to one of my gurus, the marvellous Ann Harris”, the President of the AJC, and her efforts to keep it alive.

“It is very important for the African Jewish Congress to function well, to make sure we can keep connected with each other, to build, develop, work together, and do remarkable things.”

The CJC, he said, had started to work more actively within the Commonwealth and within the various communities, also becoming observers at the World Jewish Congress. It is fully recognised by the Commonwealth secretariat.

“We are trying to be much more engaged in what we can do to support and help communities. It is a priority for us that we are able to find ways for the many and varied communities, stretching as they do across the globe.

 “That is part of the mission of the Commonwealth, and why the Commonwealth is so relevant to where we are today. The Commonwealth today is part of the future, it is part of the free association of nations coming together, based on common values, with the potential to build and develop a better future, to see what can be done in the fields of economy, social relations, faith relations, to see what can be done to develop a new and better future.”

The CJC, he said, was devoted to helping Jewish communities from about 33 countries enhance the Jewish life of its members. It helped remember important events, including the Holocaust, with lasting values; and share the responsibility we have to the world, including in the area of environmental sustainability. It works to build relationships to improve society “to invigorate our communities, to infuse enthusiasm across societies, to make a contribution, ensuring the rights of people and democratic values”.

Several diplomatic representatives to South Africa attended the event, including United Kingdom High Commissioner Nigel Casey, and Singapore High Commissioner Chua Thai-Keong, as well as the South African High Commissioner to Swaziland, Dumisile Sukati.


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