During the 45 year reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603), the Jewish people were still under a ban of settlement that had been in effect since their expulsion from England in 1290. In stark contrast, during the current reign of her namesake, Queen Elizabeth II, who celebrates the 60th anniversary of her reign today, the Jews of England are blessed with freedom and equality, and three chief rabbis have been knighted. Two of them were even raised into the peerage.
When Queen Elizabeth II ascended to the throne in 1952, the United Kingdom had a substantial Jewish population. Not only were there long established Sephardi and Ashkenazi communities (Jews had been permitted in England since 1655), but England had absorbed many Holocaust refugees.
In 1969, Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the honor of becoming a Knight Bachelor on Rabbi Israel Brodie, who had been the Chief Rabbi of England from 1948 until 1965. As a member of the Imperial Society of the Knights Bachelor, Rabbi Brodie was addressed as Sir Israel Brodie and was under the Queen’s patronage. In 1981, this same honor was given to the next Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovitz, and in 2005, to the current Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. The Queen bestows knighthood to honor those who have done great service for the Kingdom.
Rabbi Jakobovitz and Rabbi Sacks each received the further honor of being elected a “Peer for Life” (a non-hereditary title). In 1988, Lord Rabbi Jakobovitz received the title Baron Jakobovitz of Regent’s Park in Greater London. In 2005, Lord Rabbi Sacks received the title Baron Sacks of Aldgate in the City of London. As Lords, both rabbis were entitled to sit in the House of Lords.
As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, the world Jewish community praises the great strides that have been made for English Jewry, thanks to the generous and enlightened treatment of the British government.
Copyright © 2012 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.